One of many greatest myths about educating children in the course of the pandemic is that it has been cheaper for faculties, mentioned Ann Mah, the District 4 consultant on the Kansas State Board of Training.
In a wildly disruptive yr for faculties, Mah mentioned faculties have been hard-pressed to adapt to a number of challenges, starting from acquiring units and broadband entry for college students studying remotely to offering meals to college students after they aren’t at college. And though 80% of Kansas faculty districts have been in in-person studying for the higher a part of the autumn semester, most of the state’s city and suburban districts — which make up nearly all of Kansas college students — remained in hybrid or distant studying for a lot of the autumn.
Kansas faculties overcame lots of these challenges, nevertheless it hasn’t been low-cost. That’s the reason the federal authorities’s current COVID-19 aid laws, which is able to present about $334 million to Kansas faculties for pandemic-related prices, is a boon to colleges’ efforts to maintain college students from falling behind this faculty yr, Mah mentioned.
Talking on The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Educating Topeka podcast, Mah — who represents districts in Shawnee, Osage and Jefferson counties, in addition to elements of Wabaunsee, Pottawatomie and Douglas counties — mentioned faculty districts giant and small have made one of the best of a troublesome state of affairs.
“I feel everybody realized one thing this fall, and boy, we laid so much on lecturers’ shoulders this fall to attempt to convey the rigor again and train children the usual and make issues as ‘regular’ as they may,” she mentioned.
Regardless of its oversight over the whole state schooling system, the state board of schooling workouts little direct management over education, leaving a lot of these choices to native districts, Mah mentioned. The state board, then, solely comes into the general public’s consideration when contentious points, equivalent to the choices to shut or reopen faculties final yr, come up.
However regardless of the controversies surrounding a few of these choices, Mah mentioned she hopes extra individuals take note of state board of schooling elections, particularly since half of the board’s 10 members are up for election each two years.
“We might simply slip from a board that proper now I feel is excellent and centered — with quite a lot of skilled people who find themselves going to do the fitting issues for youths — to a board that was not that centered or had an agenda that was not that pro-public schooling,” she mentioned.
Mah mentioned that with the Legislature’s shift to the fitting after the November common election, she nervous that it won’t be as “public faculty pleasant” because it has been prior to now couple of years. She mentioned she was significantly nervous legislators would possibly push for varsity selection initiatives, equivalent to state-funded vouchers for personal faculty or homeschool selections, that might take away from public faculty funding.
State board members, then, will want to make the case for public faculties to their respective legislators, Mah mentioned, however she remained assured the board might persuade legislators to remain the course on faculty funding. State funding for schooling has steadily risen prior to now a number of years, after years of stagnant funding, after the Kansas Supreme Court docket dominated the state’s earlier components for varsity funding was unconstitutional and ordered the Legislature to extend it.
“We simply wish to ensure that we don’t go backwards this yr, as a result of we’re going to wish the funding now greater than ever,” Mah mentioned.
Whereas the state board of schooling and the Kansas State Division of Training don’t have direct management over native faculties or districts, one of many instruments they do have is accreditation.
By regulation, all Kansas faculties, private and non-private, should undergo a daily accreditation course of, and Mah mentioned the state board has these days put its foot down — even placing a number of districts on conditional accreditation — to make sure districts adjust to among the broader initiatives the state board units for Kansas schooling.
Mah mentioned a few of these initiatives embody the Kansans Can Faculty Redesign Challenge — an formidable initiative to maneuver the state’s curriculum to a extra customized, project-based studying course of — in addition to efforts to handle faculty bullying.
“Individuals have to know that our public faculties are among the greatest within the nation, and our workers and lecturers are people we couldn’t be extra pleased with,” she mentioned.
Hear the total interview with Ann Mah on episode 5 of Educating Topeka, The Capital-Journal’s podcast collection on all issues schooling. The Kansas State Board of Training will maintain its month-to-month assembly nearly on Tuesday and Wednesday.