Economic downturn results in severe education cuts. Several mid-year budget cuts by
the Legislature and the Governor dramatically drop the base state aid per pupil, leaving most schools owing more than the state will reimburse for the 2009-2010 school year. A loss of about $500 million in Kansas property values likewise erodes school funding. Kansas schools dismiss over 3,700 personnel between spring and fall, cutting $138 million in staff and programs.
Kansas share of stimulus money “backfills” part of state revenue shortfall. Over $78
million in federal ARRA money is applied to Kansas K-12 education. Without this “stimulus,” layoffs and program cuts would be about one-third more severe. But ARRA funding is short term and when it runs out, a “funding cliff” looms.
Consolidations accelerate. After remaining at 303 Unified School Districts (USDs) for many
years, small rural schools began consolidating at an increasing pace. Most districts voted to consolidate, but land transfers and disorganization were also routes used. Kansas is down to 293 USDs with several dozen more making inquiries to pursue consolidation.
Kansas loses Commissioner. Dr. Alexa Posny was nominated by President Obama to serve as
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in Washington, DC. After Senate confirmation, she assumed that post the last months of 2009. Dr. Diane DeBacker serves as Interim Commissioner until the Board selects a new Commissioner.
Academic standards to be integrated with career and technical education. Although
standards are for the most part on hold across the country, awaiting federal action on “common core” standards, the Board established the momentum to integrate future academic standard revisions with career and technical education.
Teacher Leader endorsement. The Board moved forward a teacher leader endorsement
to provide master teachers with an alternative to moving to administration.
Participation in “Common Core” standards. Initiated under Commissioner Posny,
Kansas is a participant in the current effort to develop national standards for English language arts and mathematics. Final acceptance of these as state standards will have to be approved by the Board, but the Kansas standards “are a very close match” with the national proposal.
Restricted license, alternative route, and endorsement-by-test-out teachers flood the
field. 583 teachers added endorsements by merely taking a test, and substantial numbers of new teachers entered under restricted licenses via alternative programs. These procedures to “lower barriers to entering teaching” were implemented to address the teacher shortage before the economic downturn, a “shortage” has temporarily gone away.
Former Topeka Mayor (1983-89) Doug Wright is denied teaching license. The KSBE rejected Mr. Wright’s appeal in May and by a 6-4 vote, reinforced their decision by confirming findings of fact in December. While the Board routinely makes decisions on revoking or denying teacher licenses in cases of felony convictions, most cases rarely draw public interest.
“Race to the Top” application prepared. Initiated by Posny, DeBacker is preparing an
application to compete for the federal award ($60–175 million for Kansas). Kansas USDs must have signed-on by end-of-December, and this involves their buy-in to some sort of performance pay scheme. The Board will have to approve the application at its January 2010 meeting to make the first round deadline.