Posts tagged with Education

Kansas Democrats offer school finance plan

Kansas Democratic legislators on Tuesday unveiled a plan that restores cuts made to schools, provides property tax relief and stands in stark contrast to a proposal by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, to overhaul the finance formula.

“Cuts to schools have gone way too far in the last few years,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence. “But the problem has not been the formula. It has been the lack of funding,” Davis said.

Under the Democrats’ three-year plan, the Lawrence school district would see an increase of $3.7 million in state funding. That would include increases of $933,839 in the next school year, $933,839 the year after that, and $1.868 million in the third year.

Democrats said the goal is to restore funding that has been cut during the recession and get base state aid up to $4,492 per student. Cuts in base state aid over the past several years have dropped that level to $3,780 per student, which is the lowest mark in a decade and has led to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.

The plan would pump an additional $45 million in the 2012-13 school year, $45 million more in 2013-14, and $90 million more in 2014-15. In addition the plan would also allocate $45 million to local governments to reduce property taxes. Under the proposal, Douglas County would receive $1.7 million.

The additional school funding and tax relief dollars would come from the current $350 million that the state has received above earlier projections and expected future gains in revenues, Democrats said during a news conference before students and teachers at Lowman Hill Elementary.

Spending the surplus or cutting taxes

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley framed the debate, saying that Brownback wants to give “our surplus revenue to corporations” through tax cuts while Democrats want “to make an investment in our children’s future.”

Brownback has said he wants to reduce the state personal income tax as a way to spur economic growth. He is expected to release details of that proposal during his State of the State speech on Wednesday. Of 1.4 million individual state income taxpayers in 2009, nearly 200,000 or 13 percent were business taxpayers, according to the Kansas Department of Revenue.

On school funding, Brownback has proposed a complete revamping of the finance formula that would place more responsibility on local taxpayers and local boards of education.

He proposes leaving in place for one more school year the current level of base state aid of $3,780 per pupil.

Once the new plan is put into place, Brownback said it will cost an additional $45 million in base state aid, which is approximately 2 percent more than than the amount spent now. But many mid-size and large districts wouldn’t see any increase.

According to a spreadsheet of funding for school districts provided by the governor’s office, the Lawrence school district would see no change in its total funding between the current formula and the one proposed by Brownback.

Brownback’s plan would eliminate state limits on local property taxes for schools and junk a system of “weightings” that are used to provide school districts additional funds for transportation costs, bilingual education, students who are at risk of failing and other factors that increase the cost of education. Brownback has said his plan would provide the funding but give local districts more leeway in how to spend the dollars.

Democrats have argued there is no reason to overhaul the formula and that Brownback’s plan will widen the gap between rich and poor districts, leading to more local property tax increases and litigation.

By Scott Rothschild

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Sales tax paying off for education efforts in Johnson Co.

A new 75,000-square-foot complex on the Kansas University Edwards Campus and a new building that will house Phase I Clinical Trials for the KU Cancer Center are scheduled to open in the coming months.

The funds for the construction are paid for using a one-eighth cent sales tax in Johnson County that is divided equally among the KU Edwards Campus, KU Medical Center and Kansas State University’s Olathe Innovation campus.

The Business, Engineering, Science and Technology center on the KU Edwards Campus is scheduled to open March 2, said Bob Clark, vice chancellor of the Edwards Campus.

Eventually, KU will add 10 degree programs in Johnson County as part of its commitment to voters in return for the sales tax, Clark said. One of those programs, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is already operating. It’s been a popular one, he said, with more than 100 students enrolled so far.

A second degree program, a bachelor’s degree in information technology through the School of Engineering, is pending approval from the Kansas Board of Regents.

The Edwards Campus hopes to roll out one or two new programs each year until it reaches the 10 new programs, Clark said. A third likely program will be a degree in engineering project management, he said.

KU officials have worked with industry members and other groups to determine what kinds of degree offerings are needed in the workforce.

“We have to offer what it is they’re looking for,” Clark said.

Fred Logan, a Prairie Village attorney and member of the Kansas Board of Regents, was chairman of the campaign to pass the tax. He said at the time of its passage in 2008, it was the first time in the United States that a county’s voters passed a sales tax in support of life sciences and higher education.

“It’s still the only one,” he said.

He said he’s been “thrilled” with the progress of the projects.

The new clinical trials building in Fairway for the KU Cancer Center is set for a late January opening. The Cancer Center hired Ray Perez to serve as the center’s medical director.

After the building opens, KU will be able to dramatically expand the number of patients it sees for experimental drug trials and should jump to one of the top five centers for Phase I trials in the country, Perez said.

The building is light and open and will have top-notch labs and other scientific support areas to complement the patients’ space.

“The thing that it’ll really enable us to do is to have full control over the research process,” Perez said.

Perez said the sales tax was “one of the compelling reasons” why he left his position at Dartmouth University’s cancer center to come to KU.

The sales tax is generating between $13.5 and $14 million per year, said Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Education Research Triangle authority board. That’s under the initial projections of $15 million per year, but the slightly lower collections haven’t had any effect on the projects, Eilert said.

By Andy Hyland

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Grant paves way for JCCC sustainability internships

Johnson County Community College received a $63,700 grant for sustainability training, paving the way for another internship option for students in its hospitality management program.

The Mid-America Regional Council awarded JCCC an EnergyWorks KC Green Jobs Workforce Development grant on Dec. 20.

Hospitality management students are required to complete a 360-hour internship in the hospitality industry.

JCCC’s dean of business, Lindy Robinson, welcomed the opportunity.

“It is so important that we start getting serious about measures that help the environment with a benefit of saving money for the restauranteurs and hoteliers,” Robinson said in a news release.

The new internship option will train students in the best practices for saving energy and reducing waste through recycling and composting. They’ll also learn about using environmentally-friendly cleaners and chemicals and the benefits of local product purchases.

The grant will help pay student interns and provide participating restaurants and hotels with up to $5,000 to implement the practices.

Ryan Wing, JCCC senior sustainability analyst, said 10 restaurants have already expressed interest in the program, and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association has voiced its support.

The program is also expected to meet the EnergyWorks KC Green Jobs Workforce goals of establishing a green jobs pipeline in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

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Kansas leaders tout initiative to recruit and retain engineering students

State leaders on Wednesday announced the first funding — $1 million — for a program aimed at increasing the number of engineering graduates in Kansas.

The state funds will be divided evenly between Kansas University, Kansas State University and Wichita State University to conduct planning on ways to recruit and retain more engineering students.

Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Department of Commerce Secretary Pat George, Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Ed McKechnie, Andy Tompkins, president and chief executive officer of the regents, and others were on hand for the announcement.

In future years, the program will provide $3.5 million per year in grant funding to each of the three schools and will require a dollar-for-dollar match provided by the universities. The future funding will come from state gambling revenue.

By Scott Rothschild

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Kansas Regents OK 2.5 percent in residence hall rates at KU

Kansas University students will pay more for room and board under an increase in student housing and food service that was approved Wednesday by the Kansas Board of Regents.

The room-and-board proposal would increase the yearly rate by $178, from $7,080 to $7,258, which equals 2.5 percent. That increase is for a typical double-occupancy room-and-board contract, and will take effect July 1.

All six state universities were granted increases by the regents.

The increases will range from 1.7 percent at Wichita State to 4 percent at Pittsburg State. Kansas State’s is 3.5 percent; Emporia State, 2.6 percent; and Fort Hays State, 2.4 percent.

Even with the increases, the cost of room and board at the Kansas schools would remain below the $8,194 average for public universities in the Midwest, according to a regents memo.

About 4,800 students live in KU student housing.

By Scott Rothschild

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Chancellor Gray-Little prepares to share KU’s vision for improvement with Kansas Regents

At a time of fiscal constraints, Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little is hoping to get state leaders to sign onto the school’s vision for improvement.

The goals outlined in KU’s “Bold Aspirations” plan, which was unveiled earlier this year, will also lift the state as a whole, Gray-Little maintains.

“It is very much a push to make an outstanding University of Kansas that also benefits the state,” Gray-Little said Monday in an interview with the Journal-World.

Gray-Little will present KU’s strategic plan and goals on Wednesday to the Kansas Board of Regents.

The goal is to make KU a top-tier research university, delivering the kind of research that improves the health of Kansans, creates new sources of energy and other discoveries, and meets the state’s workforce needs.

Gray-Little said she would like KU to be in the middle of the pack of peer research institutions, such as Iowa University, North Carolina University and Colorado University.

She also wants to maintain the school’s membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

Accomplishing those goals will require more revenue at a time when the availability of funds is being squeezed at the federal, state and household level.

“That is what keeps you awake at night,” she said.

In the legislative session that starts next month, KU will ask the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback for $3 million in new funding to hire highly sought-after research professors.

KU also is working on programs to increase graduation and retention rates. Also, she said KU is undergoing an active discussion on whether to increase student admission standards.

Brownback has called on all public universities in Kansas to improve their national academic rankings.

By Scott Rothschild

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Brownback’s school funding plan will allow for more tax leeway

By Scott Rothschild

Gov. Sam Brownback’s point man on school finance said Wednesday that the governor’s proposal to overhaul school funding will not force local districts to raise taxes but will give them greater ability to do so.

“If you can operate under what you have right now, it will not necessitate it,” Brownback’s Policy Director Landon Fulmer said when asked if the proposal would push more tax increases onto local districts.

But Fulmer told the Legislative Educational Planning Committee that the proposal would allow counties and local districts more leeway in raising property and sales taxes for their schools.

He said there is “a strong philosophical belief” in the Brownback administration to give locals unlimited control in raising funds for public schools.

As the committee questioned various proposals under Brownback’s plan, Committee Chair Jean Kurtis Schodorf, R-Wichita, said legislators needed facts about how the proposal would affect each school district. “The devil’s in the dollars,” she said.

Fulmer said he should have that information next week when he makes his second presentation to the State Board of Education.

Brownback has made overhauling the school finance system a major priority, saying the current formula is under constant litigation. But some have raised concerns, saying that allowing more local taxing authority will increase inequities between rich and poor school districts and actually will prompt more litigation.

Fulmer also said that Brownback’s proposal would include a “hold harmless” provision, meaning that no school district would get less money in the proposed school finance formula than under the current one.

But under questioning from committee members, Fulmer said some school districts would get less money if the number of students dropped.

“Your saying hold harmless light,” said Sen. Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford.

Brownback has made record cuts to base state aid to schools, which currently stands at $3,780 per pupil, the lowest level since 2000.

Committee members approved a motion to recommend no further cuts from the $3,780 level, which several said would be Brownback’s recommendation for the next school year. But Brownback’s office said his recommendation on base state aid per pupil is still being finalized.

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Indiana school considers opening college of osteopathic medicine in Kansas

An out-of-state school is looking at possibly opening a college of osteopathic medicine in Kansas.

Indiana Wesleyan University President Henry Smith was quoted in that college's newspaper as saying, "Currently, we are getting good support from a wide constituency in Kansas. However, we are still in the planning and exploration and do not have approval as of yet to actually establish a COM (College of Medicine)."

Kansas Board of Regents staff said that IWU is looking at possibly purchasing land in south Johnson County for the college. IWU has said it hopes to have its college open by fall 2015.

Officials at Kansas University, which operates a College of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan., have no comment on the proposal at this time.

C.J. Janovy, director of communications for the KU Medical Center, said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, and KU Med Center Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson are scheduled to meet with IWU officials soon.

Bob Williams, executive director of Kansas Association of Osteopathic Medicine, said on Wednesday that IWU has been in contact with the association and that the association supports the proposal.

Williams said it is not unusual for a school in one state to seek to branch out to another state and that the Kansas City-area makes sense for a college of osteopathic medicine because of its central location and the need to train more primary care physicians in the region.

He said IWU is in the exploratory phase of the proposal. "It's a very expensive, complicated process that you have to go through," Williams said.

By Scott Rothschild

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As student bodies diversify, school districts have trouble finding minority candidates

Public school districts across the country lag behind employing teachers of color as the nation’s K-12 student body nears the point of having no clear racial or ethnic majority.

Minority students already make up more than 40 percent of the nation’s public school population with that number being just 17 among teachers, according to the Center for American Progress.

Those numbers are further skewed in and around Shawnee. The De Soto and Shawnee Mission school districts are seeing their populations of minority students increase — still far short of the national average — but must recruit from pools still largely composed of white education majors at Kansas universities.

Further complicating matters, some school officials are finding that minority candidates are choosing districts different than De Soto or Shawnee Mission because they believe they will make a greater difference teaching in urban environments.

Recruitment

Prairie Ridge Elementary third-grade teacher Brandi Leggett helms the school’s year-old diversity committee.

Parents, teachers, Principal Michelle Hite and De Soto director of professional development Jessica Dain attend the weekly meetings where everything from the school’s international fair to teacher diversity is discussed.

“My concern is to show students that people of color can do this position as well,” parent Tammy Thompson said.

Jessica Dominguez, agreed, saying having an Hispanic teacher could show her son that he could one day be in front of a classroom if he wishes.

Another parent, Jeff White, conceded that the composition of the area makes it difficult to further diversify school districts’ teaching corps.

“I think the numbers are slanted against us,” he said.

Jessica Dain, the De Soto district’s director of professional development, said the forthcoming Common Core Standards curriculum will begin placing greater emphasis on college readiness which she says will help funnel more minority students into fields like education whereas more of a focus in previous years was placed on simply graduating them.

For now, it’s slim pickings at Kansas education schools.

• Of the 213 Kansas University education students scheduled to graduate in 2012 who opted to specify their race or ethnicity, 92 percent were white. Just two black students identified themselves as did three Asian students and nine who identified themselves as multiracial. Of that group, three did not specify.

• Of Kansas State’s 186 Spring 2011 graduates, 95 percent were white while the other five percent did not specify their race.

• Of the 78 students expected to graduate from Emporia State’s education school, 88 percent (or 69 students) identified themselves as white. That left five Hispanic students, two black students and two Asian students.

Shawnee Mission, whose enrollment is more than four times that of De Soto’s, recruits at more than a dozen schools in Kansas and Missouri. Dillon said the district also publishes openings in publications like Teachers of Color and k12jobspot.com. She said minority teachers sometimes assist in recruiting and other avenues for hiring minority teachers have included finding candidates that were former Shawnee Mission students and hiring from its student teaching cadre, Human Resources Manager Amy Dillon said.

“We do a lot to recruit,” she said.

Absent larger numbers of minority candidates at Kansas colleges, Dillon said, recruiting on both sides of the state line has helped broaden opportunities to find such candidates.

“We try to go to so many colleges because we want to get a good sampling of urban and more broad universities like KU and K-State,” Dillon said.

Alvie Cater, director of administrative services and community relations for De Soto, said that the district only recruits at Kansas universities but also receives between 2,000 and 3,000 applicants each year from across the country. When Leggett applied, for example, she was moving from Philadelphia, where she began her teaching career.

“We’re not in a pickle to find teachers,” Cater said.

Making a difference

Cater said the district’s student body, although more than 83 percent white, is growing more diverse. He said the number of white students attending De Soto schools is at its lowest level in a decade.

Still, he said, the district’s population makeup might influence teachers with two or three other job offers. Cater said its not uncommon to hear of a teacher of color choose a school in a more urban setting because he or she believes they can make a greater difference there.

While the area’s demographics may not change dramatically in the near future, Leggett still sees benefits in having a diverse crop of teachers in front of the students.
When she graduated from the Olathe School District, Leggett said she felt prepared for college — something she said not all of her peers at Temple University in Philadelphia could say right away. For many, it was their first time seeing a black student — or, conversely, their first time comparing notes with a white student.

Leggett said she applied to work in the district in large part because her husband found work in the area, but that she also wanted to give back to the region near where she received her education.

Stephanie Thompson, a 2006 graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, is herself in her first year teaching third-graders at Prairie Ridge Elementary after graduating from Kansas University.

She said she wanted to work in the district because a friend who worked at De Soto High School talked up the community feel of the district.

Thompson said that, to her knowledge, she was the only black female graduate of the school.

Seeking the best, regardless of color

In Shawnee Mission, teachers may theoretically have the chance to make the difference they’d see themselves making in a more urban setting.

Shawanoe Elementary School is the only school in the district where white students are themselves a minority group — 33 percent, according to data from a ProPublica report this summer. Hispanic students meanwhile form Shawanoe’s majority at 42 percent. Similarly, just half the population at Nieman Elementary was made up of white students, according to ProPublica’s data gathered from the 2009-10 school year. More than one-fifth of students at Shawnee Mission North High School are Hispanic.

Dillion, though, said she doesn’t see candidates choosing to work in the district because of demographics, but rather to make a difference more broadly.

“It’s key to get the best teachers in front of our kids,” Dillon said.

By Stephen Montemayor

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Regents to consider room and board rate increases, pay raises for some at KU

Kansas University students will pay more for room and board under a proposed increase in student housing and food service.

And KU maintenance and service workers and law enforcement would get a raise under another proposal.

The Kansas Board of Regents will take up the issues during its monthly meeting next week.

The room-and-board proposal would increase the yearly rate by $178, from $7,080 to $7,258, which equals 2.5 percent. That increase is for a typical double occupancy room and board contract.

All six state universities have submitted increases to the regents, which will discuss the matter on Wednesday and make a final decision in December. If approved, the KU proposal would take effect July 1, 2012.

The proposed increases range from 1.7 percent at Wichita State to 4 percent at Pittsburg State. Kansas State’s is 3.5 percent; Emporia State, 2.6 percent; and Fort Hays State, 2.4 percent.

Even with the increases, the cost of room and board at the Kansas schools would remain below the $8,194 average for public universities in the Midwest, according to a regents memo.

About 4,800 students live in KU student housing. The proposed increase “will enable the housing and dining operations to continue providing exceptional on-campus living experiences, which remain a great value for the students’ dollar,” a KU memo said.

On the pay raise issue, KU has proposed giving an annual raise of $525 for safety and security officers and $815 for police officers and detectives. To be eligible, employees must have satisfactory job evaluations from 2008 to 2010.

KU also is proposing giving maintenance and service employees, represented by Local 1290 PE, a $500 annual raise. In addition, covered employees who have satisfactory job evaluations and no suspensions from 2008 through 2010 will get an additional $140 increase. The proposed raises, which have already been approved by employee and employer representatives, would take effect Dec. 11 if approved by the regents.

By Scott Rothschild

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