Kansas lawmakers set to spar over education reform

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Innovation. That’s the basic idea behind a recent push to overhaul the way Kansas’ public schools are funded.

“Education in the 21st century can no longer be based on 19th century models,” said Gov. Sam Brownback, “We need to get more money into instruction. We just have too much of it that doesn’t get there and we’ve just got to be efficient with these taxpayer dollars.”

However, school advocates say when compared to other states, “what we find is that Kansas tends to have better student outcomes than most states, and spends below the national average. We think that’s a pretty good definition of efficiency right now,” said Mark Tallman, Associate Executive Director for Advocacy of the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Still, Brownback thinks more can be done to improve efficiency.

That’s why lawmakers are considering sweeping changes throwing out standardized tests, consolidating services, and merit pay for teachers.

“I think we need to be putting more into the system that helps get what we want out of the system, which is more money instruction, higher achievement levels, and I think you ought to incent the right things in the system. I think merit pay is a good proposal,” said Brownback.

While it might sound good in theory, some lawmakers aren’t sure how it would actually work.

“What are you going to pay them with? You know, merit what? Are you going to take it from one teacher and give it to another? You know that can’t happen,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat from Topeka.

“I think merit pay lends itself to favoritism in the workplace. The teacher who makes the principal pleased about the job they’re doing ends up getting more pay,” said Sen. Anthony Hensley, another Democrat from Topeka.

Lawmakers now have to consider all of that information and come up with a way to better reform education reform in Kansas. When exactly they will be able to reach a consensus, remains to be seen.

A Special Committee on Student Success will present a final recommendation for public education reforms next Tuesday.

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