Brownback makes raising Kansas’ graduation rate his goal

TOPEKA, Kan. (CAPITOL BURAEU) – Governor Sam Brownback laid out a number of goals for school districts to achieve by the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

One of his five goals includes improving the state’s graduation rate from 86.9 percent to 95 percent. Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said the goals are obtainable.

“We think it is obtainable, now the vision from the State Board of Education is to do all that by 2025-2026.”

Currently only 44 percent of high school graduates go on to pursue a post-secondary degree, Brownback is hoping to increase the percentage to 75 percent.

“That goal is in order to ensure that we have a labor market that fulfills what employers need,” explained Watson. “It also ensures that students are able to move into professions that will move them into the middle class.”

Watson said helping students to think about their future can be difficult.

He added, offering students classes with 15 dual-college credits at no cost, and offering students the chance to take the ACT for free can help students think of their futures. Both goals were laid out in the state of the state.

“That little bit of investment to see ‘can I do this work, can I perform at a college level work,’ yes, especially if I’m a first generation to go to college’ that is powerful,” Watson said.

However, the investment could come at the cost of districts. According to the state’s budget director if 80 percent of high school seniors took dual credit classes it would cost $24.5 million, and for the ACT $1.4 million.

“I think anything we can do to benefit our children and to give them the tools to succeed, I think it’s a good goal to have, the implementation might be a light rough,” said State Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, R-Galena.

Hilderbrand explained cost will play a factor in what goals lawmakers approve.

“The legislature has to figure out what’s the most important, what are we going to pay for and what are we not,” said State Sen. Lynn Rogers, D-Wichita.

Rogers said he is glad to see more investments in schools, but with school finance as the dominate issue this session the budget is already tight.

“It was exciting to see the governor taking responsibility for the constitutionality of what we need to do to fund our schools and those are great goals and many districts already work towards those goals, but they are costly,” said Rogers.

Other goals the Governor outlined for schools include; increasing teacher pay so Kansas is the highest of the neighboring states, and increasing the number of school psychologists and counselors on staff.

The goals are part of the Governor’s proposed budget which needs to be voted on and approved by the legislature before any part could take effect.

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