During the meeting Board members received information from the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) indicating that school districts in the state are taking the issue of bullying very seriously and have implemented both proactive educational programs related to bullying as well as discipline policies and procedures for those who bully.
The report from KSDE also included recommendations for what the Board might do at a statewide level related to bullying. KSDE did not recommend the establishment of an independent review panel to conduct reviews of bullying reports already brought to the school/district administration to the dissatisfaction of the individuals involved. It was the feeling of the department that local school boards were the proper authority for appeal of such a decision. KSDE also did not recommend requiring a specific program or curriculum be used on a statewide basis. In researching the topic, KSDE staff found that there are a variety of programs being used in districts around the state, some developed locally and others purchased and implemented at a local level. It was the feeling of KSDE that “one size does not fit all.” Board members were able to hear from representatives of two school districts – the Wichita School District and the Maize School District – about the bullying prevention programs employed in those districts.
The KSDE report included six actions the Board could take, and the cost implications of each. The Board voted to adopt three of the six measures:
- Development of model Social, Emotional, Character Development Standards
- Requesting a resolution by the Governor and/or Kansas Legislature establishing a week in October as Anti-Bullying Awareness Week
- Developing a statement from the State Board of Education on the serious nature of bullying.
Board members also asked that KSDE staff work with the Professional Standards Board to determine what measures are already in place to hold educators accountable for reporting incidents of bullying, sexual harassment and battery and for protecting children from those activities. That report is to be brought to the Board in March.
Also in December, Board members received the recommendations of the Kansas Education Commission (KEC). The Board authorized the formation of the KEC last May, charging its members with examining the framework for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act, and making recommendations to the State Board regarding the future of education in Kansas. The KEC is made up of representatives from a cross section of business, educators and education organizations, policy makers and community members.
The work of the KEC is based on the Blueprint for Reform, released in March 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education. The work of the KEC was divided into five subcommittees based on the key priorities found in the Blueprint for Reform:
- Career- and college-ready students
- Great teachers and leaders in every school
- Equity and opportunity for all students
- Raise the bar and reward excellence
- Promote innovation and continuous improvement.
In all, 56 recommendations were provided by the KEC to the State Board. The full report from the KEC can be found on the KSDE website
Also considered in December was the impact of eliminating the state’s approval of code compliance for construction of a school building, something that was accomplished in the 2010 Legislature when K.S.A. 31-150 was amended to no longer require the State Board of Education to review and approve new school building plans. Since July 1, 2010, architects and professional engineers have ensured that school buildings comply with the codes designated in statute. One of the problems encountered when there is no state level review is that different municipalities can interpret codes differently, making it difficult for school districts that cross municipalities. During their December meeting, State Board members heard from one school district that encountered such a problem.
Board members were presented with options for addressing that concern that included reinstating the State Board’s review of construction plans, transferring responsibility for a state-level review to the Department of Administration Facilities Planning Section or creating a state level review authority within the Department of Administration Facilities Planning Section to resolve conflicts that may develop between school districts and municipalities. A motion to reinstate the State Board’s authority to review school construction plans failed to gain the necessary votes for adoption.
In other business, the Board approved the disorganization of USD 424 Mullinville and the attachment of that territory to USD 422 Kiowa County. The action becomes effective July 1, 2011.
The State Board’s attorney shared information related to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court earlier this month challenging the constitutionality of the cap on the Local Option Budget (LOB). Members of the State Board and the Commissioner of Education are named as parties in the lawsuit, which was filed by a group of parents who have children attending school in the Shawnee Mission School District. Board Attorney Mark Ferguson indicated he would work with KSDE’s general counsel to have the Board members and the Commissioner dismissed as parties to the suit on the grounds that neither the State Board or the Department of Education have any authority or responsibility for the funding of public education in the state. That authority rests with the Legislature. More information about the Board’s position can be found in the statement issued by Board Chair Janet Waugh.
Board Member Kathy Martin expressed her concern with KSDE’s participation in a six-state conference focused on HIV/AIDS education. Martin’s concern centered on her perception that there was a lack of information on abstinence education at the conference. She indicated she thought there should be a more balanced approach to the information provided and she asked the Board to vote to direct KSDE not to expend state funds on the conference in coming years. That motion failed to pass and so Ms. Martin asked that if KSDE continues to help sponsor the conference there should be a more balanced approach between abstinence education and other forms of sex education at the conference. That motion also failed to pass.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Jan. 11 and 12 in Topeka.