To the editor:

The 2014 Legislative Session passed House Bill 2506 in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling in the education finance case, Gannon v. State. The Supreme Court’s decision emphasized that both equity of funding and the resulting outcomes of the funding are important in determining the adequacy of state education funding.

Included with the appropriations in HB 2506 are some education policy reforms that offer school districts more flexibility in providing an adequate education to their students.

School districts across the state are already utilizing the additional funding and local control endowed by the legislature in the education bill.

As local boards of education approve teacher contracts for the upcoming school year, many are directing a portion of the $126.2 million in funds included in the new education law toward teacher pay raises.

The largest district in the state, Shawnee Mission, approved a 3.25 percent salary increase for teachers. Lawrence added a 1.6 percent raise to teachers. Other districts have also implemented varying pay raise percentages. USD 501 in Topeka gave teachers a $500 pay raise.

Further, some school boards are choosing to use the flexibility and local control given in the education law to implement teacher tenure as it best fits the needs of students and the district.

Lawrence School District included a modified teacher tenure plan that uses appeals to the local board of education, rather than a hearing officer, which is the same appeals process they use for school administrators. Shawnee Mission School District chose to stay with teacher tenure as it was formerly contained in statute, with hearings for non-renewal to a hearing officer included in teacher contracts.
Leavenworth USD 453 paid all returning teachers a one-time payment of $500 and is now in teacher negotiations for the 2014-15 school year. Leavenworth also increased payments to single health insurance plans by $80 per month.

Other school boards are choosing not to include tenure in teacher contracts because it’s what’s best for their students and district. All of these are good examples of local control afforded in the new education law. More local control means the students will have the best teachers in the classroom.

Additionally, as reported by the Lawrence Journal-World, school districts all around Kansas are seeing a spike in the number of applications from teachers with licenses from out of state. Professionals with experience in engineering, mathematics, technology, and science are also applying to become teachers.

John Bradford

Kansas State Representative, District 40