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Dear Friend:

Around the District
As you probably know, I was home on “recess” this week and back in my district visiting some of my schools, meeting with community leaders and stakeholders, catching up with my family and friends, and sleeping in my own bed! It was a busy week. In my capacity as a lecturer in the Communication Studies Department at the University of Kansas, I taught a seminar at Fort Leavenworth on workplace communication and visited two of Dr. Ashley Muddiman’s Political Communication classes; one focused on civic engagement and the other on campaigns. I was also invited back to Mr. Ken Thomas’ class at Blue Valley Northwest High School, to help his students prepare for their upcoming “We the People” national competition in Washington D.C.
Thanks to the help of Blue Valley Schools Deputy Superintendent, Mike Slagle, I had already scheduled to meet with three of the seven schools that serve my district long before the week began.  As I visited these schools, I was reminded once again that our school classrooms are complex in the 21st Century.

About the 28th District

Contact Joy

At the Capitol: 
Room 268

At home in Leawood:
3310 W. 137th St
Leawood, KS 66224

Voter Resources

Legislative Information

  • Principal Stacey Sperry at Prairie Star Middle School noted that 40 languages are spoken in her school and class sizes now reach upwards of 32 students in some cases.
  • An unexpected fire drill interrupted our visit at Blue Valley High School and consequently Principal Scott Bacon was focused on attending to students individually and collectively to ensure their safety. But, we moved with the students to an outside location and visited with teachers and students as we waited. When the “all secure” alarm rang some 20 minutes later, they all returned quickly to their respective classrooms to continue their learning.
  • Finally, Principal Amy Farthing at Prairie Star Elementary School proudly introduced us to classroom after classroom where teachers and students were engaged learning regardless of their ability or challenges
In the News
As I began my visit at Prairie Star Elementary School on Thursday, March 2nd, we received word the long-awaited decision on Gannon v. Kansas would be released at 11 am that day. As I watched my Twitter feed and listened for news from Sam Zeff on KCUR, it was certain that computers across the state were on automatic “refresh” as we waited for what we all knew was coming – our schools are (and have been) underfunded to unconstitutional levels for years. Indeed, we learned that day that the court’s decision requires that the legislature fix this inadequacy by June 30th, or school doors will close until it is fixed. 

The court’s decision made a point to deem the current “block grant” funding formula unconstitutional, but reminded readers the previous formula was indeed constitutional – if it had been properly funded. They were careful not to prescribe a specific amount of funding necessary, which is a legislative responsibility. However, hindsight can be 20/20 and we can look back to when funding levels were constitutional as a guide to what future funding should be. Based on previous studies, I estimate we will need to infuse $1 billion over the next few years to ensure not only constitutionality, but to prepare our students for future excellence. If we put forward a plan in good faith, I believe the court understands the dire financial situation we are in and the current legislature’s commitment to right the ship of state. Moreover, infusing significant money over the course of a few years helps districts plan, be more stable, and provides incentives (and hope) for future teachers to stay in Kansas. This is doable with plans already under consideration.

This is a good opportunity to construct a 21st-century plan to meet the needs of 21st-century students. The pre-2015 plan wasn’t perfect, but it was flexible to respond to changing student needs. The vast majority of states have similar plans which start with a base amount per pupil, and then adds funds based on special populations of students and the costs associated with educating them. Our old plan was cumbersome because legislators didn’t have the political will to eliminate outdated measures, but continued to add layers as times changed. We now can build on a clean slate.
While this decision is the last, the court made clear it will keep an eye on the legislature to ensure we keep our commitment to Kansas students. As a reminder of previous Gannon decisions, the court broke apart the claim into a few sections heard by different court panels and with different goals:

  • The equity portion of Gannon came out March 2014 and noted serious inequities between property-rich districts and property-poor districts, which the legislature had to fix at that time. In an attempt to thwart the court cases, the 2015-16 legislature passed the block grant funding formula in less than a week. Many in the legislature said at the time that block grants were unconstitutional, and finally two years later, they have been proven right.
  • Thursday’s decision said the formula also does not meet the constitutional requirement to provide an adequate education for Kansas students. The court also recognized the value of measuring outcomes, but tied that recognition to the cost of inputs required to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Earlier directives used the Rose Standards as a metric to determine adequacy. This decision stated Kansas is not meeting these goals for all Kansas students:
    • Communication/Basic Skills 
      • Rose Capacity 1: Sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization;
    • Civic and Social Engagement
      • Rose Capacity 2: Sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the students to make informed choices;
      • Rose Capacity 3: Sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the students to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation;
    • Physical and Mental Health
      • Rose Capacity 4: Sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness;
      • Rose Capacity 5: Sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage;
    • Postsecondary and Career Preparation
      • Rose Capacity 6: Sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and pursue life work intelligently; and
      • Rose Capacity 7: Sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or in the job market. 
Make no mistake, I am a staunch supporter of public education at all levels and will continue to fight ensure that every student in Kansas gets the resources they need to be fully prepared to engage in the 21st Century workplace, have healthy relationships, sound body and mind, and understand what it means to be an engaged citizen. We return to Topeka today and begin work in earnest to finally make serious course corrections for the future of our state. I look forward to continuing my conversations with parents, teachers, and the administration at the Blue Valley school district to ensure our continued excellence!  I hope you will stay engaged and informed during this legislative session! Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your questions or concerns.

Full Gannon Decision (83 pages):
During the session, I might not be as quick to reply as I normally would but I will get back to you. That's a promise. 
Warm regards,

Representative Joy Koesten, PhD
Kansas House District 28
Serving Leawood and Overland Park
Copyright © 2017 Paid for by Joy for Kansas, Bob Regnier, Treasurer, All rights reserved.

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