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RESOURCES

Kansas Legislature
Johnson County Election Office
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Communities of the
25th District

Fairway
Mission
Mission Hills
Mission Woods
Prairie Village
Roeland Park
Westwood
Westwood Hills

CONTACT MELISSA

In Topeka: 
State Capitol Room 352-A
Topeka, KS 66612
melissa.rooker@house.ks.gov
785-296-7686

At home in Fairway
4124 Brookridge Drive
Fairway, KS 66205
melissa@melissarooker.com
913-961-1555

Dear Friend:

As the 2018 session approaches critical deadlines, my primary responsibilities as a state legislator sharpen in focus. Can we put together a measured response to the court regarding K-12 funding without overlooking other budget priorities? Can we be responsible, thoughtful and serious in how we approach our constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget? I know we can and am confident we will.
 
In mid-March, the state received the long-anticipated cost study commissioned by the legislature. For those thinking they were shopping for an expert to tell them they were already spending enough money on K-12 education, this report was a major shock. For some of us, it was simply a reality check.
 
The report is intended to inform policy decisions and designed to gauge the actual costs (inputs) of achieving desired student outcomes. Prior school finance studies were criticized for omitting a measure of efficiency in relation to the cost of its inputs and outcomes. This study included an analysis of school district efficiency, while evaluating cost differences between school districts in three categories:
  • student needs (poverty, SPED, ELL),
  • pricing (labor costs), and
  • economies of scale (efficiency).
These differences directly address why some districts in our state require more money than others to achieve the same student outcomes.
 
The study results hinged on one pivotal question – for what outcomes would Kansas public schools be held accountable?    
 
The analysis took into account our own Kansas College and Career Readiness Standards, testing protocols, the Kansans Can Vision for Public Education in Kansas, and school district accreditation standards. The evaluation was thorough and thoughtful. Kansas was given high marks for a well-designed system, strong data collection, good accountability systems, and overall efficiency of our public schools. Recommendations for improvement include:
  • Investing resources in a measured way over time,
  • Making our data hub more user-friendly and interactive, and
  • Increasing fund flexibility to remove barriers to good decision-making.
Key study observations and findings:
  • The analysis took an in-depth look at how the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) has worked to meet the rigorous educational standards established by Kansas stakeholders and identified by the Court. The study creates a crosswalk that matches the seven Rose Capacities to corresponding curricular standards and the measures Kansas has put in place to evaluate student success in each area. This is important as it helps ensure the education system is poised to implement effective strategies to boost student achievement.
  • The report recognizes that student growth matters as much as absolute performance benchmarks. The state’s education plan filed with the U.S. Department of Education calls for our graduation rate to increase to 95% by 2030 from the current rate of about 86 percent. Achievement of this ambitious goal will take long-term, strategic investment in our education system.
  • Perhaps the most significant conclusion found in the study is that money matters: 
    • “The analysis finds a strong, positive relationship between educational outcomes and educational costs, once differences in economies of] scale, [student] needs and price [of labor] are taken into account” (p. 61).
Setting our expectations - and then funding them appropriately - is crucial to resolving the school finance conflict. The three studies of record commissioned by the state were peer reviewed by Dr. Jesse Levin of the American Institutes of Research. On Thursday, Dr. Levin presented his findings to the legislature. He validated the quality of the research conducted by Dr. Taylor et al. Triangulating the results of all three studies, Dr. Levin confirmed the finding that a significant investment of new financial resources will be necessary to improve student outcomes. At the same time, he emphasized that investing that money wisely is important.
 
This is the heart of the matter - If we expect to see improvement in student achievement outcomes, we need to invest in our schools. If we are not willing to invest, we need to be honest about what we expect in terms of student achievement. Dr. Levin confirmed that while simply dumping more money in our schools will not guarantee success, refusing to invest is guaranteed to mean that we will not see significant change in student achievement.
 
While some legislators have lashed out at the level of spending called for in this report, the guidance is very clear that we should focus on a long-term plan: “It is not practical to make a one-time, significant investment in a statewide public education system and expect at the end of the school year to see dramatic improvement from current performance to the aspiration targets. Alternatively, making ongoing investments in the system with established targets may be more realistic.” (p. 45)
 
The same point is reinforced on page 70, “Alternatively, making ongoing and incrementally larger investments in the system over time with established targets may be more practical for practitioners to plan and determine the appropriate ways to invest the funding. One consideration is to consider these investments over a 5-year period of time.”
 
Next Steps

We did not create the problems we face as a state overnight and we will not solve everything overnight. There is truth to the argument that we have other state agencies and priorities in need of investment. Care should be taken in the weeks ahead to avoid pitting these interests against each other.

On Monday, the House is scheduled to debate HB 2445, which is the school finance bill. I introduced HB 2445 before session with the changes needed to satisfy the equity portion of the lawsuit. On Wednesday, our House K-12 committee amended in a financial plan to address the adequacy question. I will share details about the bill next week when we have had the debate and it takes its final form before being sent to the Senate.
 
Stay tuned as this story develops. Things are likely to move rapidly to meet the deadline set by the court. In the meantime, I wish your families a wonderful holiday weekend.
Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or ideas about these or other legislative issues. It is my honor to serve you.

Sincerely,


Rep. Melissa Rooker
Kansas State Representative, District 25
Serving Northeast Johnson County
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Melissa Rooker,