TOPEKA — Instead of sending a strong message against specific statements made by the state’s attorney in the Gannon school finance lawsuit, members of the Kansas State Board of Education decided on Wednesday to take a more general approach on how they want to communicate their vision for each Kansas student.
On Tuesday, several board members and Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said they strongly disagreed with Solicitor General Stephen McAllister’s statement in a brief filed on July 7 that the board’s two-year, $893 million budget recommendation wasn’t based on the Rose standards. Board chairman Jim Porter said there was a chance the 10-member body may make a statement against that portion of the brief that called the standards into question.
Instead, Porter said on Wednesday it is more important to communicate to lawmakers and the greater Kansas community that the board’s budget recommendation was based on the board’s “Kansans Can” vision in leading the world in the success of every student and Rose standards.
“We want to communicate more globally,” he said. “That brief issue was something that caused us to kind of think, it caused us to reflect. If people do not grasp our vision, what do we need to do proactively to better communicate that vision to all of our constituents because basically, every Kansan is one of our constituents.”
The Rose standards pertain to educational achievement in the areas of oral and written communication skills, understanding of economic, social and political systems, the arts and training and preparation for vocational or college education.
“We make decisions based on the Rose standards, but we don’t say that,” said Denna Horst, R-Salina. “We may want to be more deliberative in connecting the things that are important to other entities in this state … so we don’t have statements being made in a brief presented to the Supreme Court.”
In other words, Horst said, even though the Rose standards weren’t specifically mentioned when the board voted on the $893 million budget recommendation in July 2016, board members use the standards to guide all of their decisions and their funding recommendations to state lawmakers.
“We need to additionally state, in this case, not just the numbers issue,” she said in relation to how the budget recommendation was connected to the Rose standards. “We also needed to make the connection of how it specifically would be helpful to promote the vision and help districts in meeting our vision.”
The discussion on Wednesday broadened out to include the need to continue the communication efforts around the “Kansans Can” to school districts, parents and Kansas communities.
“I’m more concerned that people on Main Street know our vision,” said board member Sally Cauble, R-Liberal. “Those legislators get push-back on what they need to do, because people don’t understand what we’re trying to do. The best way we can help our representatives is to get our message out on Main Street. That’s a tall order.”
Oral arguments in the Gannon lawsuit are set for Tuesday in front of the Kansas Supreme Court.