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No matter court’s decision, now it’s about results in schools, says advocate

The Kansas Legislature has given its latest school funding inflation adjustment bill to the Kansas Supreme Court following the signing of the bill by Governor Laura Kelly on Saturday. An advocate from the Kansas Association of School Boards now is talking to their members about what’s next.

“For many years, resources have been a serious problem,” said Mark Tallman, Vice President for Advocacy with KASB. “The state has now responded with a significant increase in funding. That doesn’t mean it solves every problem, but it means we really do need to change the focus now to saying, how are we going to use these dollars now to get better results.”

It’s important to note that better results for kids may be hard to measure.

“That’s a little bit complex,” said Tallman. “To some people, better results are simply, are test scores going up? I think to us, test scores are a measure. They’re something that needs to be looked at, but they’re not an end to themselves. We need to be thinking through, how do we really do things to help more kids be successful and that means doing some things different.”

New funding doesn’t immediately improve outcomes and lack of funding doesn’t immediately have a detrimental effect on outcomes, so it may be some time before we know what worked and what didn’t.

“There’s data that says investments in early childhood ultimately help the graduation rate,” said Tallman. “That means the investments we’re making now for this group of preschoolers won’t really be clear for another 13, 14, 15 years. At the same time, as we’ve said, when budgets started being cut, we didn’t see an immediate drop in educational results because kids retained the advantage of that for awhile.”

In addition, there are behavioral health issues that need to be dealt with so kids can go to school on a level playing field that may appear to make no difference in test scores immediately, but may keep more kids in school and achieving in the long term.

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