Archive for Thursday, September 30, 1999

S EDUCATION PLAN

September 30, 1999

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Sen. Dick Bond's 10-point plan for improving Kansas public education gets mixed, but generally positive, reviews in Lawrence.

State Senate Pres. Dick Bond's 10-point plan for improving Kansas public schools is drawing mixed response from students, educators and others in Lawrence.

Lawrence High School student Tianna Caldwell said Bond's call for mandatory school uniforms statewide might improve discipline.

"It could be good," she said. "Most fights are about people saying things about clothes."

But Bond's proposal for a longer school year doesn't appeal to John Conklin, an eighth-grader at Central Junior High.

"I want it shorter," Conklin protested.

Bond unveiled his plan, called First in Class, on Tuesday.

His proposal also included all-day kindergarten, competency testing of high school students before graduation, better access to computers, merit pay for teachers and elimination of tenure, required Spanish courses, mandated community service programs, rules that teachers incorporate current events in the curricula and $1 million in funding for preschool students.

Bond didn't say how much his plan would cost, but it would be in the millions of dollars and take years to execute.

"Nothing is more important to the future welfare of our state and the future of its citizens," he said.

The Bond challenge

Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said she was impressed by Bond's attempt to increase dialogue about reforming public education.

"On balance, I think he's really challenged us to look at the quality of our education system," she said. "I think he's got some good ideas."

She liked the notion of merit pay for teachers, but doubted tenure would ever be abolished.

"I'm not really crazy about the state mandating uniforms," Praeger said.

Central Junior High student LeRoy Crumet would accept standard uniforms on one condition.

"Only if they let us pick the uniform."

Mary Loveland, the longest-serving member of the Lawrence school board, said she could support expanded learning opportunities for at-risk preschool children and kindergartners.

She also favors a requirement that each student take a foreign language, but she's not certain that language should be Spanish.

Better pay for harder work

LHS paraprofessional Sally Burger said it was appropriate for each district's best teachers to receive merit pay.

"If you don't do spit, your pay should reflect that," she said.

Wayne Kruse, president of the Lawrence Education Assn., which represents the district's teachers in labor talks, said it was unnecessary to strip teachers of tenure.

Generally, he said, the current system already takes care of weak educators.

"If you're good, you stay," Kruse said. "If you're not good, there are ways to help a teacher struggling or help that teacher get out of the profession."

Kruse said decisions about adding to the length of the academic year should be made after evaluating the value of all the extra programs imposed on schools during the past 40 years.

"It's a bigger issue," he said. "What is the role of public schools?"

Add literacy to list

State Rep. Ralph Tanner, a Baldwin Republican who chairs the House Education Committee, said he would add an 11th point to Bond's list.

"Our kids are performing poorly on all the assessments we give in reading. Johnny can't read and we need to get him to that point," Tanner said.

The state has an $8 million federal grant to train specialists to improve reading skills in elementary schools.

"We want to get people excited about teaching reading and remove the literacy problem in this state," Tanner said.

Bond said he was convinced the state shouldn't stick with the status quo on public education.

"Change is not easy; it requires risk, courage and, most of all, an investment in children."

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tcarpenter@ljworld.com.

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