Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2001

Board OKs $343 million for education

July 12, 2001


— The State Board of Education tentatively approved Wednesday a $343 million plan for increased spending on elementary and secondary education.

Designed to increase teacher salaries and student achievement, the ambitious blueprint represents the board's desire to reach a series of goals by 2005. Of the total spending proposal, $212 million would be used to raise teacher salaries.

A task force report said the average starting salary for Kansas teachers is $25,713, compared to $27,889 nationally. The report recommended a 16.7 percent increase in starting salaries.

Dale Dennis, deputy education commissioner, said the board is likely to adjust the plan at its August meeting. The request then goes to Gov. Bill Graves before the start of the 2002 Legislature in January.

"Anything you do will take a tax increase of any consequence. That's all there is to it," Dennis said.

Unlike previous attempts, the board began with its established goals of improving student achievement and teacher retention and recruitment, then calculated what it would cost to reach those goals over three years.

Elements aimed at teachers included rewards for national certification, mentoring programs and a health insurance program shared equally by the state and local districts.

Board member Val DeFever of Independence said the three-year approach to improvement would demonstrate to legislators that the board has a vision for education in Kansas.

"We need to take that approach and take a run at the Legislature," she said.

Board member Bill Wagnon of Topeka encouraged colleagues to "go for broke" and draft a request that reflects the board's role in improving education, not just taking what the Legislature appropriates.

"I don't think that this board is going to be in any more trouble with the public than we are," he said.

The board's action comes a day after the School Finance Coalition presented a separate $650 million plan, which also would be financed through increased taxes.

"It's a message that resonates like fingernails on a chalkboard to state legislators opposed to tax increases," said Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards.

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