Only six states — Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and Minnesota — rank higher than Kansas in student performance across a broad array of academic measures, Mark Tallman said.
They all spend more money per student, too.
“What we need to do is focus on those states that are doing better and see what we can learn from them,” said Tallman, associate executive director and director of advocacy for the Kansas Association of School Boards.
Equally, if not more, important, he said: Political and educational leaders need to understand that if the state continues to cut funding for public education, Kansas students run the risk of falling further behind others from higher-performing — and better-financing — states.
“Schools are always asked to do better, to get better, to reach even higher,” Tallman said. “Well, when you look around the country, there aren’t many states doing better, and those that are are spending more per pupil. …
“If our funding continues to fall, then our achievement will fall.”
Tallman is scheduled to present, review and discuss financing and achievement issues Monday, during the Lawrence school board’s meeting set for 7 p.m. at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.
His visit comes at the invitation of Vanessa Sanburn, a board member who heard Tallman speak during a recent regional meeting conducted by Tallman’s association, which represents and advocates on behalf of school boards statewide.
Using the most recent national information available, Tallman has set out to make viable comparisons in both achievement and finances. He said Kansas ranked No. 7 on the list for achievement, when averaging the state’s rankings in terms of 11 categories ranging from reading and math scores, to SAT and ACT performance, to graduation rates and eventual levels of educational attainment as adults.
That’s solid standing, he said, especially with all the schools that rank higher each spending more than $10,000 per pupil, when taking into account base state aid, federal grants and other revenue sources, excluding capital expenses.
Kansas checked in with less than $10,000 per pupil.
“We think this should be good news to parents and taxpayers and patrons because the resources we’re putting in are yielding very good results compared to other states,” Tallman said.
Just where the numbers will go from here remains undetermined. Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is discussing plans to give local districts more control over budget resources with the potential for districts to seek additional financing through local taxes that could be retained within each district.
Tallman, who has worked for the association of school boards for more than 20 years, is taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach.
“We think there’s some promising features, but there are a lot of concerns,” he said. “Until we see the actual numbers, it’s hard to see how it’s going to lay out.”
Also on Monday’s meeting agenda:
• Receive reports regarding the district’s English as a Second Language and Native American Student Services programs.
• Receive a budget update from Kathy Johnson, the district’s division director for finance.
• Approve an open purchase order for laptops and open work stations.