The Lawrence school district is hoping the lobbying power of parents will help convince the Kansas Legislature to better fund schools.
Parent representatives from each of the district’s 20 schools will serve on the Citizen Group for Legislative Education and Advocacy, a group that is tasked with keeping informed on educational issues at the state and federal level.
The group will meet for the first time today, and chief among their charges will be how the state finances the public schools.
“The budget has been gutted for the last three years,” Superintendent Rick Doll said. “We are starting a decade behind where we were three years ago.”
After hearing about a parent advocacy group in the Andover school district, school board member Vanessa Sanburn brought the idea back to Lawrence.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about how schools are financed and who has control over it and who doesn’t,” Sanburn said.
While Sanburn admits the majority of state legislators representing Lawrence already vote favorable toward education, she believes it would be more powerful if they could hear from the parents whose students are affected by changes in state laws and policies.
“It’s important that people are both aware and know who to call if they have a question or position on something that is happening,” Sanburn said.
Doll pointed to the power of testifying in front of the Legislature when last year the school district asked that the state not drop the amount of funding each pupil receives in the district’s virtual school. That testimony helped convince the governor to not reduce the funding.
Doll and Sanburn see the group as being the base that would support a network of parents who could call, email or write to legislators about issues that affect schools.
“We want to be able to react quickly if issues come up and we need to give the Legislature immediate feedback,” Doll said.
And, he said those conversations between parents and politicians can be more valuable than what school administrators have to say.
“When they come from lay citizens instead of professional educators, we believe they carry a lot more weight,” he said.