Galena Superintendent Says Education Committee Proposals Infringe on Local Control

Galena Superintendent Says Education Committee Proposals Infringe on Local Control
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A Kansas committee created to address the state’s education funding formula and state standards presents findings to lawmakers.

And its proposals for control of bond issues and state testing are drawing concern from a local superintendent.

The committee wants district to look for ways to be efficient with taxpayer dollars something Galena school officials say the district is already doing.

Galena contracts it’s lunch program through OPAA food management. Superintendent Brian Smith says, “We do bulk purchasing. Galena, Baxter and Riverton, we work together. We hire teachers, have programs together, we work with Pittsburg school district on some of our vocational programs. I send students to the welding program there.”

Privatizing lunch is one thing but the superintendent doesn’t think it would work when it comes to bus drivers as the committee suggests.

Smith says, “My concern about going to the private sector for that is every day on every bus there’s a student alone with that bus driver. So, we want quality people in those positions.”

The K-12 student success committee also proposes limits on bond issues like the one that built Galena classrooms into a tornado storm shelter. It suggests the state would decide if and when a bond goes to voters.

Smith argues, “The reason I think it’s bad is I’m a firm believer that local voters can make the best decisions for their local districts.”

Smith understands bonds create a budget issue, because less wealthy districts like his get state aid. The state pays seventy-one percent of a Galena bond.

The Kansas Association of School Boards says the proposal could lead to an un-level playing field when it comes to facilities.

Mark Tallman, the KASB associate executive director says, “That in itself is a major issue. Because you can have a case where some districts are able on their own, without state aid, to provide facilities that other districts would have to go to the state to get this approval.

So, our primary concern is to make sure if the state is involves that it’s a fair process that really looks at the needs of students.”

The committee also suggests eliminating the Kansas state testing system to prevent teaching to the test and instead having all students take the ACT.

But smith and Tallman say that might not be a good measure of abilities for students who don’t plan to attend college because they may not be taking the right course load to prepare for the test.

The draft proposal is being rewritten by a legislative research committee to include more of the testimony presented to the K-12 student success committee and lawmakers.