The Lawrence school board on Monday will begin discussing the district’s legislative priorities earlier than usual.
The board annually reviews and revises the district’s legislative priorities, which are communicated to its state legislative partners, according to the meeting agenda.
In the past few years, the board has generally discussed the district’s draft priorities in December, with final votes in January.
Shannon Kimball, board president, said there are two reasons the board is starting earlier this year. One is that “we wanted to move our own legislative priorities process up so we could have them reviewed and approved earlier before the session started,” she said. “Our legislators have said that if we wait until the last minute it’s not as helpful or effective.”
Also, the Kansas Association of School Boards convention happens a month earlier now than it used to, so the board needs to review those draft legislative priorities before the KASB delegate assembly, Kimball said.
KASB is a statewide not-for-profit that supports and represents the interests of school districts, community colleges and more.
Monday’s board meeting agenda materials include a draft of the KASB’s state resolutions, which prioritize local control and fully funding schools. Some changes and additions highlighted in the draft document include:
• Teacher recruitment: “Improving teacher recruitment and retention through local control of classroom content, respect for the teaching profession, and increased funding for salaries;”
• Student transportation: “Study state transportation aid to include students living less than 2.5 miles from their assigned school, including but not limited to funding to transport students who live in hazard areas. The legislature should also examine the effect of HB 2567 of 2022 which will result in school districts paying the transportation costs of non-resident special education students transferring into their districts.”
• Focus on students: “We support the development of relationships among local teachers, students and families without additional, restrictive legislative oversight resulting in the diversion of time and money from the classroom to bureaucratic tasks.”
• Not diverting funding: “We oppose programs including but not limited to vouchers, education savings accounts and tuition tax credits because such programs divert public funding from public education to schools which are not required to serve all students, including those who are disadvantaged, disabled, or those students with the greatest needs.”
• Funding special education: “We support the state legislature meeting its statutory obligation to reimburse special education service costs at the mandatory rate of 92 percent of excess costs to ensure student success.”
In recent years, the Lawrence school board’s final legislative priorities have generally included most of the same sentiments as the KASB’s, but with some additions and changes. For instance, the Lawrence school district’s 2022 priorities also included:
• Eliminating Native American mascots: The district’s priorities urged the Legislature to “review and eliminate the use of Native American mascots, imagery, and names by educational institutions and sports teams, unless used by a tribal school or educational institution.”
• Tobacco 21: Asks for support of “Anti-vaping initiatives and raising the age for purchase and possession of tobacco and nicotine products to 21 (Tobacco 21 proposals)”
• Firearm safety: Seeks support of “Red Flag laws and firearm safety proposals such as closing the background check loophole. Schools cannot carry the burden of student safety on their own; community policies must address the presence of and access to deadly weapons within the community.”
The board meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Meetings are open to the public, livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel and broadcast on Midco channel 26. Full meeting agendas are available at this link.
To give public comment virtually during the board meeting, email PublicComment@usd497.org by 6 p.m. on the day of the meeting to sign up to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing.
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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.
Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.