A bill that would allow loopholes in Kansas school requirements awaits the signature of Gov. Sam Brownback.
House bill 2319 would create the Coalition of Innovative Districts Act, and allow up to 10 percent of Kansas school districts to opt out of most state laws, rules and regulations to improve student achievement. This status would be granted for five years, after which schools would need to re-apply.
A board, which would oversee the coalition and report annually to the state Legislature, would be made up of representatives from each innovative district. The districts within would need to prove they have met testing standards and achieved progress described in its application.
The House and Senate have come to an agreement and sent the measure to the governor last week.
USD 418 Superintendent Randy Watson said the McPherson school board has not officially discussed whether or not they would apply if the bill is passed. He anticipates they would seriously consider that opportunity, especially as USD 418 has received multiple-year waivers from state testing and continues to look for innovative opportunities.
Watson said the bill would do three things for McPherson schools. It would strengthen the waiver already awarded, place McPherson with like-minded schools in order to share ideas, and give McPherson a greater sense of freedom to be innovative.
“I think it would certainly add some value to what we’re already doing and allow us to solidify the work we’ve been doing for the last three to four years,” he said.
If the bill would pass, and if McPherson would be accepted as one of the innovative schools, Watson doesn’t expect USD 418 programs to change dramatically, but he anticipates those already established would be enhanced through flexibility. The prospect of increased local control is intriguing for McPherson.
“I always think the best way to educate children is at the local level,” Watson said. “What gets in the way of that is state rules and regulations that maybe don’t fit McPherson.”
However, the district would not likely receive additional funds to do so.
“Money is always an issue, especially as it relates to state funding in schools,” Watson said. “We’ll have to be creative with how we can do things in the future with less and less money.”
Regardless if the bill goes into effect, McPherson USD 418 will continue pushing toward higher achievement.
“I think it’s a good thing when school board staff and administration can come together and decide what’s best for the kids,” Watson said.
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