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Senate school funding plan confuses schools

By Pilar Pedraza, ppedraza@kwch.com
Published On: Apr 04 2014 05:39:58 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 04 2014 06:28:26 PM CDT

The Kansas Supreme Court ordered a change in how the state funds our schools. Late Friday afternoon the Kansas House gave tentative approval to a plan to provide an extra $141 million in aid to poor schools. But the House plan still needs to be reconciled with a different plan passed in the senate late Thursday night.

The Senate's plan could mean a big change for the way many teachers teach and creates confusion over Common Core standards and funding.

Common Core is a new series of standards saying what students should be learning when. It was developed by a group of educators, administrators and researchers from across the country and has been adopted by 44 states, including Kansas.

Over the last couple of years schools like Pray Woodman Elementary in Maize have spent thousands to change how they teach your children. And they say going back to the old way would hurt your kids.

In Crystal May's 4th grade math class the emphasis isn't on getting the right answer but rather on why it's the right answer and how you got it.

"My kids can talk about numbers like I never could talk about numbers," said May. "My kids can do things with the numbers that I could never do."

It's a method of teaching May spent years developing to teach the Common Core standards.

"I had to do a lot of reading, studying, almost practicing some of these techniques myself, before I brought them into the classroom with my children," she said.
Sometimes she still can't believe how well it works.

"I catch myself thinking, 'Ah, I'm not so sure my kids can do this.' But when I give it to them, they surprise me every time," May said. "It's just amazing."

If the Kansas Senate's school funding bill becomes law and ends state funding for Common Core the way May teaches would have to change back.

"That would be so hard for me to do, because I don't think it's the right thing for the kids," she said. "The difference that I see in them, I think it would be a true disservice to the students."

Like many educators she says the bill is unclear on how schools would have to remove Common Core to continue getting state funding.

"To me it means that they wouldn't be able to give any money to the schools at all," she said. "It's just so enmeshed in everything we do, that I'm not sure what they would be able to fund."

The way one educator put it, Common Core says you have to be able to do double digit multiplication by the end of fourth grade. But, the way the senate bill is written, he said, it sounds like you wouldn't be able to teach or test double digit multiplication anymore because it's part of the Common Core.

In addition to halting state spending on Common Core, the Senate plan would grant property tax breaks to families who "home school" or send their children to private school. It also eliminates due process, which requires administrative hearings for public school teachers before they are terminated. And, transportation funding would be cut by more than 16%.

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