Fair warning to legislators answering to Cass County voters for decisions they make next year. Get ready. Cass County educators are comin’ at ya.
When the Raymore-Peculiar school board approved a set of legislative priorities Dec. 18, it did so with the strength of six school districts rather than just one.
Archie, Belton, Harrisonville, Pleasant Hill, Sherwood and Raymore-Peculiar have now approved the same set of issues they want senators and representatives to know about for the upcoming legislative session. The other four districts in the county have yet to vote on the matter.
Area superintendents and school board presidents have been meeting since this fall to divine their common priorities.They’ve informally named themselves “Cass County Kids First.”
“Education is getting ready to be hit in a way it’s never been hit before,” Ray-Pec school board member Ruth Johnson told her fellow board members.
Johnson, board colleague Leo Anderson and Ray-Pec Superintendent Kari Monsees have been collaborating with other education leaders to come up with legislative priorities. It took just two meetings for the group to concur on a united platform with the dominant themes of funding and local control.
Johnson said the group’s message will be: “We’re going to hold you accountable and we’re going to make the public know how you’re voting.”
Before the Ray-Pec board approved the priorities, Monsees noted that the initial organizing efforts came from one of their own, Ruth Johnson.
“There are so many people out there who are pro giving public funds to private schools” and taking away local control over things like teacher evaluations, Johnson said after the meeting.
Maintaining local control and fundraising are extremely crucial subjects that legislators are certain to hear the districts’ collective views about, Johnson said.
“Let us decide what we need instead of (politicians) sitting in Jefferson City or D.C.,” she said.
A legislative breakfast to deliver that message is planned for early in the legislative session, probably late January.
Representatives of the Cass County districts will attend with well-thought-out, specific questions and detailed comments on how proposed legislation is likely to affect their students and communities, Johnson said.
Another purpose of the breakfast, she said, is to open lines of communication between politicians and their constituents.
She envisions Cass County Kids First convening every month during the legislative session. In the meantime, she and others will work on ways to tell the public lawmakers’ proposals and votes. She’s now setting up a Facebook page.
Cass County districts serve more than 18,000 students.
Cass County Kids First legislative priorities
- Make significant progress to fully fund the current formula.
- No diversion of public funds to non-public schools or organizations.
- Increase support for transportation.
- Increase support for Parents as Teachers and early childhood education.
- Increase support for the A+ scholarship program.
- Increase local bonding capacity to 20 percent to avoid more costly lease-purchases and additional costs due to phasing projects.
- Financial flexibility
- Teacher evaluation
- Maintain high standards with local flexibility to achieve those standards.
- Support struggling schools rather than punish them.
- Reduce the reliance on standardized tests.
- Local determination of capacity.
- Local determination of tuition rate.
- Transfers within districts first.