Kansas has a long tradition of excellent public education. As the father of five graduates of Kansas public schools, I know firsthand the strength of our education system and the dedication of our teachers.
The importance of education — both for our students and the future of our state — keeps the topic continually in the public square. Discussion is healthy, but 40 years of litigation has not served our students and teachers well. It’s time for policymakers and educators to work together to find solutions that work for Kansas students, their parents and their teachers.
This week, I invited leaders in the educational community to work with me on developing a new education funding system. Together, I want to develop a system that supports a high-quality education for our students, providing them with the skills, knowledge and abilities they need to succeed in life. This discussion needs to be about more than just funding. While K-12 funding has increased 10 percent during my administration, what matters more is how and where that funding is invested in education.
We should encourage innovation and creativity in education to ensure that no student’s opportunity for a brighter future is limited by a ZIP code.
With students facing a competitive 21st century workplace, it’s time to develop a system that allows our students to succeed in a competitive world through an increased focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines and collaboration between educators and the business community.
Kansas students deserve the best, most inventive teachers, and those teachers should be rewarded for their superior efforts.
We must give teachers the flexibility to teach, spending less time on administrative tasks and more time directly pouring into the education of students. We should expand innovative enterprises like our successful technical education programs, equipping more students with an industry recognized certificate and high school diploma on graduation day.
Since we began our technical education program in the 2010-2011 school year, participation has grown by 290 percent. But behind those numbers are real people.
Marie, a young woman from Garden City, participated in her school’s culinary program, eventually earning both a diploma and a certification. Marketable straight out of high school, Marie began working as a supervisor thanks to her experience and certificate.
She is now supporting herself and her young son, working toward a business degree and giving back to her community as a guest speaker at the high school where her career began.
Marie’s story is one of hope and success.
As the education community shares their expertise and joins me in creating a new funding system, we will work together to build solutions that increase student achievement — a system that touches more students like Marie.
While we may disagree on some issues, we can all agree that we want the best education possible for Kansas students. I look forward to the task before us, as together we work to build a better path toward a brighter future.
Gov. Sam Brownback lives in Topeka with his wife, Mary. He was elected the 46th governor of the Sunflower State in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.