Journey of a Superintendent: Education Divide

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

Funding our public schools consistently is in the headlines, and is certainly in the forefront of the conversations of superintendents and boards of education. Recently the American Association of School Administrators featured several articles about the challenges school boards and superintendents are facing as we work to provide high quality education to every student in our nation.

Kansas is no different. Kansas has made massive reductions in state funding to support public schools.  In the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools alone, we have lost $63 million in state aid over the last seven years, with $13 million cut just this past year. We continue to forge ahead, staying focused and determined to do whatever it takes to reach our goal of each student graduating prepared for college and careers in a global society, and at every level, performance being on-track and on-time for success.

Still, I am worried. My concern is not about the challenges we face as we stretch ourselves to be one of the best school districts in the nation. In KCKPS, we have a great team of dedicated staff, excellent teachers and students willing to put forth the effort to succeed. I am not worried about our commitment to becoming one of the best school systems in the nation. I know we will succeed. What keeps me up at night is another kind of fear. It is the fear that we are about to change a basic value we have held as Kansans. We have long prided ourselves on the fact that all citizens deserve access to a high quality education. We believe, and have evidence to prove, that education is the way out of poverty and the only way to access a quality life. Yet, we are on the verge of sanctioning a system of the “haves and have nots.” A system that tells a child their access to education is dependent on their zip code!  Really, is that what we are coming to in this state and nation?

Changes are being made under the guise of “local control” and a struggling economy. It’s persuasive to speak of local control, and to encourage communities to spend whatever they want (and can afford) on their schools. I tend to come down on the side of less government in our lives. However, local communities do not all have access to the same resources. So those wealthy, growing communities can pay their teachers whatever they want, build new high technology supported schools, and offer a wide range of experiences for their students, while the rest of us, well . . .  Are we willing to leave the citizens, the children, in less fortunate areas behind?  Our actions will determine our future. What will it be? Will we choose an educational divide or, the belief in quality education for all?  “It’s Up to Us.”

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2 Responses to Journey of a Superintendent: Education Divide

  1. craig carbery says:

    Thank you for the reminder that we may be headed toward a have and have not society. We need to OCCUPY all that we can. Without activism in the 1960’s I believe steps toward equality would have been very SLOW. craig carbery

  2. lucy says:

    Recently, the Kansan posted the salaries of USD 500 employees. If your blood doesn’t boil after viewing the discrepant compensation within similar groups, in the same position, then you might not have a pulse.
    I’m not arguing against the salaries of certain administrative personnel-they work hard, put in long hours, year round, juggle difficult issues, and are forced to make hard, hard decisions.
    What I am vehemently opposed to is the salary range of like positions. Indeed, veteran teachers will argue that they’ve given 30 years of service. I honor that fact. There are, however, people who have retired from other districts, joined KCKPS, and enjoy some of the highest salaries in the district! Really? Is it equitable that many, many teachers and leaders put in extraordinary hours, seek to learn, serve selflessly, and their students learn and achieve the excellence for which we strive. Meanwhile, confined to their tired routines and interminable worksheets, tenured teacher comfortably draws a fat salary while her new counterpart has conferred, taken suggestions, sought to grow, stretched and had the courage to implement new methods and her students soar!
    Or let me describe another scenario. An individual retires from another district, comes to KCK and is compensated 10-20-30K beyond that of her peers! This not hyperbole-this is documented reality. Look for yourself in the public files of kansas employee salaries.
    Union leaders will tell you that they have fought hard to raise the salaries of teachers and negotiated on your behalf. The problem is that the scale was set so low to begin with that the increases are gratuitous! Worse yet, there REALLY are individuals whose salaries were diminished by the reorganization of the steps!
    Yes, there is money despite significant budget cuts, and our leadership is correct in saying it matters how it is allocated. You can draw your own conclusions and let your voice be heard through action, not complacency.

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