Pretty good potential political muscle…

There may be something subtle going on here, that first meeting in several years in which the Kansas Board of Regents sat down with the Kansas State Board of Education for, well, just a little chatting.

That meeting brought together the nine Regents, who are appointed by the governor and subject to Senate confirmation, and the 10 members of the State Board of Education, who are elected to their offices.

While the overall responsibility of both groups is to provide a good education for Kansas students, it has generally in the past been sharply divided. The Regents works on everything after high school graduation, the State Board of Education nearly everything before that.

But they have rarely worked closely together on the entire concept of education in Kansas, producing young people who are ready for more education or who are learning job and social skills that will make those students just who we want walking down our streets, competing for parking spaces and living next door.

Last week’s meeting, in which the State Board of Education members were guests, produced some of the most identifiable indications that the two boards are interesting in working together, and some new members of each wondering why the boards haven’t been working more closely together.

That’s something we don’t often see between state agencies, which generally look after their own duties and cooperate only when two agencies find their duties overlap.

One of the more interesting discussions among Regents/Board of Education members was over allowing high school students—for free—to take a few college-level courses while in high school. Big interest in English/literature skills, but the concept generally comes down to letting middle and high school students get a taste of college-level classes to explore possible interests and eventually careers.

That dab of higher education at high school is both a confidence-builder for students who are from families without parents and other relatives with higher education experience and a way for those students who are interested in, say, teaching or construction or working in some other specialized industry a chance to see what is actually involved, and whether that is the way those kids whose drivers licenses are still new can look into their future.

Nothing like early focus, is there?

Oh, that cooperation between the State Board of Education and Regents is going to be a little tricky. Sorta like a first date. 

Regent money generally is state aid plus tuition, while public schools are a mix of state aid and local property taxes. That local property tax is a major issue for public schools and casts its shadow on nearly everything that is considered by the State Board of Education and the Legislature that deals with public schools.

But the possibilities? Well, let’s see what would happen if the Regents and State Board of Education could come to a common ground for proposed legislation. We have the groups that oversee multiple school districts in each legislative district binding with Regents and other higher education institutions that aren’t universally present in all districts.  That produces a statewide interest group that can appeal and lobby to every legislator in the state. 

Pretty good potential political muscle…

Now it’s going to take time and formation of committees and such that education leaders tend to generate like weeds in a garden, but if there becomes an “educational establishment” that can reach out to every lawmaker and every Kansan…well, it’s likely we’ll see more interest in education from kindergarten to college degrees.

Interesting to see whether this cooperation actually takes place and what it yields…

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