Steve Sauder is president of Emporia's Radio Stations, Inc. the owners of KVOE-AM 1400, Country 101.7 and Mix 104.9. Steve has been in a leadership position with ERS, Inc., since 1987.
Since the opening of the 2018 Legislative session in Topeka, the buzz has been how the Legislature will respond to the Kansas Supreme Court order to fix the school finance system while being able to balance the budget at the same time. The Governor’s budget calls for a $200 million dollar increase in educational funding for the FY19, and then an additional $100 million increase each of the next 4 fiscal years. While at first glance, this is seemingly a significant increase, and let’s just be honest, $600 million dollars is a lot of money; but before we pass judgment or form an opinion on the Governor’s budget proposal, I would first like to point out a few items for you to think about:
Dr. Randy Watson, the Kansas Commissioner of Education, started his tenure as commissioner by visiting 20 different communities across the state holding 287 focus group meetings with around 1700 people ranging from students, parents, educators, business owners, and community members discussing one question: what are the characteristics, qualities, abilities and skills of a successful 24 year old Kansan. Dr. Watson learned that while teaching students academic skills are extremely important; it is equally important to teach students non-academic skills as well. Schools need to focus on the social and emotional growth of students. Curriculum needs to be re-designed around individualized goals, planning, instruction, and experience, as well as incorporating real-life problems and projects. Schools need a deeper dive into individual career planning, and establish internships, job shadowing, and work experiences with business and community organizations for students.
There is more on the list for school redesign but I think you get the picture that schools in Kansas are changing. Changing for the better. Schools are redesigning how we educate students, as the world is different today than it was years ago. Technology has been the catalyst for exponential growth and advancements in our society. The Kansas State Department of Education’s response to this growth and advancement was to establish a new accreditation and accountability system for public schools that use an educational framework called, “The Five Rs.” Those 5 Rs are Relationships, Relevance, Responsive Culture, Rigor, and Results. Within the 5 Rs are several indicators schools are focusing on. These indicators are:
#1: Social-Emotional Growth (Social-Emotional learning is the process through which students acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others and establish and maintain positive relationships.)
#2: Kindergarten Readiness (the success of each student begins with high-quality, early childhood care and education)
#3: Individual Plan of Study for every student in middle school and high school.
#4: High School Graduation (from the first time a student enters kindergarten, every educator, kindergarten through grade 12, shares in the responsibility of preparing that student for success.)
#5: Civic Engagement (Civic engagement is necessary so students can become active members of vibrant communities. Students can’t be civically engaged by learning lessons in the classroom about civic engagement, they must themselves be civically engaged.)
#6: Post-Secondary Success (did you know that according to a study produced by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, at least 70 percent of all Kansas jobs will require some level of postsecondary education? This means that 70 percent of all Kansas students will need to obtain some sort of post-secondary training via a technical institution, a two-year college, or a 4-year college.) If we want Kansas to prosper we have to prepare students in kindergarten through grade 12 with the skillset to continue their education via a post-secondary institution in order to meet the workforce demands in 2020 or else those business will leave Kansas and relocate in a state that is producing the workforce.
As you can see, all the above is a shift from how education has been approached in the past. To be successful in this shift, it will require more resources such as social workers, school counselors, family support specialists, instructional coaches, early childhood education programs, classroom resources, technology updates, curriculum changes, and most importantly, we have to be able to attract the best and brightest teachers to stay in Kansas. Because let’s face it, the right teacher makes all the difference! However, did you know that Kansas currently ranks towards the bottom in the nation at 42nd out of the 50 states in average teachers’ salaries? We have to do better than that to attract the best and brightest!
I had a local patron tell me not long ago that school was good enough for him, so it is good enough for kids today. I asked him when he graduated from high school and he replied in the early 1960’s. In closing, I want to leave you with a few questions in comparison to think about.
A 2018 Chevy pickup is different mechanically and technology wise than a Chevy pickup that was new in the early 1960’s. Mechanics are now technicians, and shops require specialized tools and machinery to diagnose and work on modern day vehicles. So, would you take your 2018 Chevy pickup to a mechanic to be worked on if the mechanic only had access to tools from the early 1960’s to work on it with?
Earlier this year, I had a teacher at the John Deere Technician Training Program tell me that there are more computers on a modern day John Deere combine than there were on the first space shuttle! Technology has improved processes and practices in our agricultural communities that have allowed our farmers and ranchers to meet the needs of our growing populations. So, would a farmer or rancher be able to function and sustain operations in 2018 with only access to equipment and methodologies form the 1960’s?
As I circle back to the current legislative session taking place in Topeka and the sticker shock I’m sure many of you had when you heard the $600 million dollar figure over 5 years for education, I ask you to think about whether that seemingly big number in the Governor’s budget is a small investment to make for the much needed and necessary changes Kansas is making to improve education. I believe education is the foundation of a strong economy and education is the foundation of strong communities. Investing in our children is constructing a foundation Kansas can build a future on!
“The mission of Lyon County government is to create an environment of economic growth within a framework of fiscal responsibility and transparency to the people of Lyon County.”
I’m Ed Bashaw, an Emporia newcomer. My wife Sara and I moved here in June of 2016 as I came to town to become Dean of the School of Business at Emporia State University.
This has been a great move for us on at least two fronts. First, Emporia and ESU form the best combination of university and community relationships that I’ve ever experienced. It is clear to me that both “Town” and “Gown” leaders understand the importance each other plays in building a more thriving community and a more thriving university. Second, we’ve found Emporia to be a great place to live! Emporians have been extremely welcoming to us. We’ve found “Midwestern Hospitality” exceeds “Southern Hospitality” – and I’m a Southerner!
Because of this hospitality, we’ve been included in many circles. A good example of this is that I was asked to join Emporians for Growth, the community group advocating for extending the half-cent sales tax for Emporia economic development in last November’s elections. Emporians overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure. No doubt many voters recognized the effectiveness of this fund in helping attract new companies and new jobs to Emporia.
The importance of job growth to our community is clear. It is well-documented that thriving communities are able to attract new companies from established industries that create more jobs. They also attract entrepreneurs willing to take risks to start up new enterprises that create new jobs when they are successful.
Establishing incentives for small businesses, and the entrepreneurs who found and run them, are critical to our community. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that small businesses in the U.S. account for nearly two/thirds of all private sector jobs. The creation of new businesses by entrepreneurs is the life-blood of our local economy. This is a critical area where the interests of Emporia and ESU overlap and where we need Town and Gown leadership.
The School of Business is moving towards a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship. The goal is to create entrepreneurs who stay in Kansas, but more importantly, stay in Emporia! The popularity of our Elevator Challenge and the Entrepreneurial Challenge (with Flint Hills Technical College) along with my interactions with students lead me to believe the desire to launch startups is strong among ESU students.
Why don’t more ESU students become entrepreneurs right out of school? While Emporia State graduates leave school with the least amount of student debt among KBOR schools, they still accumulate just over $20,000 of debt. And, they must begin making loan payments six months after graduation. This keeps many would be entrepreneurs on the sideline as they cannot afford to make loan payments and go without a paycheck as they launch their startup.
One of my goals this year is to address this situation by developing a proposal where a very modest amount of the economic development resources created from the successful sales tax extension vote are made available as incentives for business startups founded in Emporia. This can be important to new ESU alums with a business startup idea and to Emporia’s economic future.
And I hope you think that this idea is something to think about!