In support of Jackson Heights regarding its KASB membership

Jackson Heights USD 335’s recent announcement that it may not renew its membership with The Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) should be supported.

KASB is a non-profit service organization that has been lobbying the State Legislature on behalf of public school districts across the state since 1917, it has been reported.

Providing legal counsel to Kansas public school districts is another service offered through KASB for the last 25 years or so. KASB also offers legal advice on how to update school policies and provides some training and executive staffing. 

Public school districts in Kansas are not required to be KASB members but most do pay their membership dues each year. In fact, if Jackson Heights decides to not renew its KASB membership for 2024, estimated at about $10,000, then it will be the only one in the state, at this time, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Jackson Heights Superintendent Jim Howard recently announced that USD 335 may not pay its renewal dues with KASB but may still purchase some selected services from KASB, which is also an option.

“Over the years, we have observed a growing misalignment between our values, beliefs and the direction that KASB represents,’’ Howard wrote Nov. 14 to KASB. “Our vision for public schools and the education landscape has evolved, leading us to believe that continued representation by KASB may not be in the best interest of USD 335.’’

Howard also said that he viewed KASB as increasingly liberal in its lobbying efforts to state legislators and advocating for items that could be detrimental to USD 335.

Jackson Heights experienced an influx of about 100 students this year due to the closing of the Wetmore school that was formerly part of the Prairie Hills school district. 

Current state funding laws for public schools requires school districts to seek state aid (state tax funds) based on the previous year’s student headcount in the district, or the student headcount in the district from two years ago. This law helps shore up state aid to public school districts that may be facing declining enrollments.

The bottom line is that the Jackson Heights school district is educating an additional 100 or so students this year, without the benefit of receiving state aid to help educate those students.

Maybe KASB could have done more to lobby the State Legislature to address the special circumstances that can take place when one school is shut down and students there are required to go to different schools in different school districts? 

At any rate, let’s support Jackson Heights school leaders to know what is best for Jackson Heights students. KASB works for its member school districts. The school districts do not work for KASB.

The general public’s view of lobbying organizations like KASB is mixed, at best, after all.

A lot of taxpayers do not believe the taxes they pay to public schools should be used against them, so to speak, to pay lobbying organizations like KASB to lobby the State Legislature for more and more state tax funds each year.

In a nutshell, that is what KASB does best - it takes tax dollars paid in as membership dues to lobby the State Legislature for more tax dollars to be spent on public schools.

A lot of Kansas taxpayers believe it should be left up to our state legislators alone to decide what is adequate funding for public schools.

This commentary is not intended to downgrade the overall, longstanding good work of the KASB. This commentary is in support of one school district - Jackson Heights - in its choice to rejoin KASB, or not to rejoin KASB.

Time will tell whether Jackson Heights, and/or other Kansas school districts, actually choose a different direction away from KASB. If that happens, then KASB will need to adapt, not the other way around.

Remember that the mission of KASB is to serve all public school districts across the state.

As for legal counsel, public school districts in Kansas are also not required to employ KASB attorneys as their legal counsel. For many years, local attorneys adequately filled that role for local school districts and still can today, if asked.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141
 

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