2017 marks the 100th year of service for KASB. To see a more complete history of the Association, click here.

Through each decade, our Association has adapted to serve the needs of a diverse membership. Many of the changes throughout the years were in response to changes in public education and the changing role of boards of education and leadership teams. But wait…there’s so much more to our story than can be found in dusty old newspaper clippings and minutes from past meetings. KASB has always been a proactive, future-facing Association, at the forefront of influencing education policy and providing guidance to our members as they work to create the future for the children in their communities.

We want to celebrate both our past and our future! Our theme “Understanding our Past, Imagining our Future” perfectly frames the story we want to share.

KASB 100 Years of Service: Many of today’s issues the same as yesteryear

by Scott Rothschild, KASB Communications Specialist

First Published: April 2017 KASB School Board Review

Every Kansas child should have access to an equal education based on equalized funding and taxation.

Does that statement sound familiar? 

That idea was the concluding statement of the minutes of a meeting of Kansas school leaders that took place in 1921.

An association of school boards in Kansas dates back to 1917, but the earliest record of an association board meeting that we could find at KASB is from Jan. 20, 1921, just a little more than two years after the end of World War I.

The meeting was held in downtown Topeka at Pelletiers Hall.

The minutes of the meeting are written out longhand (remember writing?) in cursive (remember cursive?).

Dr. E.E. Brewer, a member of the Beloit school board, presided over the meeting and Bertha McCabe, County Superintendent of Rice County, was the secretary, writing the minutes in a legal-sized record book.

Forty-three school board members and 31 school administrators attended the meeting. They must have all brought their spouses and some kids because a banquet later was attended by nearly 200 people at $2.50 per plate. 

What is amazing about the meeting program as reflected in the minutes is that many of the topics of discussion at the heart of public education debates today were intensely discussed back then too.

At that meeting nearly a century ago, they talked about taxes in support of schools, the need for physical education, for all students to be immunized, and a uniform teachers wage.

State Superintendent W.D. Ross of Emporia spoke about problems in rural schools. 

McCabe wrote of Ross’s presentation, “He did not criticize the work that the one-room school had done, but showed that educational work had not progressed in comparison with other things. The war brought to light many things which proved that there must be a greater interest taken in the betterment of rural school conditions; one out of every 5 of the boys could not read their own letters and 33 1/3 percent were rejected on account of physical defects caused largely by improper lighting, heating, seating and ventilation while they were schoolchildren. Eighty percent of the children raised in the city go on to high school while only 40 percent of those who attend rural schools go on to high school.”

McCabe concluded that society was not spending its money wisely. “Four times as much is being spent for movies and gum as for education.”

After the all day session, McCabe’s minutes stated: “The sentiment was strong for some methods of equalizing the taxation and methods of distribution so that each child might have equal educational advantages.”

So much has changed since that time, but that sentiment rings as true today as then.

KASB SChool Board Review
Cover Illustration February 2017

Design: Andrea Hartzell, KASB Communications Specialist
Content: Scott Rothschild, KASB Communications and Advocacy Specialist

(Click image for larger view)

KASB embarks on next 100 years

By Dr. John Heim, KASB Executive Director

First Published: "I'm From Kansas," February 2017

This year KASB is celebrating 100 years of service. There was a lot going on in 1917. Most importantly, America had just entered the War to End All Wars, which had been going on for four years. My grandfather was a soldier in France and the only story he would tell was how foolish he felt guarding a warehouse full of cabbages. Not surprisingly, the top song on the charts, such as they were, was “Over There.” The Livery Stable Blues” was recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, which one might argue was an early precursor of Rock and Roll. Besides the war, women’s suffrage was the political topic of the times. Montana led the way by electing the first female to the House of Representatives. My personal favorite invention of 1917 was marshmallow creme. Think of a world without this delicacy!

School board members in 1917 were part of a different system with different expectations. Only about 20 percent of 13- 19-year-olds were enrolled in High School. Graduation rates ran about 15 percent and the median education attainment at the time was 8th grade, exactly that of my grandfather. Only about 60 percent of 5- 19-year-olds were enrolled in school and that rate was only 40 percent for minority children. Thirty percent of African Americans were illiterate. These were not proud days for American public education.

One wonders whether board members were concerned about the low graduation rates and the poor treatment of minorities by the education system.Fifty years later, in 1967, those issues had reached the forefront for boards of education and American society.  

Race riots were in the news in 1967, when KASB held its fiftieth convention. Rioting at home and war in Vietnam were the political issues of the day. As a third grader in Manhattan, Kansas, my biggest worry was whether he Russians were going to drop “the big one” (as my grandmother called the bomb), a concern made worse by being forced to practice for the event by hiding under a particle board desk in Mrs. Sunderman’s class at Marlatt School. The USA and the USSR were in a full-scale arms race and nuclear weapons were tested frequently by both sides this year. The world of science wasn’t all about bombs, as 1967 gave us our first successful human heart transplant. If there was ever something stranger than marshmallow creme, it is that Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees in 1967. Let that swirl around the record player of your brain for a minute. No wonder he set fire to his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival later that year.

In education, I was struggling with accents on syllables along with those nuclear war drills at Marlatt. In the rest of the country, great progress had been made. The enrollment rate for high school aged students was 90 percent, up from 60 percent in 1917. The graduation rate had increased from 15 percent to 70 percent and school enrollment had reached 90 percent for whites and only slightly less for minorities. The median educational attainment had increased from 8.2 years to 12.1 years. Board members had to be happy with the successes of the past 50 years.

And now it’s 2017 and board members still have plenty to worry about. Graduation and attainment rates have continued to increase over the past 50 years, but more recently, those rate increases have included dramatic increases in standards. Students take more classes to graduate and have higher expectations than those of 50 years ago and at least in Kansas, we look at student success instead of achievement or attainment. Much like those board members facing abysmally low graduation rates 100 years ago, board members in 2017 will rally to the challenge of taking responsibility for providing students the necessary tools to be successful citizens. KASB will be here to support Kansas school boards along the way, just as we have for the past 100 years. Understanding our past, Imagining our future.

A voice from the past envisioning our future

By Dr. John Heim, KASB Executive Director

First Published: "I'm From Kansas," April 2017

Volume 1, Number 1, of the KSBJ was published in October 1930. We keep a framed copy of the first edition outside Scott Rothschild’s office. This is the third edition of our newly revived monthly edition, so I thought it might be interesting to revisit that 1930 edition.

The journal features State Superintendent of Public Instruction George Allen, Jr, who extends his greetings and identifies the major issues of the time. He starts by establishing the importance of Kansas education for the entire state and shares some data. I was surprised at some of the numbers:

Students: 500,000
Teachers: 20,000
Board Members: 30,000

Who knew there were that many students, that few teachers, and wasn’t simply amazed at the number of board members. Those who think we have too many districts now would be shocked at the number we had 85 years ago for about the same number of students. I was surprised at the number of teachers, until I considered the curriculum was severely limited and there were no special programs for special needs students. 

Now we know some numbers, what else was happening in 1930?

Superintendent Allen considered the preeminent issue to be funding equalization. He was concerned wealth disparity in the state caused some districts to be able to educate their students for less than one mill a year, while others had levies of over 60 mills.

He was also concerned about efficiency. He explained, “…in some cases where attendance is very small, or where other unfair conditions may exist it may be possible to transport to other schools.”

Superintendent Allen worried about equitable revenue sources as well. At the time, there was no Kansas income tax and he advocated for an amendment to allow it.

Over-reliance on property tax was of great concern to the superintendent of public instruction in 1930. He gave several examples of people who paid no tax because they didn’t own property, but had significant income. He said these people considered it unfair and wanted to pay their “fair share” for using public services.

In response to the issues identified, the superintendent offered a solution. Citing a group called the Tax Code Commission, he explained a proposed Act for Allocating New Revenue for Schools. Today we might call this a school finance formula.

Mr. Allen recognized and explained the different challenges in different districts and the impossibility of a simple allocation, as did the Commission. Its solution was complex and includes an equalization formula to share between districts, counties, and the state; a formula that controls for school size by allocating units of instruction based upon enrollment; assistance for districts with transporting students; and a mechanism to go above the base state funded instructional units.

Yogi Berra might say this is deja vu all over again. Our court has told us we must abide by the constitutional requirements for equity and adequacy. We are all concerned about efficiency, and we have people who aren’t paying their “fair share” testifying their taxes should be increased.

As we proceed, we should heed the advice of the editors of the 1930 Journal who said: “While most problems of teaching must be worked out by educators, the financial problems of the schools should be worked out by those who are entrusted with the business management of school affairs. The school board members should be the best informed and their opinions should have the greatest weighting deciding any changes in the method of raising school revenue and in the distribution of that revenue.”

The 2017 Legislature has been responsive to the work of school leaders who have participated in KASB and KSSA’s processes to identify key characteristics of a school finance formula. As this is being written, legislators are working hard to develop a plan that will work for all members of the state.

School finance is not a new issue, and it is more important than ever as our students compete and live in a more complex environment than ever. It is not an issue that will ever be solved, because our constitution calls for an ever-improving system. The kids of 1930 deserved it, and so do the kids of 2030, who will be starting Kindergarten next year.