Anyone who has ever done curriculum work with Emporia’s George Abel knows that you have to start with where you want to end up. As George likes to say, “If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there?” Nobody ever went wrong taking advice from George (unless it was on remodeling!) Let’s use his formula to address the biggest problem now faced by Governor Brownback and the Legislature.
August 15Students are walking into buildings for the first day of school. That is where I want to be, and I am guessing about 80,000 school employees, 900,000 parents, and truth be told, most of the 450,00 returning students themselves want to be there too. So if one were mapping curriculum, the map goes backwards from there. What are important standards and benchmarks along the way?
August 14 First day of practice for fall activities.
August 25 Out of order of importance, but technically a key date because statute says budgets must be turned in to the county by that date in order for a district to levy a tax and collect the revenue necessary to fund school for the year.
August 11 looms because the notice of budget hearing must be published a minimum of ten days prior to the budget hearing. (I used business days to be safe.) Of course, this assumes the board would hold the budget hearing the same day the budget must be turned in to the county.
August 4 Let’s say your local paper needs a week notice to print the publication. Your board must approve the notice by Aug 4 at a very minimum.
August 1 Enrollment for most districts takes place at least two weeks prior to school starting.
July 1-July 31 Staff Payroll and key operational expenses such as utilities and insurance must be paid. Building maintenance and upkeep, curriculum and instructional planning and development, new staff orientation, staffing, all must be completed. Summer school, summer lunches, summer activity camps are all scheduled.
July 1 June state aid payments made to districts
June 30 Deadline for the legislature to complete work on a constitutional school finance plan.
May 24. Today Memorial Day is right around the corner. That leaves about thirty days for presentation of a constitutional school funding plan to the court. In the best of all possible worlds, that plan will be presented and the plaintiffs will agree that it meets constitutional muster, much like last year. In the worst of all possible worlds, we don’t really know what happens.
Today around the state, 286 school boards are faced with the question “How do we plan for this?” There are 286 different stories and not one of them is the same. Declining enrollment districts are wondering if they will lose significant funding. Our state’s second largest district is trying to plan for opening a 5-6A high school. Students will be there on August 17th, ready or not! Increasing enrollment districts wonder if the can hire new teachers to reduce class sizes for as many as 200-300 additional students. 286 unique places with as many unique "ends in mind."
Those big questions- the “end in mind, " create hundreds of logistical questions: textbooks, computers, classroom space, interview processes, refurbishing- everything from pencils and paraprofessionals to principals and paint and who gets paid. Those plans need to be made now, for implementation in June and, gulp, July.