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Social Systems

SS1.3

Strengthen Networks of Parents Tracking School Legislation Issues

Click here if you care about education and would like to connect with others.

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Tool Information


Goals

  1. Education
  2. Awareness
  3. Civic Engagement
  4. Youth

Description

In this age of social media it is easier than ever for groups of parents and concerned citizens to form networks of information to help watch how legislators are voting on issues important to education. In fact many networks already exist all across Kansas and could be expanded or used as a model for grassroots efforts to unite and inform. Information is power if enough concerned parents are paying attention to and holding their legislators accountable for policies that strengthens education for all children. This tool promotes the formation of local networks that help parents of all parties and affiliations to come together as informed and engaged citizens around educational issues that impact every aspect of economic prosperity and quality of life in the future. Any network that promotes informed dialog is an opportunity to raise awareness and create a culture of accountability among parents and citizens. Kansas Schools are only as good as those who are willing to stay informed, to vote responsibly, and to hold their leaders accountable to quality education.

School

 

Photo by Marlon Doss, 2010 

CC BY SA 2.0 

Background

The report Quality At Risk:  Impact of Education Cuts, from the Kansas Center for Economic Growth points out that 50 percent of Kansas school districts have seen an increase in class size between 2009 and 2014.  The district has gained more than 19,000 students but has lost 665 teachers.  About 30 percent of the district has reduced or eliminated extra curricular activities.  Kansas Tax Cuts have reduced state aid for education by $263 million dollars.  The base level of state aid per pupil in Kansas is $3,838, down 1,050 per student in the last five years while costs of food, transportation and maintenance have gone up.  Losing teachers, books, administrative staff, enhanced learning programs, janitorial staff, continuing education for teachers, and overcrowding issues threaten to burn out the teachers that remain.  Education in Kansas is struggling.  And parents are largely struggling for accurate information about what is happening and what they can do to help schools get the resource they need to be successful and to serve all children.  The long term economic viability of any place always relies on preparing the next generation of contributors for the 21st Century jobs and challenges that await their creativity and intelligence.  Will schools stripped down to the bone be able to keep up?  These are all issues well worth paying attention to.   Whatever side of the debate you find yourself, it is important for parents and concerned civic leaders to stay informed, to vote, and to hold leaders accountable for educational policy.  

Photo by Jim Bowen, 2012

CC BY 2.0

 

capitol

Additional Information

http://realprosperityks.com/

http://realprosperityks.com/education/

The Kansas Center for Economic Growth is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research and analysis to promote balanced state policies that help ensure all Kansans prosper. The Center's mission is to advance responsible policies by informing public discussion through credible, fact-based materials. We serve policymakers, the media and all Kansans who want to engage in making our state a place where opportunity and economic growth are widely shared. They provide Education Policy Reports.


http://gameonforkansasschools.com/

Game on for Kansas Schools is a nonpartisan grassroots effort by a group of parents, teachers, and concerned community members. We believe high-quality public education is a right for all Kansas students. We advocate for Kansas schools to ensure they have the resources necessary to deliver that education to all Kansas students. We inform the community about issues and legislation affecting students in Kansas.


http://www.mainstreamcoalition.org/

MainStream Coalition is a coalition of informed citizens who believe that moderate voices need to be heard in today's political climate. They stand for mainstream, common sense, responsible and compassionate ideals. They believe that people with different points of view can come together to forge good government that benefits all citizens. Republican or Democrat, Independent or unaffiliated, MainStream Coalition's members stand for strong public education free of special interests, fiscally responsible policies that balance revenue strategies, and good government free from partisan machinations and religious doctrine. They provide access to public education policy information as well voting tool kits to help citizens see the voting records of legislators on education issues.  

 

http://www.knea.org/home/310.htm

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ebqote5qaeycgpf/KNEALegAgenda2014DigitalDoc.pdf

The Kansas National Education Association is dedicated to making public schools great for every child.  They publish a legislative agenda to help parents understand what to advocate for during the legislative year.  They endorse candidates that support these policies. 

 

 



Implementation Strategy


Champions and Partners

Local Parent Teacher Associations

Teachers Unions & Associations

Mainstream Coalition

Game On for Kansas Schools

Kansas National Education Association

Kansas Center for Economic Growth

Timeframe

Short (1-3 years)

Cost

$

Cost Details

Cost associated with website maintenance

Cost associated with analysis and reporting

Cost associated with social media campaigns

Funding Sources

Membership dues

Donations

Corporate Sponsorships

Implementation Details

A brief outline of the first few steps necessary for implementation are provided. The steps outlined here are provided only as a suggested starting point and other approaches are certainly valid.

1.  Organize and connect regional PTA organizations and host dialog sessions in person and on social media

2.  Evaluate political watch-dog groups that support education in non-biased ways

3.  Gather information and publish reports

4.  Conduct social media campaigns that are loosely coordinated between regional communites

5.  Encourage voting campaigns to get people to vote on issues of education

6.  Coordinate letter writing campaigns to legislators when important education legislation is in debate

7.  Celebrate the victories and reinforce the power of democracy in action

 

Case Study


Game On For Kansas Schools

HOW WE GOT STARTED

A few years ago, several parents at Belinder Elementary School in Prairie Village, KS were concerned with the developing situation surrounding school funding. They wanted to understand what was going on and to participate in the process rather than simply reacting to decisions after they were made. They began meeting regularly with their local representatives in the Kansas House and Senate and Shawnee Mission School Board.

As the school funding situation worsened, the group became aware of a second issue–the absence of parental engagement. They rolled out a campaign at Belinder, called Game On Belinder, to encourage parents to “get in the game” and participate in issues affecting Kansas schools. Seeing that the problem affected other schools as well, they expanded the reach of the group to include parents from other schools within the Shawnee Mission School District. Moving forward, we are working to involve parents throughout the state.

There are currently 20 members of the leadership team for Game On for Kansas Schools, including parents with children attending more than 25 different Kansas public schools along with other interested community members. They are nonpartisan and welcome anyone interested in protecting Kansas public education.

WHAT THEY DO

Efforts include:

  • Educating parents and urging them to participate in the political process on behalf of their children.
  • Evaluating policy issues including, but not limited to third grade retention, vouchers/scholarships, charters, defining “suitable” funding for education in the Kansas constitution, judicial selection and tax policy as it affects public education.
  • Working to educate legislators on issues impacting public education.
  • Holding legislators accountable for their votes.
  • Countering the arguments of public school opponents.
  • Searching for alternative sources of funding.

 

Watch this video of parents walking from Kansas City to Topeka. 

Relevance

This is a great example of how a few parents can organize to learn about and raise awareness of legislative issues that impact education.  This is a group that already exists as a network and could easily be expanded by adding small pockets of concerned and engaged parents across the state.  

 

Image:  http://cjonline.com/news/2014-03-31/education-advocates-walk-walk-support-k-12-spending