School task force leader makes recommendations

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The head of a school efficiency task force is recommending several changes to education policies in Kansas, including incentives for school districts to consolidate and potential restrictions on teacher bargaining rights.

The recommendations from Wichita businessman Sam Williams, which were mailed to committee members last week, are only in a draft report and have not been considered by other committee members, said Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson, vice chairman of the committee.

Commission members will discuss the draft at meetings later this week and must make recommendations to the Legislature by Jan. 9, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported ( ).

The draft is "predominantly based" on recommendations made in presentations to the committee, with several coming from the Kansas Association of School Boards, Hinson said.

"I think one of the things we're going to have some in-depth conversation about (is), what's the role of the Legislature, what's the role of the State Board, what's the role of the local board of education?" he said.

Some of the draft proposals include:

— Overhauling teacher pay by replacing salary schedules with salary ranges that reflect experience, expertise and other factors. Current salary schedules are negotiated annually by teachers and school boards and set pay according to experience and educational attainment.

— Reducing the number of work-related issues that teachers can negotiate, with school boards having the authority to decide whether more items are negotiable.

— Re-evaluating and possibly limiting state aid for bond issues.

— Considering additional incentives for school districts to merge or cooperate.

— Developing "a state plan for district-level administrative reorganization and alignment" and realigning "district geographical boundaries in order to facilitate administrative efficiencies."

Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the school board association, said his organization is pleased the draft include some association proposals. But he added that the ideas are only conceptual and "the devil is always in the details."

Marcus Baltzell, a contact for the Kansas National Education Association, hadn't seen the draft but said he wasn't surprised with proposals to reduce narrow teacher rights because the panel "includes lobbyists from extreme anti-public education groups and extreme anti-labor groups."

Baltzell was referring to Kansas Chamber president Mike O'Neal and Dave Trabert, a lobbyist for the free-market think tank Kansas Policy Institute. Their appointment to the committee sparked debate earlier this year.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal,

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