By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
As she seeks a second term on the Kansas State Board of Education, Sally Cauble wants to make sure the students of Southwest Kansas are taken care of and can compete in a global society.
Cauble said the federal No Child Left Behind mandate is in the process of reauthorization. Serving on a governmental affairs committee, the Liberal resident and others have been working on a blueprint for the update of the act.
“I’ve been working with this committee to see how it will help or why it won’t work in the state of Kansas and to see that when the program is finalized, it works for our students in Kansas,” she said.
Cauble said another item on the board’s horizon is common course standards put together by the National Government Association and chief school officers.
“We need to see if that’s a fit for the state of Kansas or not,” she said.
With the state looking at budget cuts in all areas of government, Cauble said neither appropriations committee from the Kansas House nor the Senate has put anything on the table in terms of what kind of slashes will be seen in state funding.
“They’re waiting until Friday to see what income the state of Kansas has,” she said. “That report should be out on Friday. Those committees are going to go to work so that when they meet again on the 28th, they will be looking to see what money they have and the direction they want to go.”
Cauble said all information about budget numbers is merely speculation at this point.
“Until they get their numbers of what they’re going to be working with, there’s several different plans out there, but nothing has come out of the appropriations committee,” she said.
In addition to state cuts, decreases will also be seen at the local level, according to Cauble.
“What we as a board are trying to do right now is we have some things we would like to move forward on to put into policy or to mandate, but we can’t when the finances aren’t there to do it,” she said. “We’re trying very hard not to mandate any programs at this time to affect the numbers.”
Cauble said local school districts, particularly the ones she serves in District No. 5, are down to cutting essentials.
“I wouldn’t want to do anything to cost them extra funding at this time, and that’s what I’m watching out for,” she said.
Cauble said smaller schools are looking at deeper cuts than those in 5A and 6A districts, but all of them have reached a point of multiple layoffs and significant unemployment.
“You can say you can cut education, but when you do that, you are also making unemployment in the state go up,” she said. “You’re causing problems with economic development at this point. Also, the children are getting short changed.”
Cauble said some schools are even starting to meet state minimum requirement units for graduation.
“Some teachers are having to teach multiple subjects and get multiple endorsements, which doesn’t sound bad, but when you’re a 1A school and you have one science teacher and they’re teaching all of the chemistry, physics and they need another math class and they’re asking that teacher to go back and get another endorsement so they can teach one of the math classes, that’s costly to the teacher,” she said.
Kansas currently ranks 39th in the nation in teacher pay, and Cauble said some school districts are handling this with teacher pay cuts across the board.
“Some are handling it by laying off teachers,” she said. “Some school districts have gotten rid of all paras. All those things affect the classroom teacher and her ability to work with individual students.”
Cauble said Kansas has gone from a state of teacher shortage to no longer having a deficiency of educators, but many teachers have been laid off and are currently out of work. This means state unemployment numbers are rising.
“It hurts our economy,” she said. “My main concern is the students. The 21st century students have a much broader competitive base than any of our graduates have had in the past.”
Cauble said in order to compete in a global market, young people need to know much more than what was required in the past.
“When we say our students compete within the state of Kansas for jobs or for different careers, that’s not true anymore,” she said. “Our 21st century learners learn in a different way. They know nothing but a digital world. Technology is expensive, and it is necessary in this day and age.”
Cauble said regardless of what is done with funding for schools in the state, something will eventually need to take place to help districts have necessary funding.
“We can all make due. We all want to do our part on helping out with the state budget, but I think that there comes a time when you can’t cut anymore,” she said. “Parents and voters are going to have to decide their priorities and what they want.”
Cauble said this allows for many opportunities, and there may be some ways to do some things better.
“We’ve certainly been looking at that and evaluating,” she said.
Cauble said she will do whatever is necessary to help schools in her district.
“I want to make sure that all kids in western Kansas have the opportunity for an education, and sometimes we have to fight in western Kansas a little more than others,” she said.