The lineup of people testifying for and against a proposal to make completion of a computer science course a graduation requirement in Kansas says a lot about the need for universal school choice. Representatives of two universities, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools, a small business owner, and the state community college association enthusiastically support the proposal, and the K-12 bureaucracy stands in opposition.
The main bone of contention for the bureaucracy – the union, the state board of education, the state department of education, and the school administrators’ association – is turf. They believe the constitution puts the state board in charge of curriculum and they will not tolerate meddling in their kingdom.
The Kansas chapter of the National Education Association (KNEA) condescendingly tells legislators that a full credit of computer science for graduation is “equivalent to eliminating two other classes – classes in foreign language, the arts, higher level math or science classes, etc.” But as often is the case with KNEA, their statement is consciously deceptive.
There are six electives included in the graduation requirements. A computer science requirement would still leave students with five electives.
Some lip service is given to the importance of computer science in some of their testimony, but the message is clear – butt out. KNEA writes, “Although we believe computer science classes are important, we would urge the (House Education) committee to have the confidence as we do in the State Board of Education.”
Testimony from the United School Administrators of Kansas is blunter.
“You (legislators) have a State Board of Education that is tasked to recommending these types of changes to schools. Allow them to do their job.”
More HS kids below grade level than on track for college & career
The bureaucracy’s job is to ensure that students are academically prepared for college and career. But for decades, the state school board and the rest of the bureaucracy have fallen far short of that mission.
The 2021 state assessment shows there are more high school students below grade level in Kansas than are on track for college and career. Only 20% were on track in Math and just 27% in English language arts. Those disturbing outcomes are reflected in ACT scores, with only 21% of Kansas graduates being college-ready in English, Reading, Math, and Science.
Instead of taking corrective action, the bureaucracy tried to reduce standards to deceive parents into believing achievement was much higher, but they were caught red-handed.
HB 2466 promotes advancement in computer science
Rep. Steve Huebert (R-Valley Center), Chair of the House Education Committee, has for years been pushing for requiring computer science in state graduation requirements. This year, he introduced the legislation – HB 2466 – that is drawing opposition from the bureaucracy.
Last year, Huebert sponsored legislation requiring the completion of a high school civics exam and a semester of financial literacy in order to graduate. HB 2039 passed the House and Senate despite strong opposition from the education bureaucracy, but Governor Laura Kelly vetoed the bill and legislators couldn’t muster enough votes to override her.
Kelly and the education bureaucracy that helped elect her have made it clear that the adults in education will always take priority over students. Tens of thousands of students, especially students of color and those from low-income families, will continue to be left behind without legislative intervention.
This is National School Choice Week. It’s a celebration of tremendous gains in student achievement in states like Florida and Arizona, where legislators implemented education savings accounts and other programs of choice.
The bureaucracy’s stance on computer science serves as another reminder that students are counting on Kansas legislators to give them a fighting chance.