The latest mask mandate excuse from education officials – ‘we have to follow county orders or we will lose accreditation’ – appears to be another conscious attempt to deceive parents.
First of all, Johnson County Legal Director Peg Trent in August told commissioners that school districts have home rule authority and do NOT have to follow county mask mandates.
Last week, The Sentinel asked Commissioner Randy Watson with the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) if school districts would endanger their accreditation status if they didn’t follow county health recommendations. His refusal to respond speaks volumes. It’s a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ matter. We didn’t ask Watson for a legal opinion. We simply asked him to respond in his professional capacity as the person who oversees the accreditation process.
Ignoring the question, even with a qualifier, indicates that KSDE is consciously participating in local school officials’ effort to deceive parents with a bogus excuse for requiring masks on children.
Accreditation scam is part of a pattern
This attempt to deceive parents isn’t a one-off; it’s part of a pattern of educational malpractice that makes student needs subservient to the preferences of the adults in education.
Earlier this year, The Sentinel caught KSDE officials trying to reduce academic standards to make student achievement – and the adults – look better.
KSDE and the Kansas Association of School Boards in November tried to cover up dismal student achievement in legislative testimony. They don’t want legislators and parents to know that there are more high school kids below grade level than are on track for college and career. And when they do acknowledge any declines, they blame it on something else like COVID or not having enough money.
This conspiracy is widespread. Media provides cover and won’t ask tough questions (like The Sentinel did of Commissioner Watson). State School Board member Ann Mah essentially calls parents liars, telling legislators that schools aren’t inundating kids with white supremacy and gender identity indoctrination despite mountains of evidence.
State and local education officials refuse to answer this simple question: How long will it take you to get all students to grade level? They know the answer is ‘never;’ about a quarter of students were below grade level in 2016 and now a third are below grade level.
None of this will change until legislators step in to give students a fighting chance with money-follow-the-child legislation. So, if you want student needs to be the top priority, you need to make legislators’ phones ring off the hook.