Wagle, Ryckman Launch Diversionary Attack on Deputy Ed Commissioner Dale Dennis

Jan 25, 2018 by

GOP Leaders Demand that Dale Dennis be Suspended

Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) and House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) sent a strongly worded letter to Jim Porter, Chairman of the State Board of Education demanding that the Board put Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis and other KSDE staff members on administrative leave and calling for an investigation into whether or not Dennis violated the state law on school transportation funding.

At issue is the distribution of funds in addition to the regular transportation formula that has been done annually for many years so that children in high-density school districts can safely transport children to school. (Look below for a more detailed explanation of the issue.)

The action of Wagle and Ryckman is making a mountain out of a molehill. The practice has been addressed many times in open legislative committees and never hidden from legislators. Legislators have struggled for years with the transportation formula and this practice was initiated long ago in order to provide safe routes to school.

Further, Wagle and Ryckman are interfering in the operation of the State Department of Education which functions under the State Board of Education. SBOE Chairman Jim Porter made this point clear to the Lawrence Journal-World saying, “It is not the responsibility of the Legislature to staff the Department of Education.”

Anyone involved with education in Kansas knows Dale Dennis as a man of integrity, a man who serves the Department and advises the Legislature on issues of school finance – and has done so for many years. This perhaps is why members of House and Senate are coming to his defense.

Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville), Chairman of the House Education Committee, has issued a statement saying, “I have worked closely with Kansas Dept. of Education, Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis and have found him to be consistently straightforward, diligent, and honest. I have deep respect for him and trust in his work.”

It seems so far that Wagle and Ryckman have little support. So far the only person publicly supporting the Wagle/Ryckman demands is Secretary of State and Gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach.

Take Action!

We urge all our readers to call their representative and Senator and ask if they support the Wagle/Ryckman attack on Dale Dennis. We also urge you to contact your State Board of Education member and urge him/her to support Dale and reject the demands of Wagle and Ryckman.  Tell your elected officials to end their politically-motivated overreach!  The State Board of Education will meet tomorrow afternoon starting at 1:00 to consider their response and action.

KNEA, KASB, USA, KSSA, and AFT Issue Joint Statement in Support of Dale Dennis.



The Post Audit and the Transportation Funding Question

According to an analysis of the transportation formula conducted by the Division of Post Audit, the formula is adjusted using a “statistical curve of best fit.”

“…a statistical “curve of best fit” is used to estimate per student transportation costs based on student density. Student density is the number of students who live at least 2.5 miles from a school divided by the square mileage of the district. Each district’s per-student cost (calculated in the previous step) and density are plotted on a graph. Statistical regression techniques are used to determine a “curve of best fit” through the data points. This curve represents the estimated per-student cost of providing transportation services at each density point.” (Performance Audit Report R-17-020, December 2017, p 8)

This has been done outside of the statutory transportation formula. The LPA found that

“Over the past five years, KSDE’s minimum funding level has provided a total of $45 million more in transportation funding than allowed by law. Figure 1-2 shows the effects of KSDE’s minimum funding level for high-density districts in each of the last five years. As the figure shows, districts have received a total of $8.0 million to $11.5 million in additional funding each year for the last five years.” (Performance Audit Report R-17-020, December 2017, p 13)

The Kansas Department of Education provided an explanation of how this came to be.

“The following is a historical explanation for how we arrived at the current line of best fit. Many years ago, at a time the Legislature was discussing the school finance formula, they were making every effort to not discriminate against high-density school districts. KSDE staff was called to the State Capitol and told that the purpose and intent were for KSDE to flatten out the line of best fit so that it would not be disadvantageous to those school districts with high-density per pupil. At that time, legislators were having difficulty defining in writing the line of best fit for high-density school districts. However, they verbally provided KSDE with their definition of line of best fit.

The theory legislators had at that time was to split the line of best fit for high-density school districts by choosing the median expenditure as a minimum funding level. That theory has been in effect for many years. This calculation has been explained and reviewed before numerous legislative committees over the years and met their criteria.” (Performance Audit Report R-17-020, December 2017, Appendix A, p 34)

The Division of Post Audit recommended that the practice be codified as part of the transportation formula. Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) has introduced a bill – HB 2445 – that would do just that.



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State Board of Ed Considering End of Teacher Licensure

Apr 14, 2015 by

Click here to locate your State Board of Ed member and encourage them to VOTE NO to allowing the Coalition of  Innovative Districts special privileges to hire unlicensed “teachers.”


At the request of the Coalition of Innovative School Districts, the Kansas State Board of Education is considering a proposal that will allow those districts to hire unlicensed, untrained persons for classroom teaching.

While the superintendents calling for this have been trying to assure others that this practice would only be used sparingly, it begs the question of why they think it’s a good idea to de-professionalize teaching.

Emporia State University professor John Richard Schrock, in a column in the Emporia Gazette, put the issue in perspective:

There is a shortage of medical doctors in rural Western Kansas. Why not allow pharmacists, nurses and veterinarians practice medicine?

Presume that we have a shortage of lawyers as well. Why not let policemen practice law?

We don’t. It would “de-professionalize” these fields. But this is what was proposed at the March Kansas State Board of Education (KSBE) meeting. And it will come to a vote at their April 16 meeting.

Click here to read the column.

Teachers know better.

Knowing one’s content is critical to good teaching but no more so than knowing how to convey that content to students. A skilled engineer certainly knows mathematics but can that engineer share mathematics with students for whom English is a second language? Can he reach students with developmental disabilities? Homeless students, hungry students, students who witnessed violence in their home or neighborhood last night? What about students who just would rather not be spending time in a math class?

Yes, content knowledge is critically important. But having read the Merck manual does not make one a surgeon. In Kansas, trimming your child’s hair does not qualify you to cut hair in a salon or barber shop. Have you ever noticed yourself looking up at the barber’s cosmetology license?

This may be part of a trend. As Jon Stewart recently pointed out on The Daily Show, a new Kansas law allows one to carry a loaded concealed handgun on the streets without any training but it takes 1,000 hours of practicum to cut hair. Are we willing to go to the same place with teaching? Or will the State Board of Education stand up for teaching as a bonafide profession?

And just in case it is unknown to anyone, Kansas already allows districts to hire unlicensed persons to teach under certain very controlled circumstances. There is a conditional, restricted license that ensures pedagogical training happens. There is a provisional endorsement option. And there is the visiting scholar license. All would allow the districts to recruit from the business community or elsewhere. But all also ensure that our students are not experimented on by untrained, unlicensed personnel.

Contact your State Board of Education member now and encourage them to vote against opening Kansas classrooms to reckless experimentation.  Click the following link to use an interactive state map to locate your State School Board member and access their contact information.

Interactive Map of Board Members:  http://www.ksde.org/Board.aspx

Direct Contact Information for each Board Member:  http://goo.gl/csUUT3

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