State Board of Education Approves All District Continuous Learning Plans

Kansas is being recognized nationally as a leader in the creation of learning opportunities for students left at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is thanks to the decision to immediately create a state-level Continuous Learning Task Force made up of outstanding teachers and school administrators to develop a detailed resource to guide the creation of individual district continuous learning plans. Task force members completed their work in record time and delivered the continuous learning framework to school districts and education professionals who then got to work creating plans to meet the needs of their school communities.

In order to qualify for a waiver of the statutorily-required hours of instruction, all districts were required to submit a continuous learning plan to the Kansas State Board of Education for review and approval. If approved, state board members could then waive the required 1,116 annual hours of instruction.

On Tuesday, the state board of education approved all plans that were submitted by our public schools and by accredited private schools.

This was not a “rubber stamp” approval. Each board member was responsible for personally reviewing the plans from schools districts in his/her board district. In addition, KSDE staff members reviewed the plans. We are confident that school districts and Kansas teachers are working hard to provide instructional opportunities to their students.

This effort is not without hurdles. One of the greatest challenges to online learning is access to devices (computers, tablets, etc.) and access to high speed internet connectivity. These challenges are exacerbated in rural areas and in high poverty areas. Kansas NEA, the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators/KS, the Kansas State Board of Education, Kansas Association of Special Education Administrators, the Kansas PTA, Schools for Quality Education, and Game On for Kansas Schools are working together to call upon Congress to provide $2 billion in E-Rate funding to help schools provide both internet access and technology to get our students the resources they need.

Congress is currently considering another stimulus package to help schools as well as small businesses and individuals who have found themselves unemployed as a result of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Governor Extends Stay-at-Home Order

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has extended the state stay-at-home order until May 3 which was scheduled to end on April 19. We watched the governor’s press conference and followed the online comments as she spoke.

Those comments are of two types: 1) people who appreciate Governor Kelly’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Kansas and 2) those who believe that COVID-19 is no worse than the common cold and we should open everything back up.

Here’s what we actually know: Kansas took action to contain the virus early. As a result, the numbers of infections and deaths are fewer than in many other states and the infection curve appears to be flattening. By comparison, one need look no further than Missouri where the governor delayed action and minimized the threat. The states that did not act are now finding themselves in difficult circumstances. Click here to read the Kansas City Star editorial comparing the actions of Governor Kelly and Missouri Governor Mike Parson.

Clearly, there is much economic harm in keeping businesses closed. Many comments during the governor’s press conference were calling for small business owners to just open back up in defiance of the governor’s stay-at-home order. Such action would likely reverse the progress Kansas has made against the disease.

If we want to open up our businesses sooner rather than later, the best way to do that is to stop the virus. And the best way to stop the virus is to take seriously the efforts to contain the spread. That means stay at home unless you are an essential worker, maintain social distancing when you have to go out, and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. We all want to go back to our favorite restaurants and shops. The sooner we stop the virus, the sooner we can do just that – without putting our lives and others’ lives at risk.

Help for Working Kansans

We understand that many of our neighbors and fellow Kansans are struggling with financial hardships at this time. The AFL-CIO has put together a list of resources for working people impacted by COVID-19. The site includes information about unemployment benefits, paid leave, health insurance and community assistance resources. Click here for a list of those resources. Additional resources can be accessed from NEA Member Benefits.