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Kansas State Board of Education District 2

Member, State Board of Education, District 2

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    Melanie Haas
    (Dem)

  • Benjamin B. Hodge
    (Rep)

Biographical Information

What is your position on the state giving money to private schools through a voucher system or scholarship program?

What policies can the State Board of Education set to enhance and improve mental health services in the schools?

In light of potential budget issues due to COVID-19 , what role can the state board or its members play in assuring the state’s public K-12 schools are adequately funded?

What is your commitment to ensuring diversity and inclusion are present throughout all K-12 curriculum (for example representative history, diversified books in English courses)? What steps need to be taken and what will you do to ensure the changes are made and implemented? What will the timeline be for the implementation?

What is your position on guns in schools? How can our students be protected from outside intruders?

What in your background qualifies you to serve on the state board?

Personal Biography I grew up in Wichita and many in my extended family worked in the aircraft industry, but my stepmom was an elementary school teacher. Not long after graduation I learned to write code and for several years I helped her and my dad run a website that was designed to help lighten the workload for educators. I was immersed in the details of challenges that teachers and administrators faced - and I was inspired to do more. I am married to Nathan Haas and we have two daughters in SMSD schools.
Campaign Phone (913) 221-8469
Education Graduate of Wichita North USD 259. Attended Kansas State University, University of Kansas, JCCC, and countless online courses. At the end of my first year of college I accepted a full-time job offer that moved me to Olathe. My tech expertise allowed me to move into professional roles without a degree. Most recently I led an engineering team at DST. I have held director and executive leadership positions at VML, VinSolutions, and Sprint.
Community/Public Service Mentor for MECA/Startland teaching entrepreneurial skills to secondary students and educators from schools all around KC. Board service AAF-KC, KC Startup Foundation (Startland), KC Women in Tech, Central Exchange's WiSTEMM, Global Montessori Academy. SMSD VIP classroom volunteer and member of two SMSD PTAs.
Address 9909 Craig Dr. Overland Park, KS 66212
To take money from public schools and give it to private institutions through the use of tax shelters is the ultimate threat to the future of public education. For one, it's a step towards full privatization, not unlike what we have seen with jails, as an example. It would convert taxpayers into customers while stripping away governance to ensure equity for all students. Real equity for all Kansas students will be within reach when we fund public schools to the greatest extent possible.
By far, the most important factor in improving mental health services and outcomes is through increasing the resources and funding directed to our schools. In recent times, we have asked our teachers to do more and more as we’ve increased class sizes and workloads while removing critical support staff from school buildings. Reversing these funding cuts would mean more teachers and smaller classrooms, more counselors and additional, individualized educational opportunities for students that need them. From the board’s perspective, our job will be to continue to demonstrate these needs and advocate for increased funding. It’s the clearest and simplest path to better mental health outcomes for our kids.
The State Board of Education does not determine how much money is allocated to school funding - that is done by the state legislature. However, the board does determine how to allocate the funds within that budget. As a board member, I would work with lawmakers in the legislature to advise them on school funding needs and make sure that their questions are answered, so they may undertake the task of funding our public schools adequately. "Adequately" is a magic word in our state when it comes to school funding. The Kansas constitution requires that schools are funded adequately, a challenge that has been defined by lawsuits in the wake of Brownback's disastrous budget cuts. For years our schools suffered from these cuts and were underfunded. Only recently did we reach the "adequate" level and I will do everything in my power to ensure we continue to improve.
Ensuring that our childrens’ education is diverse and inclusive has been a top priority of my campaign. However, as I have learned more about this process, I have learned that our state guidelines have recently been updated. This is a process that occurs not less than every 7 years and it’s unlikely that there will be a major revision during the next four years of what would be my first term of service. The recent revision leaves most decisions regarding curriculum at the local level, in the hands of individual districts. While this is an imperfect solution for those that would like to see broad changes in curriculum for all districts across the state, local control does allow for individual teachers or schools to have the ability to bring a more inclusive and diverse curriculum into the classroom. A number of stakeholders in the education community from a variety of backgrounds came together to draft these latest revisions and I see them as a positive step in the right direction.
The threat of weapons in our schools is a sad reality for our students. Our school boards and administrators cannot be expected to reverse the pervasiveness of loose regulations about guns in our society. Instead, we have to take the path that many have taken - investing in comprehensive security solutions for our buildings and incorporating safety drills for students and staff alike. The vast majority of schools in district 2 already have security measures at the front door to keep all visitors outside until they are confirmed for entry. Even as a parent, it's not easy for me to gain access beyond the office as both interior and exterior doors are locked. I am adamantly opposed to allowing guns in schools in the name of defense or safety, other than those in the hands of trained law enforcement. It is far more likely that those additional guns would create more tragedies than they would prevent.
Virtual learning environments now play a leading role in pandemic-era education. Our State Board will benefit from technological expertise as they focus on creating positive outcomes for our students - not wasting tax dollars. I believe I can ask strong questions of the immense amount of collected data, which leads to real insight. As a technologist, I have insight into the skills that many students will need to prepare them for 21st-century jobs. There are many learning management system vendors vying for state contracts and it is important that we know how to ask the right technology questions, not only about contracts and users, but also so that we are working to meet the unique user needs of stakeholders: teacher, administrators, parents, a wide variety of students. This approach will be key to success in digital learning for the remainder of the pandemic and beyond. We owe it to every family in Kansas to ensure that we are delivering the best possible remote world class education.
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