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Article 6 of the original Kansas Constitution mandated the Kansas Legislature to “encourage the promotion of intellectual, moral, scientific and agricultural improvement, by establishing a uniform system of common schools, and schools of higher grade, embracing normal, preparatory, collegiate, and university departments.”

Since statehood, the governance of education in Kansas has evolved into two boards created by the Kansas Constitution: the State Board of Education to oversee Kansas’ primary and secondary public schools, and the State Board of Regents to oversee public institutions of higher education.

State Board of Education

The Kansas Constitution at the time of statehood established the office of the state superintendent of public instruction, a statewide-elected position, to have “general supervision of common-school funds and educational interests of the state.” The constitution also provided that a superintendent of public instruction was to be elected in each county to oversee the educational interests and school funding in that county.

A constitutional amendment adopted in 1966 abolished the position and office of the state superintendent of public instruction effective January 14, 1969, and created the State Board of Education to replace it. The constitutional amendment also provided that local public schools under the supervision of the State Board of Education are to be maintained, developed and operated by locally elected boards of education.

The Kansas State Board of Education consists of 10 elected members, each representing a district comprised of four contiguous senatorial districts. Board members serve four-year terms with an overlapping schedule. The board helps determine educational policy for the state’s primary and secondary schools and is supported by the Kansas Department of Education.

Kansas Department of Education

Although the Department of Education is governed by the State Board of Education, the day-to-day administration of the department is the responsibility of the commissioner of education, who is appointed by the board and serves as chief administrative officer for the entire department.

The Department of Education consists of the commissioner’s office and two major divisions: Fiscal and Administrative Services and Learning Services, each overseen by a deputy commissioner. The commissioner of education has ultimate responsibility for the entire agency and directly oversees those agency functions that provide services to the entire agency, including legal services and human resources. The office of the commissioner provides leadership to schools and the State Board of Education in complying with all state and federal laws, regulations and requirements.

The Department of Education provides leadership, resources, support and accountability to the state’s K-12 education system. The department administers the state’s governance of education, including teacher licensing and accreditation, curriculum standards and assessments, special education services, child nutrition and wellness, title programs and services, career and technical education, and financial aid.

State Board of Regents

The State Board of Regents was not included in the original Kansas Constitution. Created by statute in 1913 as the three-member Board of Administration, it was charged with overseeing the five institutions of higher learning existing at the time. The board has been restructured over the years to include more board members and obtain more responsibility for governing higher education, and eventually becoming a constitutional board.

Kansas voters approved a constitutional amendment to Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution in 1966 that provided for a nine-member board of regents charged with the supervision and control of public institutions of higher education and other duties as prescribed by law. The Kansas Constitution requires that members of the bipartisan board be appointed by the governor; be confirmed by the Senate; serve four-year, staggered terms of office; and be representative of each congressional district.

Statutory changes over the next several decades continued to expand the board’s responsibilities, as the oversight of community and junior colleges, the administration of student assistance and federal programs, and the regulation of private and out-of-state higher education institutions were transferred from the State Board of Education to the State Board of Regents.

Currently, the State Board of Regents serves as the governing board of the state’s six universities and as the statewide coordinating board for the state’s 32 public higher education institutions (seven public universities, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges). In addition, the board administers the state’s student financial aid, adult education, general education development (GED), and career and technical education programs. The board also authorizes and regulates private proprietary schools and out-of-state institutions to operate in Kansas, and administers Kan-ed, a statewide network that provides broadband Internet access and distance learning capabilities for schools, hospitals and libraries.

State Board of Regents Office

The State Board of Regents is supported by a president and chief executive officer who is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the board. By statute, it is the duty of the board president and chief executive officer to attend all meetings of the State Board of Regents, keep a full and correct record of its proceedings, and perform such other duties and functions as the board may require. In addition, the president and chief executive officer is charged with maintaining the principal office of the board.

The office of the State Board of Regents is organized into several divisions, under the supervision of the president and chief executive officer, to assist the board in carrying out its statutory duties. Each division is managed by a vice president. Finance and Administration oversees information technology, student financial assistance, facilities, data research and planning, and finance and operations. Academic Affairs oversees private postsecondary education, academic policies, adult education and GED. Workforce Development oversees workforce innovation, training and education as well as federal initiatives for technical education. The offices of the general counsel, Kan-ed, and government relations and communications report directly to the president and chief executive officer.