Education in Kansas

Education in Kansas is governed at the primary and secondary school level by the Kansas State Board of Education. The state's public colleges and universities are supervised by the Kansas Board of Regents.

Colleges and universities
The Kansas Board of Regents governs or supervises thirty-seven public institutions. It also authorizes numerous private and out-of-state institutions to operate in the state. In Fall 2009 the state's six public universities reported a combined enrollment of 93,307 students, of which more than a quarter were non-resident students and more than a seventh were off-campus enrollments.

Among the state-funded universities, the University of Kansas (KU) is the largest in terms of enrollment, with 26,826 at its Lawrence campus, KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park, and Public Management Center (formerly the Capitol Complex) in Topeka. The total university enrollment, which includes KU Medical Center, was 30,004. About 31% were non-resident students.

Kansas State University (KSU) has the second largest enrollment, with 23,581 students at its Manhattan and Salina campuses and Veterinary Medical Center. About 19% were non-resident students. Wichita State University (WSU) ranks third largest with 14,823 students; about 14% were non-resident students. WSU has lost nearly 3,000 students since the school dropped football following the 1986 season. Fort Hays State University (FHSU), Pittsburg State University (PSU), and Emporia State University (ESU) are smaller public universities with total enrollments of 11,308, 7277, and 6314, respectively. FHSU has the fastest growing enrollment in Kansas with most of it coming from non-resident and off-campus enrollment. The composition of FHSU's enrollment includes 35% non-resident students and 44% off-campus enrollments. PSU also has almost a quarter of enrollment from non-residents.

The first colleges in Kansas were chartered by acts of the Kansas Territorial legislature, signed by Territorial Governor James W. Denver, on February 9–12, 1858. Among the ten institutes of higher learning chartered at that time, three survive in some form. Among those chartered on February 9 were Highland University (precursor to Highland Community College) and Blue Mont Central College (precursor to Kansas State University). Baker University, chartered on February 12, 1858, has been operating continuously since that time and is now recognized as the oldest continuously-operating college in Kansas.

All of the colleges founded in 1858 were private institutions. The first public institute of higher learning in the state was Kansas State University (originally named Kansas State Agricultural College), which was established by the state legislature on February 16, 1863.

The state's universities were among the first public universities in the country to be coeducational. Kansas State became the second coeducational public institution of higher education when it opened in 1863; enrollment for the first session was 52 students: 26 men and 26 women. The University of Kansas was also among the earliest to offer mixed-sex education, in 1869.

Primary and secondary schools
Statewide elections for the Kansas Board of Education are held every four years.

Evolution controversy

In 1999, the Kansas Board of Education ruled that instruction at the primary and secondary levels about evolution, the age of the earth, and the origin of the universe was permitted, but not mandatory, and that those topics would not appear on state standardized tests. However, two years later, following a change in its elected membership, the Board reversed this decision on February 14, 2001, ruling that instruction of all those topics was mandatory and that they would appear on standardized tests.

Following another change in membership, on August 9, 2005, the Board of Education approved a draft of science curriculum standards that mandated equal time for evolution and intelligent design.

On November 8, 2005 the Board of Education voted 6-4 to allow science students in public schools to hear materials critical of evolution in biology classes, allowing teaching of Intelligent design to be taught in classes. The board, in order to accommodate the teaching of Intelligent Design in biology class, went so far as to redefine the meaning of science to 'no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.'

In response, USD 383 (Manhattan-Ogden) decided to reject the November 2005 standards in a unanimous decision on February 2006, and continues to use the March 9, 2005 standards.

On August 1, 2006, the creationism majority on the Board of Education was voted out of office and evolution candidates were given the majority once again.

On February 13, 2007, the Board voted 6 to 4 to reject the amended science standards enacted in 2005. The definition of science was once again limited to "the search for natural explanations for what is observed in the universe."