Archive for Monday, May 13, 2013

State education board may seek attorney general’s opinion on ‘innovative districts’ law

May 13, 2013


The Kansas State Board of Education may consider challenging a new law that would allow as many as 29 school districts to exempt themselves from a multitude of state laws and regulations.

Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said the board may vote to seek an attorney general's opinion clarifying parts of the law, or it may consider ways to challenge the law in court.

DeBacker is scheduled to give an update on details of the new law when the state board meets Tuesday in Topeka.

"We may ask for somebody outside all of us to give us an opinion about who can waive (rules) and say yes or no," DeBacker said.

House Bill 2319, known as the Coalition of Innovative Districts Act, was signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback April 22. It sets up a process for districts to become a "public innovative district" and thereby opt out of most state laws and regulations for five years at a time in order to improve student achievement.

Those districts would still have to give annual reading and math assessments, as well as comply with health and safety laws, special education requirements and state school finance laws.

The first two innovative districts would have to be approved by the governor and the chairpersons of the House and Senate education committees. After that, applications would go through a board made up of representatives from each innovative district, and that board would have sole discretion to approve or deny future applications.

"There are so many conflicting things, at least with the people I've been speaking to, as to who can do what," DeBacker said. "For example, there's a district that might apply in order to reduce the 1,116 student contact hours. Their reason is that they need more time to do staff development.

The requirement for a certain number of "contact hours" in a school year is set out in Kansas statutes, Debacker said.

"So who has the authority to waive that?" Debacker asked. "There are some who think the coalition board that they established is given the right to do that. I don't read it that way at all."

Some observers have said the law itself may conflict with Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, which gives the state board the power for "general supervision of public schools, educational institutions and all the educational interests of the state," except for functions delegated to the Kansas Board of Regents, which supervises higher education.

DeBacker said that issue may come up from board members, but she said it's unclear what direction the board might take.

"Would they direct their board attorney to file suit?" she asked. "And do you file suit before anything even happens? I don't know where the conversation will take us."

Lawrence school district officials have already said they are not considering taking part in the innovative districts program.

The board will also get an update from Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis about the school finance budget for next year and other legislation pending at the Kansas Statehouse as lawmakers try to wind down their 2013 session.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, the state board will hear what may be its final briefing about the proposed Next Generation Science Standards before it is asked to vote on adopting them in Kansas.

Kansas was among the 26 lead states that helped develop the standards. But the state board still has to vote on whether to adopt them in Kansas.

DeBacker said that vote could come as early as next month.

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  • Comments

    Paul R Getto 11 months, 1 week ago

    True that, and sell the schools to their buddies. For a lesson on how this usually doesn't work, read up on Wichita Edison Schools.


    Lane Signal 11 months, 1 week ago

    How about some actual journalism here. Peter Hancock, can't you tell us what is really going on here? Can't you tell us what supporters of this new law claim they can bring to the table. Can't you tell us what opponents think the true agenda is? Your single example about student contact hours does not really help me understand. How about a little reporting.


    lucky_guy 11 months, 1 week ago

    I am sure the idea was to not have school at all in the 29 "innovative" disitricts. Since our legislators don't trust "gummint" schools I am sure that everyone in those districts will home school their kids and everything will be great. We don't need no edjumacation in here.


    Paul R Getto 11 months, 1 week ago

    More unconstitutional stuff from the Wizard. The SBOE's self-execulting powers are already established. Hang tough, Diane. This is just more mischief.


    question4u 11 months, 1 week ago

    The Kansas Education Statutes are easily accessible online. Good luck finding any that prevent innovation in the classroom.

    This law is clearly not designed to improve education in Kansas, but what else would you expect from the dumbest legislature in state history and a governor who claims to protect education while pushing it off a cliff?

    Condolences to the teachers and staff who work in the 29 soon-to-be deregulated districts. At least this law will help to identify the districts least likely to attract highly qualified teachers.


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