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Archive for Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New formulas would add more money for technical education

October 15, 2013

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— The Lawrence school district, along with most others in the state, would get more funding for career and technical education programs under two different systems that state education officials plan to present to the Kansas Legislature next year.

Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis outlined the plans to the State Board of Education Tuesday, saying that the Legislature specifically asked the agency in 2011 to come up with an alternative funding formula designed to reflect the fact that some of those programs, such as automotive and welding classes, cost much more to provide than others because of the high cost of equipment and facilities.

Dennis said he surveyed all 286 school districts in the state to find out how much it actually costs them to provide those programs. He came up with two alternatives that he will present to the Legislature in January.

One plan would add about $12 million in funding statewide, including $162,604 for Lawrence, in the form of “vocational education” weighting. A second, more modest plan would add about $9 million statewide, including $87,631 for Lawrence.

“We took a look at the cost, and then said what would we have to weight it so that theoretically the schools could break even,” Dennis said.

Dennis said if the Legislature adopts either of those proposals next year, the actual figures would be higher. That's because the numbers he reported were based on the base state aid formula from two years ago.

Currently, the state adds a uniform amount of money for each full-time equivalent student enrolled in those programs. The statutes refer to that money as “vocational education” weighting, even though education officials no longer like to use that term, preferring instead “career and technical education.” That method effectively counts each full-time equivalent student in those programs as one and a half students, regardless of what type of program the student enrolls in.

In Kansas, vocational education is divided into 16 “career clusters,” based on industry groupings and the types of academic and occupational skills involved. Examples include agriculture, food and natural resources; business management and administration; health sciences; and manufacturing.

Within each of those clusters are any number of career “pathways” that students can select, with courses designed to prepare them either for further study at a two-year or four-year college, or to go directly into the workplace.

Dennis said that Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, requested the study and inserted language into the 2011 bill that contained Gov. Sam Brownback's career and technical education initiative. Abrams is chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a former State Board of Education member.

The governor's initiative provides tuition waivers for high school students who enroll in a post-secondary career and technical education program while they are still in high school. The funding formulas that Dennis outlined would apply only to those programs that school districts offer themselves in their own high schools.

Healthy snack food

Kansas education officials may have to come up with new guidelines governing bake sales and pizza parties that are often used as fundraisers for school clubs and events.

Cheryl Johnson, director of Child Nutrition and Wellness programs for the State Department of Education, briefed the state board today about proposed new federal nutrition regulations governing foods sold outside the regular subsidized school lunches. Those include in vending machines, a la carte items sold in cafeterias, and all foods sold on school grounds during regular school hours.

That means they do not apply to food sold at concession stands during after-school sporting events, or foods sold at weekend carnivals.

Kansas already has guidelines that meet or exceed most of the proposed federal rules, Johnson said,

But the state may need to either write new guidelines for items sold at fundraisers during school hours, or somehow carve out an exemption for those items.

Oddly, Johnson said, the new regulations would allow chewing gum to be sold in schools, even though it has little if any nutritional value, because studies have shown that it reduces dental problems when chewed shortly after eating a meal.

She said the new regulations also would not restrict caffeine in beverages sold in high schools because, so far, there have been no scientific studies showing it has an adverse health effect on students at that age level.

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Contact Journal-World education reporter Elliot Hughes: ehughes@ljworld.com

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