Archive for Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Report calls for overhauling school finance

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, February 2014.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, February 2014.

January 19, 2016, 10:37 a.m. Updated January 19, 2016, 4:46 p.m.


— A special legislative committee voted Tuesday, largely along party lines, to issue a final report that calls for revamping the way Kansas funds public schools, focusing more on student outcomes and tightening state controls over how districts can issue bonds.

Although it is not a formal bill, the document will likely serve as a guideline as lawmakers try to craft a new school funding system to replace the one they repealed last year. Kansas spends more than $3.5 billion a year funding public schools, by far the largest single category of state spending.

The report by the Special Committee on K12 Student Success makes only general comments about how a new funding formula should be organized, saying it should “focus on each individual student” and “include accountability and reporting measures to ensure aid is being distributed according to the needs of each individual student.”

But it does suggest a complete overhaul of the annual assessments the state administers to measure how well students are performing in math, English and other subjects by scrapping the tests administered by Kansas University’s Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, and instead hiring a third-party vendor from outside Kansas to develop and administer tests. And for high school students, it calls for the state to pay for every student to take the ACT college entrance exam.

Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, second from right, raises questions about a special committee's report on K-12 school funding with the committee chairman Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, and Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City.

Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, second from right, raises questions about a special committee's report on K-12 school funding with the committee chairman Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, and Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City.

Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, said doing that might easily violate the Kansas Constitution.

We’re talking about the State Department of Education and the state school board, which is an elected body with the constitutional task of governing education in the state of Kansas,” he said. “And we’re taking away from them the ability to create a Kansas assessment for Kansas students created by Kansans.”

But Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, said the state exams provide little useful information to policymakers because the tests change so frequently, it’s difficult to compare scores from one year to the next.

“Consequently we’ve got several years that we go through, it becomes difficult to get a longitudinal trend because we aren’t able to compare data from the previous year to this year,” Abrams said.

Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander noted after the meeting that it was only a few years ago that the State Board of Education voted to contract with KU’s CETE, specifically because of opposition in the Legislature to working with a multistate consortium called Smarter Balanced.

“A couple of years ago, they didn’t want us working with outside (groups) because of data (security concerns), because it wasn’t Kansas-designed,” he said.

In addition, the report calls for requiring school districts to seek approval from a special legislative committee before they can be eligible for receiving state aid for bond and interest payments.

Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, called that a direct assault on the concept of local control of public schools.

“If we are going to somehow try to intervene, with the Legislature determining what a local school district should be doing, or for that matter what local voters should be voting on, then I think that flies in the face of any sort of meaningful local control,” he said.

But Abrams defended that part of the report, saying the Legislature has a direct interest in how much debt is issued by school districts.

“The problem is that the local districts come and want state dollars,” he said. “And because they want state dollars, I am suggesting that indeed it is the responsibility of the Legislature.”

The report also suggests overhauling a category of funding known as “at-risk weighting,” extra money districts receive based on poverty rates, as measured by the number of children eligible to receive free meals. It suggests using other measures to count students who are at risk of failing or dropping out, such as test scores and classroom grades.

Hensley tried unsuccessfully to amend that provision, arguing that research shows poverty is a key indicator of a student’s likelihood of having trouble in school.

The report makes no specific mention of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s suggestion for including merit pay for teachers, which he called for in his State of the State address last week. But it does call for forming a special committee to look more in depth at a variety of issues, including teacher pay and special education, among others.

Meanwhile, the House Education Committee held a separate informational briefing Tuesday on the subject of merit pay.

Hensley submitted a separate minority report that took issue with how the majority interpreted some of the information and testimony it received, and criticizing the official report for discussing topics that were beyond the special committee’s charge.

Brownback has called on lawmakers to write a new funding formula this year, but some legislative leaders have said it could take at least two sessions to complete the process.

“It’s a huge, huge project, and whether we get to it or not, we’ll be working towards it,” House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said after the meeting.

Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, agreed, saying, “I’m not going to force that to happen. We need a lot of preparatory time, we need a lot of discussion, we need to be looking at these reports ... We’re also waiting on some court decisions.”

Continue checking for further updates on this story.


Theodore Calvin 2 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like this is going to be real fun. Im sad for education in KS.

Larry Sturm 2 years, 2 months ago

The money Brownback spends on out of state lawyers to defend bad laws and out of state company's to do his dirty work should be spent on education.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 2 months ago

"focusing more on student outcomes and tightening state controls over how districts can issue bonds."

First of all, how is this small government? It should be up to the people in the school districts to decide on bonds, not the state.

Second, if you teach in an area with a high population of at risk kids, those kids scores are probably not going to be good. So you take money away from them, and give it to schools districts that have a lot of involved parents, who consider education important? That's like spending money on a fancy paint job on your car, even though the car won't start. The funding system we had before worked perfectly well, but it was just too complicated for Brownback and his crew. Just because they are simple minded and lazy, doesn't mean it didn't work.

Third, I realize that the destruction of public education is what Brownback and his crew are really going for.

Barb Gordon 2 years, 2 months ago

Yes. That's exactly how they want to play it. Remove money intended for at-risk kids and keep it in the rich JoCo schools. Coincidentally, a lot of wealthy GOP donors also live in JoCo. At the same time, hit "school choice" hard. Move as many of those poorer kids into private schools with less accountability. Sweeps your problem right under the rug.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

This is not less government not by a long shot. RINO's measure the size of government by the number of employees in government payrolls.

The rest of us measure the size of big government by the impact and/or intrusion into our private lives by way of supporting off shoring USA jobs, snooping into our bedrooms, destroying public education or convincing we taxpayers that we must provide the real estate industry and corporate developers with preferential tax favors ....... or else we will do without.

Capitalism and fascism love socialism in spite of their public positions.

Devin Wilson 2 years, 2 months ago

Here's a link to Senator Hensley's / Rep Winn & Trimmer Minority Report for comparison Warning: contains logic and reason

John Moeder 2 years, 2 months ago

Good to see the LJ World covering the specific contributions of Senator Hensley. Makes the paper's editorial comments from earlier today seem a bit premature. I'm glad the Democrats are fighting everyday in Topeka to stop reckless actions and propose meaningful policies.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 2 months ago

"And it calls for the state to provide funding for every high school student to take the ACT college entrance exam."

And who is going to pay for this mandate? Now students who want to take the ACT pay for it. I'm sure the school shells out the money to provide space and supervision. Why would someone wanting to become a plumber need to take a college preparedness exam? Is the company who profits from the ACT a member of ALEC? How much have they donated to Republican election campaigns? Inquiring minds want to know.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

In the end more public school funds will be funneled into fundamentalist oriented education.

Which means every parent who cares will need to be reading textbooks to edit out the untruths
the right wing fundamentalists have entered no matter if is math, American History,Science or Political Science . Mcgraw Hill may well be owned by right wingers as we speak.

As for state government tightening controls on bond money = more right wing control to keep districts from moving in a forward direction that radical right wingers don't approve. This is straight out of secret ALEC legislative sessions.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

At this very moment all who are reading this ... KCUR is doing a review of Koch boys and such and will provide a preview of what Kansas may be looking like.

Fresh Air ... 89.3

Frank Hintz 2 years, 2 months ago

Between Brownback, And The Republicans, They Are Going To Totally Destroy Quality Education, In Kansas. Why Do People Vote For These, Evil Policy Makers.. KANSAS, YOU NEED TO WAKE UP!!!! Vote For People that Serve You And Your Families Best Interests, And It Surely Is NOT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, That Is The Answer To Your Prayers!!!

Greg Cooper 2 years, 2 months ago

It's important to note that none of these suggestion, so far as I can determine, are backed by any educated education group. It's also important to note, those of you who voted for these idiots in the first place, that there is absolutely no study that indicates that paying for all students to take the ATC has any bearing on educational quality in any school. It's also important to note that this particular "smaller government" proposal heightens the oversight of local schools by legislative watchdogs bought and paid for by the Koch consortium.

Oh, there's so much more, and so much more hidden behind the scenes. I fear for our kids, and for the future of Kansas as a viable place to reside.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

The RINO's have not been funding public education according to the law for many years.

Where is this money directed for public education going? How is it being spent?

Did the legislature approve spending public education dollars elsewhere?

John Sickels 2 years, 2 months ago

This is all pointless and irrelevant....the Supreme Court will order funding increased and the old formula restored later this year.

Larry Tucker 2 years, 2 months ago

Congratulations John. The Kansas Supreme Court will force the legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to be voted on next fall to try and give them authority to determine how much aid public schools will get. All this is premature electioneering by conservatives to keep their tea party support and to help them defeat all the moderates and Democrats this year. But Kansans will see through this false effort and what they are trying to do to destroy public education and vote them out of office. Thank goodness the Federal Justice department is led by a Democrat President who will have the federal courts intervene when the legislature defunds the state's court system after they declare the new school finance formula in violation of the state's constitution. It's time for new leadership in Topeka!!

Rob Shaffer 2 years, 2 months ago

It takes money to educate children. Colo. pot users helping build schools with tax dollars Colorado to send extra marijuana revenue to schools 2015’s States with the Best and Worst School Systems (Colorado #1 Oklahoma #34)

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