Task force provides reports on K-12 health insurance, purchasing

A task force charged by the Legislature with studying recommendations from a consulting firm related to K-12 education has issued its reports and found the proposals lacking merit. 

The findings were presented Monday to the House K-12 Education Budget Committee. Chairman Fred Patton, R-Topeka, asked committee members to review the material and contact him with any thoughts or questions and they would decide in the future if any additional committee discussions were warranted. The task force reports can be found here. 

In 2016, the Legislature hired the consulting firm of Alvarez & Marsal to conduct an efficiency study of state government.  

Among many recommendations, A&M recommended putting all school districts in the state employee health plan, saying that would save taxpayers $360 million over five years. A&M also said districts could save $40 million over five years by consolidating procurement under a statewide initiative. 

In 2017, the Legislature commissioned a task force to review the recommendations. The task force split into two subcommittees to address each proposal. 

The health insurance subcommittee found that consolidating school districts into a single statewide health insurance plan was “neither practical nor prudent.” 

The report said a mandatory statewide health plan for school districts could actually cost districts more, lower available service and create challenges for the recruitment and retention of teachers. Health insurance, the report noted, is just one component of compensation and that shifting health care costs to employees would put upward pressure on salary negotiations.  

The subcommittee report also noted districts were already exploring ways to provide low cost health plans. The task force did identify some areas that the state and school districts could explore to lower risk and increase savings.  

On the issue of consolidating K-12 procurement and property and casualty insurance purchases into one statewide system, the task force subcommittee said no legislation was needed. 

Large-scale savings under a statewide plan were unlikely because districts already are using efficient purchasing practices through the use of cooperative purchasing services. The task force said purchasing systems need to be agile and user-friendly, which would be difficult under a statewide system. 

The procurement report noted that rising utility costs have become an increasing concern for districts and suggested the state could look at ways to help manage the costs of electricity and water. 

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