At-risk funding in spotlight this week

Three legislative committees will take turns reviewing at-risk student funding this week. 

A Legislative Post Audit report on at-risk funding raised questions about whether State Board of Education policies and local expenditures are following state law. Districts receive over $400 million annually in at-risk state aid. About $50 million of that aid which goes to districts with higher percentages of low-income students will expire after this year unless the Legislature removes a “sunset” provision. 

The House Education Committee will hear a presentation on the audit  at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. On Wednesday, the committee will hear presentations by the Dyslexia Task Force and Bullying Task Force. Here is a link to the committee’s weekly agenda. The House K-12 Budget Committee will consider at-risk funding and hear from the auditors and Kansas State Department of Education officials at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and then hear from legislative staff at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Here is a link to its weekly agenda. At 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the Senate Education Committee will take up the audit.

Here is link to the audit report on the KLPA website, which includes a link a podcast review of the report. The audit report also includes responses from the Kansas State Department of Education and State Board of Education. 

Here is a KASB report on how districts use at-risk funding, and a report evaluating the impact of at-risk funding over time. 

School districts receive at-risk funds based on the number of free-lunch students they enroll but must use those funds on students demonstrating they are or may be struggling in school. The State Board of Education must approval those programs. 

The at-risk audit made two major findings. Auditors believe that current funds should be more closely targeted exclusively at-risk students, and the State Board has not provided enough evaluation and guidance on the effectiveness of programs. The State Board strongly disagrees with those conclusions. 

The audit also found that districts spend more on at-risk programs than they receive from the state, that most states use similar programs to provide extra funding to districts, and that a small number of expenditures did not appear to be related to at-risk programs.  

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