At-risk funding bill introduced; informational hearing scheduled for WednesdayScott Rothschild
A bill was introduced Friday in the House that would put new requirements on the use of at-risk student funds, following a critical Legislative Post Audit report released in December.
HB 2540 was introduced by and referred to the House K-12 Education Budget Committee. A hearing has not yet been scheduled, but the committee has scheduled an informational hearing on school district at-risk funds on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
The bill would make the following changes in current law:
— Require districts to transfer that portion of state foundation aid that is directly attributable to such district’s at-risk student weighting and high-density at-risk student weighting, if any, to the district’s at-risk education fund. This is already practice and, as the LPA audit noted, districts are already spending more money on at-risk programs than they receive for at-risk weightings.
— Specify that money from state at-risk funding can only be spent on programs and services included in a list approved by State Board of Education and published on the Kansas Department of Education’s website with a link to such list displayed on the website homepage. Current law already requires the State Board to identify and approve evidence-based best practices for at-risk educational programs and instruction of students receiving at-risk program services, and requires school districts to spent state at-risk funds only on such programs approved by the board. But the audit found that some school district programs are not included in any “list” of approved programs. The state department says such programs are approved by the State Board through local consolidated plans.
— Add to current district reporting requirements by including the number of students served or provided assistance under each program and specific academic performance progress achieved through each program provided. While state law currently requires reporting results of at-risk programs and services, it does not specify academic results.
In December, the Legislative Division of Post Audit issued a report saying most at-risk spending was used for teachers and programs for all students and most at-risk practices approved by the State Board of Education did not target at-risk students and were not clearly evidence-based. State education officials have vehemently denied the allegations, saying the audit failed to grasp the complex nature of at-risk funding and services. The audit also showed districts were having to spend more on at-risk programs than state funding covered.