KASB Daily Education Roundup, Tue. Feb. 4Scott Rothschild
Public school advocates must stay on alert as Tuesday brought another voucher bill and more calls from legislators for increased accountability.
The political tone indicates that many legislators will seek changes in the way schools operate despite last year’s settlement in the Gannon school finance lawsuit and the Kansas Supreme Court’s continued supervision in the case.
School leaders should continue to provide information to their legislators, especially on how their schools are using increases in school funding, including at-risk funds, to help students.
The Senate Education Committee considered legislation that would remove a July 1 expiration date on high density, at-risk funding, which provides $50 million annually for schools with the poorest students.
Sen. Kevin Braun, R-Kansas City, asked if there were metrics to gauge the effectiveness of the weighting or “is this just throwing money at the wall.”
Wichita USD 259 Chief Financial Officer Susan Willis said the district uses the money for dropout prevention, alternative education, after-school tutoring, the high school learning center and social-emotional curriculum. And the district was seeing increased graduation rates, especially among minority groups, she said. If the $15 million Wichita receives annually for high density at risk disappeared, that would be the equivalent of losing 214 teachers, Willis said.
Sen. Eric Rucker, R-Topeka, asked what improvements have been made following the funding increases set forth in the Gannon lawsuit. KASB Associate Director Mark Tallman said the at risk funding is helping Kansas improve graduation rates and post-secondary success. Here is a link to KASB testimony on SB 271. Tallman also noted that Kansas schools are in the middle of Gannon’s six-year finance plan that will simply bring funding up to the inflation-adjusted 2009 level.
Several other education officials and advocates testified about the need for the funding. The committee took no action on the bill.
Meanwhile, a public hearing on SB 294, which would increase regulations and public notice requirements on property tax decisions, will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday before the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.
The measure is being touted as a “truth in taxation” proposal but taxing subdivisions, including school districts, cities, counties and others say the bill has numerous problems. KASB will testify in opposition to the bill.
The committee has scheduled possible action on previous bills heard to Wed. Feb. 12 and Thur. Feb. 13. This could include action on HB 2465, which would expand the private school tuition credit program. KASB opposes this bill.
And HB 2552, which would set up a voucher program, will have a public hearing before the House K-12 Education Budget Committee on Thur. Feb. 13. The bill is co-sponsored by K-12 Chairwoman Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, and Renee Erickson, R-Wichita.
The bill would allow third- or fourth-grade students who score at the lowest level on the state reading test to use state funds to go to a private school or have state funds directed to evidence-based reading programs approved by the student’s parent for the student.
For a video recap of the day’s events, go KASB Facebook Live here.