Hearings on student survey data and audits; new briefings announced

The Senate Education Committee has announced hearings on two news bills for Thursday, Feb. 15, and the House K-12 Budget Committee has scheduled additional briefings this week, but no hearings so far.

The Senate committee will hear SB 389 at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The bill would make changes in requirements to administer certain tests, questionnaires, surveys and examinations under the student data privacy act and allow disclosure of de-identified student data. It appears the bill would make it easier to release de-identified student data “to any public or private audit and evaluation or research organization, provided that any personally identifiable data is redacted prior to disclosure to the organization.”

It would also allow administration of any test, questionnaire, survey or examination containing questions about the student’s or the student’s parents’ or guardians’ beliefs on issues such as sex, family life, morality or religion to any student enrolled in kindergarten or grades one through 12, provided that: (1) The test, questionnaire, survey or examination does not record, request or solicit a student to provide any personally identifiable student data; (2) the student is informed that the student’s participation in such test, questionnaire, survey or examination is voluntary; (3) the parent or legal guardian of the student is informed in writing in advance of the test, questionnaire, survey or examination that such parent or legal guardian may opt a student out of the questionnaire, survey or examination; and (4) the results of the test, questionnaire, survey or examination are reported only as aggregate data or de-identified student data.

The student data privacy act was passed several years ago amid concerns over collection and security of sensitive data about students and families. Some organizations have since raised concerns the law makes it more difficult to conduct research about student and family characteristics and needs.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Education Committee has scheduled a hearing on SB 259, which would amend current law regarding performance audits conducted by the Legislative Division of Post Audit (LPA). The bill would eliminate “special education” as a topic from each of the statutorily required performance audits. The bill’s fiscal note states that according to the LPA, if special education would remain as a topic of the statutorily required performance audits, the agency would have to add a second methodology to evaluate special education costs, which was not discussed when the performance audits were added into current law. Without the enactment of SB 259, the agency would have to dedicate more of its audit resources to the special education performance audit; in turn, other potential audits requested by the Legislature could not be done.

The House K-12 Budget Committee has scheduled a presentation on Wednesday on benefits to “At Risk” students presented by the Boys & Girls Club Communities In School, Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas, and the Kansas Reading Roadmap.

On Thursday, the committee will receive a presentation on “At-Risk” results and areas that need improvement from the Kansas State Department of Education.

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