Newly filed bill would establish education inspector general with broad powers over K-12Scott Rothschild
A newly-introduced bill in the Kansas Senate would establish the position of education inspector general in the State Treasurer’s office. The position would have subpoena power over local and state education records.
SB 424, which has been referred to the Senate Education Committee, was sponsored by Sens. Ty Masterson and Mary Pilcher-Cook. It sets up the position as a “full-time program of audit, investigation and performance review to provide increased accountability, integrity and oversight of elementary and secondary education” in Kansas and to assist the state department of education in “improving education and school efficiency.”
The position will have a salary equal to that of the State Treasurer, which is $86,003. The bill says the education inspector general will have access to “all pertinent information, confidential or otherwise,” of all local school districts, state agencies or local governments “that are necessary to perform the duties of the office.” The bill gives the inspector general the power to “compel by subpoena the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documents, electronic records and papers directly related to any audit, investigation or performance review.”
KASB policy, reaffirmed in December 2017 by the Delegate Assembly, states the supervision of all schools — preschool, elementary, and secondary — should be vested in the State Board of Education. KASB supports the constitutional powers of the State Board.
A December, 2017 Legislative Post Audit (LPA) study found KSDE had for many years implemented a transportation funding formula that provided additional aid to densely-populated school districts not authorized in state law. Senate President Susan Wagle, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning and Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman have been sharply critical of KSDE, with Wagle and Ryckman asking the State Board of Education to suspend Assistant Commissioner Dale Dennis over the issue. Denning suggested school districts might have to repay some of the transportation funds. The State Board declined to suspend Dennis.
The LPA did not call for districts to pay back the funds; in fact, it noted the payments were probably justified because the statutory formula did not properly compensate some districts for their transportation costs. KASB’s Mark Tallman has written an analysis of the controversy that can be read here.
In the wake of the controversy, the State Board on Feb. 13 authorized an audit of K-12 state aid to ensure public confidence in the department’s distribution of funds.