Thursday, September 20, 2018

The new K-12 education bill elapsed the Kansas Legislature and delivered to Governor Brownback for signature fails to have schools accountable for improving scholar achievement and by failing to right a math error, overspends by just hundreds of millions going forward. Instead regulations focuses on satisfying a flighty Supreme Court.

The law C SB 20 C is not “reasonably calculated” to meet Rose standards, for the reason that Court has directed on more than one occasion. It is simply a resurrection of the 1992 bill which had been replaced with block grant finance by the Legislature two years ago. In short, the bill throws a lot more profit the pot and deals with the at-risk problem with feckless language. The high cost for the new formula is usually estimated to be an increase with $293 million over the next couple of years with future funding will increase tied to the consumer price index chart. The bulk of the increased funding stems from an increase in what is now referred to as BASE (base aid to get student excellence) C previously referred to as BSAPP (base state aid a pupil).  BASE is set during $4,006 for next year and $4,128 to get 2018-19 with future escalations tied to an individual price index. As a comparing, BSAPP was $3,852 in 2014-15, the last year with the old 1992 law. (Note: right now the dollar amounts through the various categories making up the increase were unavailable.)

The bill efforts to calculate BASE funding however , a math error creates funding $140 million per year too much, and legislators declined to fix the error C preferring instead allowing citizens to be overtaxed.

Prior to passing of the final bill, the majority of the debate on the various versions of the bill by together house and senate committees centered around at-risk funding. This was in direct response to the Supreme Court’s most recent verdict in the Gannon case. The intention interpretation of the Court’s decision ended up being that 25% of the students with Kansas are not being adequately educated. Therefore, the Legislature come to the conclusion the new law needed to street address these at-risk students through both funding and programming. SB 19 includes an increase in at-risk weighting that will 48.4% of the BASE, right up from 45.6%. It also incorporates language that the money often be spent on programs identified in addition to approved the Kansas Talk about Board of Education (KSBE) while “evidence based best practices.” There was also a stipulation for Legal Post Audit (LPA) to perform a operation audit on the at-risk program in 2020. Whatever these provisions, there is no data that these changes will strengthen the achievement of at-risk students. However, there are no provisions in the fresh law either for incentives or simply consequences for school districts relating to improvement (or lack of) of scholars identified as at-risk. Clearly, the actions from the Legislature reveals the body is not set on dealing with the at-risk issue; its actions were merely to satisfy the Court.

The good news is that changes to the tax credit scholarships program survived multiple attempts to sunset the law and the qualification requirements for tax credits for contributions to scholarship-granting non-profits was broadened to include individuals in addition to companies. The downside is that participating educational facilities will be have to meet state-sponsored official qualifications requirements by 2020.

This is clearly a case of opportunity missed. Just what could have been a new finance laws that was reasonably calculated to pay student achievement, instead turned into nothing more than a game of how extra money could be given to educational facilities with no accountability for improving benefits or making efficient using of taxpayer money.

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