Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Congress Considering Changes to No Child Left Behind

The U.S. House of Representatives' committee on education today passed a bill to overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act supported by the Republican majority and opposed by the committee Democrats.  The new bill would continue to require states to tests students in math and reading in grades three through eight and in high school, but would give states much more flexibility in designing the accountability system using those tests.

KASB has supported changes in No Child Left Behind requirements, including a waiver from many NCLB provisions that was approved for Kansas last summer.  Because that waiver requires states to adopt new "college and career-ready" standards and assessments, it was entangled in the debate over Common Core standards during the past Legislative session.

Because the House bill reduces state and school district requirements, it has been endorsed byt the National School Boards Association.  However, NSBA opposes a provision in the bill that would eliminate the  "maintenance of effort" for special education that requires states and school districts to keep their own contribution to special education funding at a certain level to quality for federal funding.  In addition, NSBA would likely withdraw support if the bill is amended on the House floor to allow more "school choice" options for funding charter schools or private schools.

While the House bill would eliminate many NCLB requirements, Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have endorsed a bill that would essentially replace with No Child Left Behind with a program similar to the current waivers approved by the U.S. Department of Education.  NSBA opposes that bill, arguing it includes too many new regulations and intrusions into local district authority.  Generally, Democrats support higher funding levels of K-12 aid programs, but also more "strings" in the form of regulations and requirements.  Republicans support less funding but fewer requirements that may increase costs.

Education Week's Politics K-12 blog posted this story on today's House vote, including this chart comparing the Senate Democrat's bill, a Senate Republican alternative, and the House bill.

The No Child Left Behind Act refers to changes in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act adopted in 2001 with the support of President George W. Bush.  Normally, ESEA would have been revised or "re-authorized" several years ago,but  the partisan divide between President Obama and the Senate Democratic majority and the House Republican majority has for years blocked agreement on any changes.  In 2011, the Obama administrative gave states the option of seeking waivers from many of the provisions of NCLB by agreeing to alternative testing and accountability systems.  Kansas received a conditional waiver last summer.

One condition of the waiver was to adopt a set of "college and career-ready standards" in reading and math.  Kansas qualified because the State Board of Education had previously adopted the Common Core standards developed under the leadership of state governors and school officials.  During the past Legislative session, some Kansas Legislators pushed to prohibit the state from continuing to implement those standards, which was expected to invalidate the NCLB waiver and require the state to either start over on standards or go back under the NCLB requirements.  Those efforts were defeated, but are expected to emerge next session.  KASB opposed Legislative action that would threaten the NCLB waiver.  The issue of state standards, testing and accountability is one of the topics of discussion at this month's KASB advocacy meetings across the state.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Graduation rates rising in Kansas and the Nation

Kansas and the United States as a whole sharply increased four-year high school graduation rates between 2005 and 2010, according to two recently released national reports. Kansas students graduate at higher rates than the national average and most other states in the region.

The National Center for Education Statistics (U.S. Department of Education) has released selected data tables from the  2012 Digest of Education Statistics.  Also, Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center released the annual  Diplomas Count report.  Both contain information on the graduating class of 2010, and both report the percentage of students graduating high school within four years has increased significantly over the past decade.  However, the two studies come up with somewhat different results, with the Digest usually several percentage points higher.

According the Digest, the Kansas four-year graduation rate rose from 77.1% in 2000, when Kansas ranked 17th in the nation, to 83.0% in 2010, ranking 8th. Diplomas Count shows the Kansas graduation rate rising from 73.5% in 2000 to 80% in 2010, and the state ranking increasing from 17th to 12th.

The national graduation rate increased by about the same percentage as Kansas since 2000, but Kansas started at a higher level.  In 2010, the U.S. average had reached about the level Kansas was at ten years earlier in both reports.

Although these new reports do not go past 2010, a study by the U.S. Department of Education last fall put the Kansas graduation rate at 83.0% in 2011.  That report used a new, uniform methodology for all states, but does not provide comparable data for previous years.

The Digest also reports the percentage of population aged 18-24 with a high school diploma, based on a three year average.  For 2008-10, this report shows Kansas with an 85.1% completion rate, up from 78.3% in 2000.  However, Kansas' ranking in this area dropped slightly, from 17th to 19th.  The national average increased from 74.7% to 83.1%.

KASB uses these indicators to calculate the state high school completion rate in order to rank education performance.  In 2000, Kansas ranked 18th when averaging the Diplomas Count and Digest four-year graduation rates and the Digest percent of young adults completing high school.  Averaging the most recent reports for 2010 with the 2011 U.S. Department of Education rate places Kansas 11th in the nation, an increase of seven positions in 10 years.

High school completion is one of four areas KASB tracks for state student performance, along with National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading and math tests, preparation for college based on ACT and SAT tests, and adult (over 25 years) education attainment.  Last year, based on all four of these areas, Kansas ranked 7th in the nation.  KASB's goal is for Kansas to improve to first in the nation in education outcomes.

Graduation rates in Kansas began spiking upward after the Legislature approved significant funding increases following the Montoy school finance decision in 2005, which specifically directed more money to "at risk" students less likely to graduate.  The national graduation rate increased at about the same rate, but so did education funding in other states.  In fact, between 2000 and 2011, national spending per pupil was not only higher than Kansas, but increased slightly more.  Kansas per pupil spending increased 50.9%, from $6,294 to $9,498.  The U.S. average increased 52.8%, from $6,911 to $10,560.

Each of the ten states with a higher average of the four high school completion rates listed above spent more than Kansas in 2011.  The ten states have an average completion rate of 84.4%, 1.2% higher than Kansas, but spent an average of $12,779, or 35% more than Kansas.

Highest Graduation Rates

Average Graduation Rate, 2010-11
Current Spending Per Pupil, 2011
Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Price Meals
North Dakota
New Jersey
New Hampshire
Top 10 Average
U.S. Average

Finally, Kansas has more low income, at-risk students than any of the top ten states in high school graduation.  On average, the top ten states have 36.4% of students eligible for free or reduced meals, 31% less than Kansas.  Put another way, Kansas is less than one percent below the national average for low income students, but is nearly 5 percent above the national average for graduation - and spent 10 percent less than the national average per pupil.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

State Board Moves Ahead on Standards

After an extraordinary three hours of public comments on Common Core reading and math standards (previously adopted in 2010) and proposed Next Generation Science Standards, the Kansas State Board of Education voted 8-2 on Wednesday to approve the new science standards.

The action follows a Legislative session marked by efforts to block, de-fund or delay these standards, including a bill aimed at delaying the new science standards until next April. That bill passed on the final day of the session by the Senate but was rejected by the House.

The State Board vote is unlikely to end the debate; in fact, it may be just beginning.  Legislators and organizations opposing the Common Core vow to continue efforts next session and into the 2014 elections when all 125 State Representative and five of ten State Board of Education positions will be on the ballot.

A Bit of Background
The Common Core academic standards are reading and math standards developed under the leadership of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (which represents the counterparts of the Kansas Education Commissioner).  The purpose was to allow states to join in a common framework for K-12 student expectations.  States were allowed some leeway in adopting the standards.  Kansas adopted modified Common Core standards as our state's Kansas College and Career Ready Standards.  Click the links to see more information about Kansas reading/language arts and math standards.

One of the main criticisms of the Common Core is that it is a federal initiative.  States are not required to adopt the Common Core, but the Obama Administration has encouraged states to do so by making it a factor in Race to the Top grant funding and No Child Left Behind Waivers, and by funding development of new tests based on the Common Core standards.  Kansas is not participating the Race to the Top, but has received an NCLB waiver and is a member of the Smarter Balanced test consortium with other states.

The Next Generation Science Standards approved yesterday are not part of the Common Core process, but Kansas participated with 25 other states in developing the standards. Here is a  link to the KSDE science standards webpage. Much of the controversy over the science standards appears to focus on the treatment of evolution and climate change.

Here are links to news stories about yesterday's State Board action from the Associated Press and Topeka Capital Journal.  Capital Journal reporter Celia Llopes-Jepsen also had this recent story about concerns over student records privacy.  Finally, from USA Today, an editorial  supporting the Common Core project, with an opposing view.

The Debate Continues
At the May State Board meeting, a number of Common Core opponents spoke at the Citizens' Open Forum.  KASB appeared as a supporter of the Common Core as part of the NCLB waiver.  School superintendents and other supporters promoted a larger contingent yesterday in defense of both the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.  Another big group of opponents appeared, making clear that opponents are working to strengthen organized efforts against the Common Core and related assessment issues.  A number of Legislators on both sides of the issues also attended or spoke.

KASB Advocacy Meeting at Washburn Tech, June 6, Topeka 
One of 24 meetings around the state - happening in June -
to discuss issues facing school districts.
Board members, administrators, teachers, district
staff and community are urged to participate.
If opposition to the Common Core continues to grow, it is an issue local board members and other school leaders will have to face with their staff, parents and community.  To prepare for this issue, standards and assessments are one of the three key topics KASB is discussing at summer advocacy meetings around the state this month.  We have held seven meetings in northeast Kansas since June 3. Our "tour" continues tonight in Olathe at 6 p.m.  Next week, we hold eight meeting in western Kansas Monday through Thursday, and the last week of June we finish up in central and southeastern Kansas.  Register on-line to attend a meeting near you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Legislature Approves Budget and Revenue Bills; Rejects Common Core Challenge

The Kansas Legislature ended a three-and-a-half week wrap-up session early Sunday morning after adopting a budget that keeps K-12 funding essentially level over the next two years, and a tax bill that avoids a projected deficit within two years. A proposal aimed at slowing the state’s involvement in multi-state educational standards passed the Senate but was defeated in the House.

Although the tax policies adopted in HB 2059 increase state revenues over the next few years compared to
current law, the bill also includes further income tax cuts that increase through 2018 and are likely to keep K-12 funding increases below the rate of inflation over the next five years.  It also provides that, beginning in FY 2019, when annual revenue growth from certain tax sources exceeds two percent, further income tax rate cuts would be automatically enacted.  As a result, future funding available for school finance would continue to be constrained.

Common Core and State Standards

On Saturday, the House defeated HB 2391, which had been approved earlier in the day by the Senate to create a two-year joint legislative oversight committee for educational standards.  It would also have blocked implementation of any new multi-state educational standards adopted by the State Board of Education between January of 2013 and April of 2014.  In March, the House Education Committee had rejected a bill blocking implementation of the Common Core reading and math standards adopted by the State Board in 2010.  However, Senate negotiators earlier this month offered a budget “proviso” that would have prohibited the use of state appropriated funds for implementation of the Common Core standards and the Next Generation Science Standards currently under consideration by the State Board of Education, and assessments affiliated with those standards.

KASB opposed both the bill and proviso, urging legislators not to block standards that districts are already implementing; an action that could threaten the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver.  The new language in HB 2391, which was adopted by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Friday, addressed that concern by exempting standards already adopted prior to the 2013 Legislative session, which include the Common Core reading and math standards.  Supporters of the bill called it a “pause” to provide further legislative study of the issue, and the Senate passed the bill Saturday on a vote of 24-12.  Here is the roll call vote:

Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Arpke, Bowers, Bruce, Denning, Fitzgerald, King, Knox, LaTurner, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, O'Donnell, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Pyle, Smith, Tyson, Wagle.
Nays: Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, Longbine, McGinn, Pettey, V. Schmidt, Wolf.
Present and Passing: Kerschen.
Absent or Not Voting: Donovan, Emler, Holmes

Opponents of the bill argued that criticisms of the Common Core standards are unfounded; that the bill usurped the State Board of Education’s authority to set educational standards; and that additional oversight is unnecessary because the State Board is an elected body just like the Legislature.  Those arguments prevailed in the House, where a motion to concur in Senate amendments failed, 55 to 58.  Here is the House roll call vote:

Yeas: Bradford, Brunk, Couture-Lovelady, Campbell, Carlson, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Crum, DeGraaf, Dove, Edmonds, Edwards, Esau, Gandhi, Garber, Goico, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Hermanson, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Howell, Huebert, Hutton, Jones, Kelley, Kinzer, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mast, McPherson, Meigs, Merrick, O'Brien, Osterman, Peck, Powell, Read, Rhoades, Rothlisberg, Rubin, Ryckman Jr., Schwab, Shultz, Siegfreid, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey.
Nays: Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Becker, Bideau, Boldra, Bollier, Burroughs, Carlin, Cassidy, Christmann, Clayton, Concannon, Davis, Dierks, Dillmore, Doll, Ewy, Finch, Finney, Gonzalez, Grant, Henry, Hibbard, Hill, Hineman, Jennings, Johnson, Kelly, Kuether, Lusk, Meier, Menghini, Moxley, Pauls, Perry, Petty, Phillips, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Ryckman Sr., Sawyer, Schroeder, Schwartz, Seiwert, Sloan, Sloop, Swanson, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weber, Weigel, Whipple, Winn.
Absent or not voting: Barker, Bridges, Bruchman, Frownfelter, Henderson, Houston, Kahrs, Lane, Montgomery, Peterson, Wilson, Wolfe Moore.

Although the bill was defeated, the Legislative Coordinating Council, composed of legislative leaders, could use its authority to appoint a special interim committee to study educational standards and assessments prior to next session.  If fact, the LCC will have to appoint a special committee if any legislative studies of educational issues are conducted, because another bill passed Saturday, HB 2216, eliminates the joint Legislative Educational Planning Committee, along with six other permanent joint committees that have focused on specific topics when the Legislature is not in session.

For information about the Common Core controversy, see the Tallman Education Report, May 30.

Tax Bill

The major issue that extended the 2013 Legislative session from its planned 80 days to the wee hours of the 100th (although technically a continuation of day 99) was the Governor’s request for a tax bill to shore up current state revenues after last year’s massive income tax cut bill, while also providing further income tax cuts on what he calls the “glide path to zero (income tax).”

Governor Brownback and the Senate wanted to keep the state sales tax rate at 6.3 percent permanently, rather than dropping to 5.7 percent on July 1 as provided by the temporary increase approved three years ago.  Until Saturday, the House had rejected keeping any part of the higher rate, but the conference committee report on HB 2059 makes the rate 6.15 percent.  The bill also raises revenue by trimming both itemized and standard income tax deductions.  Those increases are offset by phasing-in further income rate reductions, which increase through 2018.

The net impact of the bill is estimated to increase state revenues by $777 million over the next five years, leading opponents – especially Democrats who opposed the higher sales tax rate – to call the bill a tax increase.  Supporters of the bill argued the revenue was necessary to maintain core government services, and should be viewed in the context of last year’s income tax cuts.  In fact, last year’s tax cut bill was projected to reduce state revenues (tax collections) by $4.54 billion over the six years between 2013 and 2018.  Even with the tax increases in this bill, Kansas taxpayers are projected to see a net six year reduction of $3.76 billion, but with a higher share of revenue coming from sales tax and lower share from income tax.
To put that in context, $3.76 billion spread over six years would provide $752 million per year.  If K-12 education received 50 percent of those revenues, it would mean $376 million for school districts annually, which would fund the entire shortfall in local option budget state aid ($90 million), restore capital outlay state aid ($23 million), and increase base state aid per pupil by almost $390.

Without increased revenues, the budget adopted by the Legislature was projected to face a $157 million or 2.6 percent deficit in Fiscal Year 2015.

KASB supported increased revenue to avoid further cuts in education funding, but expressed deep concerns about further tax cuts which would limit future funding.  Under this tax bill, state general fund revenues are expected to be less than projected spending every year through 2018, reducing the SGF ending balance from 10.0 percent to a small deficit of 0.4 percent.  These projections are based on “normal” income growth, which does not consider either additional economic growth due to the tax cuts, or reduced revenue if economic growth slows or falls into recession.

The Senate approved HB 2059 on a vote of 24- 13, as follows:

Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Arpke, Bowers, Bruce, Denning, Fitzgerald, Kerschen, King, Knox, LaTurner, Longbine, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, O'Donnell, Olson, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Smith, Tyson, Wagle.
Nays: Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, McGinn, Ostmeyer, Pettey, Pyle, V. Schmidt, Wolf.
Absent or Not Voting: Donovan, Emler, Holmes.

The House vote was 69- 45 as follows:

Yeas: Alford, Bideau, Boldra, Bradford, Brunk, Couture-Lovelady, Campbell, Carlson, Carpenter, Cassidy, Claeys, Concannon, Crum, Dierks, Doll, Dove, Edwards, Ewy, Gandhi, Garber, Goico, Gonzalez, Hawkins, Hedke, Hermanson, Highland, Hill, Hineman, Hoffman, Houser, Howell, Huebert, Hutton, Jennings, Johnson, Jones, Kelley, Kelly, Kinzer, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mast, Meigs, Merrick, O'Brien, Petty, Phillips, Proehl, Read, Rothlisberg, Rubin, Ryckman Jr., Ryckman Sr., Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Shultz, Siegfreid, Sloan, Suellentrop, Sutton, Swanson, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber.
Nays: Alcala, Ballard, Becker, Bollier, Bruchman, Burroughs, Carlin, Christmann, Clayton, Corbet, Davis, DeGraaf, Dillmore, Edmonds, Esau, Finch, Finney, Grant, Grosserode, Henry, Hibbard, Hildabrand, Kuether, Lusk, McPherson, Meier, Menghini, Moxley, Pauls, Peck, Perry, Powell, Rhoades, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Sloop, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Whipple, Wilson, Winn.
Absent or not voting: Barker, Bridges, Frownfelter, Henderson, Houston, Kahrs, Lane, Montgomery, Osterman, Peterson, Wolfe Moore.

Budget for Fiscal Years 2013, 2014 and 2015

For the first time, the Legislature approved a two-year budget, which KASB supported.  For K-12 education, the budget is expected to keep base state aid per pupil at $3,838 in the current year and next year, with a small increase due to anticipated higher revenue from the 20 mill statewide levy in 2015.  No change is provided for local option budget state aid, which will result in further proration and probable mill levy increases or budget cuts for districts which receive such aid.  No increase is provided in special education state aid, which means the “excess cost” percentage is likely to further decline.

The budget also replaces state general fund dollars with transfers from the state highway fund in both 2014 and 2015 to help finance transportation weighting and special education transportation aid.  This change reduces the amount of funding from the state general fund, but does not change the amount of money districts will receive.

The budget provides increases in school district capital improvement (bond and interest) aid and KPERS employer contributions based on the estimated formula requirements of these programs.
The budget adds $250,000 per year for two years for the Communities in Schools program, which KASB supports.  It also provides $6 million for each of the next two years from the Children’s Initiatives Fund for grants to support the Lexia reading program in elementary schools, unless the Governor’s Read to Succeed program passes (which it did not this session).  KASB supported additional funding for reading interventions under the Governor’s proposal.

Total state general fund expenditures were reduced from $6.164 billion in the current year to $5.965 billion next year and $6.121 in FY 2015.  Over the past year, Governor Brownback consistently opposed reductions in state funding for education, and K-12 funding was one of the few major budget areas that was not reduced (although some funding was replaced with highway fund transfers).  Higher education funding was generally reduced 1.5 percent.