The K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission made a series of recommendations over its two-day meeting on September 18-19. The commission worked from a memo of suggestions proposed by Chairman Sam Williams. Most of those items had been previously recommended by Governor Brownback’s School Efficiency Task Force or in testimony before the commission by KASB and other organizations. Here is a list of the commission’s decisions to approve, reject or defer action on these proposals. In most cases, the decisions were made by consensus. Actual votes are also noted.
- Agreed to ask the Kansas State Board of Education to establish measurable standards for determining whether districts are meeting the goal of providing students with the capacities adopted by the Supreme Court, Legislature and Governor, called the Rose Capacities. Requested that such measures be established by the beginning of the 2016 Legislative Session (in 15 months). Asked that a broad range of stakeholders, including employers, be included. Recommended by KASB.
- Agreed to request the Legislature continue to fully fund district incentives for student completion of high demand technical education programs, and suggested the State Board consider other incentives for attainment of important state goals. Recommended by KASB.
School District Capital Expense Funding
- Agreed to request a study of the “open-ended” obligation for bond and interest aid. It was stressed this recommendation would not eliminate equalization aid, but could require districts seeking state aid to receive state approval of projects based on demonstrated need. This demonstration of need would not apply to districts that do not receive state aid.
- Determined the state had already broadened the definition of allowable capital outlay fund uses.
- Agreed to recommend, but not require, that districts have long-term plans for operating and capital costs. This is expected to be included in a new accreditation system under development by the State Board.
School District Cash Balances
- Consensus to support the current two-year funding cycle for all state agencies, including school district state aid; but not a “rolling” cycle under which school budgets would always be approved two years in advance.
- Consensus to support placing priority on timely state aid payments.
- Consensus to support changing school district budget law to collapse most operating funds into the general fund and allow districts to carry cash balances in the general fund. This would eliminate most separate funds and their individual balances. Capital outlay and bond and interest funds would remain separate funds. (Presumably so would certain other funds such as federal aid.) School districts would continue to track expenditures by function or program, such as at-risk funding. The commission recognized this might require changes to school districts accounting procedures or requirements, which is also under study (see below).
- On a 4-4 vote, the commission rejected a proposal to develop standards for how much cash carryover should be allowed in the general fund.
Professional Negotiations Act
- Agreed that no review of teacher tenure is necessary as the due process law for school districts teachers was repealed by 2014 HB 2506.
- No consensus on issue of replacing the teacher salary schedule with a salary range based on various criteria; determined this is a local issue under the Professional Negotiations Act.
- Endorsed efforts underway by KASB, Kansas National Education Association, United School Administrators and Kansas School Superintendents Association to reach agreement by all parties on potential changes in professional negotiations. Commission expressed hope for successful results. Recommended by KASB.
- Recommended a study of district-level administrative personnel to investigate regionalization of administrative structures, such as already being done to some extent by regional services centers and other interlocal agreements. The definition of administration would include business functions and such areas as transportation, food service and maintenance. The commission specifically agreed by consensus to oppose mandatory district consolidation or boundary changes.
- As part of that study, continue and consider enhancing incentives for district cooperation and consolidation. Recommended by KASB if incentives, not mandates.
School Management Expertise
- Determined that the State Board already requires university level finance, accounting, and budget management course for district leadership license. Supports efforts by KSDE, KASB and others to provide assistance to district leaders.
- Consensus to encourage and expect local school boards to have training in appropriate financial management and other board responsibilities. Recommended by KASB to be addressed by local board development plans as part of new accreditation system.
Spending on “Instruction”
- Rejected idea of attempting to redefine spending on instruction under the current 65 percent policy goal because Kansas must use the federal definition of instruction.
- Voted 6-3 to recommend repeal of the state policy goal of spending 65 percent of funds on instruction. Recommended by KASB.
- Consensus to recommend creation of a task force to develop guidelines that would be used in district efficiency audits conducted by Legislative Post Audit. Such guidelines would be based on best practices to provide information to districts, but would not be mandatory for school districts to implement.
- Recommend that the Legislative Post Audit Committee authorize an efficiency audit of the Kansas State Department of Education, primary to focus on state requirements for local districts.
- Consensus to recommend an analysis of the actual additional costs of new requirements and evidence of actual expected benefits before new state school laws or regulations take effect. Recommended by KASB.
- Consensus to request school districts submit to KSDE suggestions of K-12 mandates that may be unproven or disconnected to performance.
Coalition of Innovative Districts
- Consensus to encourage support of new innovative districts law. Suggested that ideas for improving the law or providing more incentives for districts to participate should come from the Coalition of Innovative Districts Board. Recommended by KASB.
Transfer Due to School Closure
- Decided a “cooling off” period when districts close a building before families can transfer to other districts or receive transportation services was unnecessary because of the commission’s actions in opposition to mandatory consolidation. Recommended by KASB.
Kansas Use Law
- No support for making participation in the state use law for purchasing goods from organizations supporting the disabled permissive rather than mandatory.
Items Deferred to Next Meeting, October 8:
Student Data Management and Accounting System
- Tentatively agreed to support a study on the costs and benefits of developing a statewide accounting and fiscal management system that would apply to both school districts and post-secondary educational institutions. It was not determined exactly what kind of data would be included. On Oct. 8, the commission is expected to hear from the two major vendors of district accounting software programs on the possibility of adjusting these programs and other systems used by the state’s largest districts to improve data management without building a new state system. In addition, two major school district auditors will discuss issues in uniform coding of district expenditures.
- Tabled until next meeting a discussion of requiring all districts to have an efficiency or compliance audit over some period of time. At the next meeting, the committee will have discussion with school auditors on the costs of including more items in annual audits.
Special Education Hearings
- Agreed to defer the issue of seeking to place limits on the duration of special education due process hearings to allow for a legal review of issues by commission staff.