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November 2011 KNEA State Board News

The State Board Hears the Governor's Suggested Plan to Change the School Finance Formula

The Governor’s suggested changes to the school finance formula were presented by Landon Fulmer from the Governor’s office.  Fulmer noted that the administration has already presented the suggestions to many audiences across the state and has worked closely with KSDE.  (Editor’s note:  the meetings referred to by Mr. Fulmer were not open to the public, no input from the Education Organizations was sought, and to our understanding, KSDE only provided requested data.)

Fulmer provided the first written summary of the concepts behind the new school funding formula the Governor is suggesting. The Governor’s current thinking is that districts will be “held harmless” and receive at minimum the reduced funding of the current year ($3,780 per student) in the future.  State aid will be provided up front based on a non-weighted FTE. Fulmer estimates that the new amount levied may be between 10 and 15 mills (compared to the current 20 mills) which would be equalized by property value.

In Fulmer’s words, local districts would also have unlimited control over the level of additional property tax levied for support of their own schools. Counties would also have the option of contributing to a state sales tax fund that would be returned to schools in the participating counties in proportion to the amount they contributed.  The proposal also included no state money for bond issues. 

The administration also plans various block grants, some intended to provide equalization:

·        An operating premium block grant would be designed to help sparsely populated rural areas.

·        An at-risk block grant would be designed to aid districts with high poverty rates, a large bilingual population, or non-proficiencies. 

·        A teacher incentive program would reward highly effective teachers who have shown the ability to increase student performance in at-risk populations.

·        A technical and career education block grant would encourage partnerships with the private sector and local community colleges and technical schools.

·        An innovative block grant would be loosely defined to encourage and fund innovative programs. 

The board as also interested in how the anticipated tax reform proposals would impact this work, but Fulmer noted that the tax reform work is not his expertise. 

Fulmer intends to meet with Dale Dennis and plans to bring more specifics to the next Board meeting, in particular, actual numbers generated by the formula. 

ESEA Waiver

Last month the Kansas State Board of Education voted 8-1 to seek a waiver from the current requirements of No Child Left Behind. The board directed the Department of Education staff to develop a waiver request for the February application deadline. 

The board and the department continued the waiver request process this month by gathering information from stakeholders which includes the Advisory Groups, business organizations, curriculum leaders, teachers, principals, superintendents, Educational Organizations, students, and parents.

The ESEA flexibility package requires states to address the following four required principles:

1.     College and career-ready standards and aligned assessments;

2.     A rigorous state accountability system;

3.     A commitment to design, pilot, and implement a system of teacher and leader evaluations based significantly on student growth measures; and

4.     A commitment to evaluate and adjust state-level administrative and reporting requirements to reduce burden on districts and schools.


·       November/December—update information in the waiver request.

·       January—Board reviews final draft of waiver.

·       February—waiver submitted to US Department of Education.

KNEA continues to closely follow the application process and contents of the Kansas Waiver Request.

Graduation Requirements and Rigor Discussion

Graduation requirements were discussed on Wednesday.  Currently the state requires 21 credits for graduation.  98% of schools go beyond that minimum and the average is 25.   Commissioner of Education Diane Debacker suggested that the “rigor” focus of the new accreditation process being developed could be used to reward best practices of districts that go beyond the minimum.   Board members discussed the need to have graduates be college and career ready, but also allow districts the flexibility to determine the needs in their specific situations.

In other action or discussion:

  • Heard an update on NGSS state science committee work and the Green Ribbon Award program.
  • Heard about the impact of budget cuts on music education from KMEA President, Craig Manteuffel, Hays-NEA.
  • Honored 2011 Blue Ribbon Schools:  Louisburg High School; MacArthur Elementary School, Liberal; Oswego High School; Sunflower Elementary School, Gardner-Edgerton; and Union Valley Elementary School, Buhler. 
  • Received a summary of the state application for nearly $25 million from the Race to the Top Early Childhood Learning Challenge 4-year grant.
  • Heard from Dale Dennis a legislative update which included the increase in the state general fund from the actual FY2011 of $5,882,087 to the revised FY 2012 of $6,245,100 to the estimated FY 2013 of $6,291,400.

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