Student success key part of new Kansas school funding plan


A Kansas Senate committee is considering a new education funding plan that would tie some state aid to public schools to how well students do after high school.

This comes after lawmakers decided earlier this month to change how they distribute money to schools.

The Senate Education Committee had a hearing Tuesday on a plan drafted by Chairman and Arkansas City Republican Steve Abrams. He said his goal is to focus public schools on educating students so they can at least be part of the middle class.

There are those for and against Senate Bill 294, but both sides agree that a fix is needed to pay for schools in Kansas.

Bill Mullins, the superintendent of the Marysville School District, said parents deserve something better for their kids.

"They want their kids to be successful after high school. They want them to be on a track to middle class. They want them to be successful in college or whatever it happens to be, so I think that's the selling point. This is an opportunity to really build our school district around successful students," he said.

In the new plan, schools would get money based on enrollment, sparsity, poverty and success, meaning the achievements of graduates.

Districts will be deemed "successful" and eligible for more state money if, after two years, graduates have done things like enrolling in a third consecutive semester at a college or university, entered basic training in one of the armed services or obtained an industry-recognized credential, been employed with an annual income at or above 250 percent of the federal poverty level or been employed not less than 30 hours per week and graduated with an individualized education program.

"We should be funding students, not funding institutions," said Dave Trabert with the Kansas Policy Institute, an Overland Park think tank focused on education.

For him, there is not enough accountability for school districts built into the proposal.

"In English, reading, math and science there are serious education issues, achievement issues in our schools that are masked if all we do is wait to see if someone signs up for college and then especially if they have to get remedial training," Trabert said.

The Legislature passed a bill this month to replace the state's current per-student funding formula with "block grants" for school districts, but that system would be in place for only two years.

The Abrams plan would be tested on six school districts during the 2015-16 school year, including Kansas City Public Schools and Blue Valley School District, before being expanded to all 286 school districts over two years.

Next year it could include as many as 106 more.

Abrams, who proposed the bill, said for equality sake, they won't be pitting higher performing districts against lower performing ones.

"We're going to take the districts where they're at now, that's going to be the baseline. And then we want them to be successful and build the trendline up, based upon the money that they are going to be able to achieve, based upon those success factors," he said.

More meetings are scheduled for Wednesday. When it comes to tracking the graduates who go the educational route, they will be tracked by the National Student Clearinghouse. Those who go the military route will be tracked by the Department of Defense.

Copyright 2015 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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