Kansas Superintendents Testify To Governor's Task Force

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The leaders of two Kansas school districts say educators are doing all they can to teach efficiently.

Superintendents from Lyons and Concordia told Gov. Sam Brownback's School Efficiency Task Force Friday that they have absorbed spending cuts and learned to adapt to a changing environment. That includes changes in student demographics, academic expectations and technology.

Brownback created the panel in September to recommend ways for schools to devote more of their state funding to classroom instruction and less to other expenses, such as administration.

The task force heard the findings of a similar group formed in October by the Kansas Association of School Boards. The group presented a list of 15 recommendations to the task force. They included items such as strengthening incentives for voluntary consolidation, making school budget report formats more understandable and repealing the public policy goal of spending 65 percent of funding on instruction, which the group says minimizes the importance of items like counseling, transportation and health services.

Brownback expects to receive his group's recommendations by January.

From the Kansas Assoc. of School Boards:
KASB efficiency committee recommendations that require a state role include:
•Reduce the impact of state mandates, restrictions and paperwork on local district operations by adopting a better process of evaluating costs and benefits of state regulations.
•Help school districts adopt new, innovative strategies to deliver educational service through incentives grants and waivers.
•Maintain and strengthen incentives for voluntary school district consolidation.
•Maintain funding for voluntary school efficiency audits to help districts identify potential changes in operations, but keep the final decision on implementing changes at the local level, where school boards are accountable to local voters.
•Consider changes in school budget report formats to improve public understanding.
•Develop multi-year school funding to improving financial planning.
•Repeal the “public policy goal” of spending 65 percent of funding only on instruction, which the committee says ignores differences in district goals and minimizes the importance of other functions such as libraries, counseling, health services, transportation and safety, and teacher improvement and evaluation.

The committee also recommends local school boards adopt policies providing for a regular evaluation of school district operations and efficiencies, ensure appropriate training of business office staff and encourage local school boards to receive training on appropriate resources allocation.