If staffed at recommended levels, we estimate it would cost special education organizations in Kansas between $940 million and $1.2 billion to provide special education and related services annually. The amount organizations spend on special education can differ from the cost to provide those services. We built a model to estimate how much it would cost organizations to provide required special education services. If staffed at recommended levels, we estimate it could cost between $940 million and $1.2 billion annually to provide special education and related services—which exceeds current spending by $41 to $319 million. However, it may be difficult for districts to hire the number of staff suggested in our model because of current teacher shortages.
Special education funding has been correctly calculated and distributed in recent years, but the Legislature has provided less funding than required by state law. KSDE calculates special education funding in accordance with state law but may slightly overestimate organizations’ expenditures. The Legislature has not appropriated funding in accordance with statute in recent years. In the years we reviewed, KSDE has distributed each of the four types of special education aid correctly.
Kansas and the five other states we reviewed varied in terms of how special education funding is determined and distributed. The six states we reviewed distributed funding based on a reimbursement method, a needs-based method, or both. A 2016 Connecticut report identified eight primary mechanisms for state funding of special education. At least half of U.S. states, including Kansas, require school districts to provide gifted services.
For the most part, KSDE has allocated transportation funding in accordance with the statutory formula, with one significant exception. KSDE has correctly executed the numerous calculations in the transportation funding formula for the past five years. However, KSDE has continued a funding minimum to the formula which is not authorized in statute. KSDE’s methods for counting students do not always align with statute, but the effect on funding is likely minimal. Overall, the 16 districts in our sample received less funding than it cost them to transport students, but the results varied by district. The funding formula uses student density to estimate transportation costs but a variety of other factors can also influence costs. Based on our sample, the current funding formula appears to understate the comparative cost of transporting students who live at least 2.5 miles from school. Kansas and the five other states we reviewed varied significantly in terms of which students must be transported and how transportation services are funded. A Washington audit identified four primary mechanisms for state funding of transportation services. Kansas and the five states we reviewed varied as to which students must be transported. Last, only three states, including Kansas, provide dedicated transportation funding.
State Agency Information Systems: Reviewing Security Controls in Selected State Agencies - Kansas State Department of Education (CY 2017)
We identified a number of opportunities for the district to operate more efficiently and improve the effectiveness of its financial controls and IT controls. In the low-impact category, the district could potentially save up to $390,000 annually by implementing various energy savings strategies. The district could save $270,000 to $330,000 annually by reducing information technology positions. We estimated the district could save between $260,000 and $470,000 by eliminating several custodial positions. Further, the district could save $175,000 to $215,000 annually by eliminating several elementary school clerical positions. The district could save $30,000 to $100,000 annually by reducing or eliminating its sick leave buy-back policy. Additionally, it could save between $25,000 and $60,000 annually by changing its policies on cell phones. The district could generate one-time revenues of about $300,000 and about $8,000 in ongoing savings and revenues by selling a storage building. Finally, the district could save money by paying actual mileage for in-district travel rather than a flat stipend.
We also identified one option that would have a significant impact on students or the community. The district could save between $180,000 and $325,000 annually by closing a small rural school and having those students attend other schools.
In addition to the savings and revenue options listed above, we also found that the district lacked comprehensive policies and procedures to adequately protect its assets. This included a lack of written policies and procedures and inadequate tracking of physical assets and procurement cards.
K-12 Health Insurance: Evaluating the Financial Impact of Establishing a Consolidated K-12 Health Insurance Plan
Depending on the plan design, consolidating K-12 health insurance plans for the 101 districts in our sample could save an estimated $63 million a year. Specifically, consolidation would generate an estimated $38 million in annual savings through increased plan efficiencies regardless of plan design. Additionally, consolidation would also generate $25 million a year in savings for districts by shifting costs to employees. Also, we found that joining the state employee health plan is just one of several consolidation options available and that any savings from consolidation would be realized by school districts unless a mechanism is developed to transfer them to the state. The Legislature has several decisions to make regarding the implementation and savings associated with consolidating K-12 health insurance statewide. For example, the Legislature would need to decide whether the state or school districts keep the potential savings from consolidation and would need to make several other key decisions that could affect how much is saved. We also noted that the time needed to implement a consolidated K-12 health insurance plan and several other factors will make it difficult for the state to achieve savings outlined in the Governor’s Budget. Finally, we identified two other issues that should be considered if the state decides to consolidate K-12 health insurance.
K-12 Federal Education Funds: Evaluating the Costs and Benefits Associated with K-12 Federal Education Funding
In terms of benefits, Kansas received about $507 million in K-12 education funding from the federal government in school year 2015-16. The main purposes of the six federal K-12 programs we reviewed are to help disadvantaged students and to provide funds for additional school services. These programs give districts significant discretion in how they spend federal K-12 funds. The 10 districts we reviewed in detail spent most of these funds on staff compensation.
In terms of costs and obligations, we found accepting federal funds can limit budget flexibility because of maintenance of effort requirements. Additionally, by accepting federal funds, the state agrees to adopt the federal government’s K-12 education initiatives. Federal K-12 programs also impose some administrative requirements, but the cost of meeting these requirements is minimal and can be paid for with federal funds. Finally, only the National School Lunch Program imposes operational costs on school districts through its increased nutritional standards.
In comparing the benefits of accepting federal funds with the costs and obligations, we found the administrative and operational costs are small compared to the amount school districts receive. In addition, school administrators overwhelmingly reported the costs associated with federal funding were worth the benefits. However, we could not objectively quantify or compare the budget and policy restrictions that come with accepting federal funds to the benefits. Finally, opting out of federal funding would result in increased state and local costs or reduced services for students.
Federal Funds: Evaluating State Spending Required by Federally Funded Programs
In recent years, Kansas agencies spent about $5 billion annually in monetary and nonmonetary support from federally funded programs. Federally funded programs will require Kansas agencies to spend an estimated $2 billion on cost-sharing obligations in fiscal year 2016. Beyond that, we did not identify any significant unfunded mandates, although there are restrictions tied to the use of federal funds. Federally funded programs typically impose administrative requirements on state agencies, although most of these costs can be paid for with program funds. They also often include conditions on how state agencies can spend federal funds. Most programs have penalty or repayment clauses if state agencies fail to meet these conditions or program requirements. In addition, we found examples where the federal government has tied some national policy objectives to federal funds and states’ efforts to challenge those policies have had mixed results.
State of Kansas: OMB Circular A-133 Audit of Fiscal Year 2014
State law calls for an annual financial-compliance audit of the general purpose financial statements and “the financial affairs and transactions of a state agency required to comply with federal government audit requirements…” CliftonLarsonAllen, under contract with Legislative Post Audit, conducted this two-part audit. The first part was the report on the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (report R-14-018, released in December 2014). This second part, the Report on Federal Awards in Accordance with OMB Circular A-133, reports on compliance with laws, regulations, and provisions of contracts and grant agreements.
The auditors concluded that, except for the Foster Care program, the state complied, in all material respects, with the requirements applicable to each of the federal programs audited. The auditors found material non-compliance in the requirements regarding subrecipient monitoring in the Foster Care program. The auditors reported 27 deficiencies in internal control, including five material weaknesses. The auditors also identified questioned costs for a number of programs. Five of the findings were repeated from prior years.
K-12 Education: Reviewing Virtual Schools Costs and Student Performance
Our audit identified three different models of virtual education in Kansas: a full-time K-12 model, an adult diploma completion model, and a part-time K-12 model. Schools in each model provided a full curriculum and a variety of support services such as guidance counseling and at-risk services in the 2013-14 school year. We estimated the cost of operating a full-time K-12 virtual school is about $4,500 to $5,600 per FTE student or about $400 to $1,500 more per FTE student than the state provides in funding. We estimate the cost of operating an adult diploma completion program is about $3,300 to $4,100 per FTE student or about $4,800 to $5,600 per FTE student less than the state provides. We estimate the cost of providing individual courses to K-12 students is about $1,700 per FTE student or about $2,500 less per FTE student than the state provides. In terms of outcomes, full-time K-12 virtual school students performed similarly to traditional school students on state assessments whereas the adult students in our sample made little progress in earning their high school diploma.
We also found that including virtual school students in the calculation for assessed valuation per pupil allows some districts to receive more funding than intended, that state statute includes a non-proficient weighting that should be removed, and that districts do not fully account for all of their virtual school expenditures in the appropriate fund.
The Kansas State Department of Education has implemented most, but not all, of our 2007 virtual school audit recommendations. KSDE approved two districts to operate virtual schools even though they identified problems with the operation of those schools. Finally, school districts are not complying with state law to provide health services to virtual school students or to submit training reports for virtual school teachers.
State of Kansas: OMB Circular A-133 Audit of Fiscal Year 2013
State law calls for an annual financial-compliance audit of the general purpose financial statements and “the financial affairs and transactions of a state agency required to comply with federal government audit requirements…” RubinBrown, under contract with Legislative Post Audit, conducted this two-part audit. The first part was the report on the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (report R-13-016, released in December 2013). This second part, the Report on Federal Awards in Accordance with OMB Circular A-133, reports on compliance with laws, regulations, and provisions of contracts and grant agreements.
The auditors concluded that the state complied, in all material respects, with the requirements applicable to each of the federal programs audited. However, the auditors reported 26 deficiencies in internal control. The auditors also identified questioned costs for a number of programs. Six of the findings were repeated from prior years.
K-12 Education: Survey of Efficiency Measures Taken by Kansas School Districts (includes Supplemental Report)
We surveyed all 286 superintendents to identify what measures they have taken to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the last three years. We asked superintendents to limit their responses to measures taken in the last three years to capture only recent savings actions. We found that the most common actions taken by districts to reduce costs were in areas unrelated to student instruction such as food services or administration. Further, the least common actions taken by districts were related to outsourcing various functions such as food preparation and bus services.
State of Kansas: OMB Circular A-133 Audit of Fiscal Year 2012
State law calls for an annual financial-compliance audit of the general purpose financial statements and “the financial affairs and transactions of a state agency required to comply with federal government audit requirements…” RubinBrown, under contract with Legislative Post Audit, conducted this two-part audit. The first part was the report on the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (report R-13-005, released in March 2013). This second part, the Report on Federal Awards in Accordance with OMB Circular A-133, reports on compliance with laws, regulations, and provisions of contracts and grant agreements.
The auditors concluded that, except for the Unemployment Insurance program, the state complied, in all material respects, with the requirements applicable to each of the federal programs audited. However, the auditors reported 28 deficiencies in internal control, two of which were material weaknesses. The auditors also projected up to $73.4 million in questioned costs ($65,000 in known questioned costs). Six of the findings were repeated from prior years.
State Agency Information Systems: Reviewing Selected Controls in Selected State Agencies (CY 2012)
We evaluated six important IT security controls and the comprehensive IT security management process at nine state agencies. We found that most agencies’ IT security controls we reviewed were not strong enough to help ensure that confidential information was adequately protected. Moreover, most agencies had weak controls to help ensure strong and secure staff passwords, and almost all agencies did a poor job of patching software vulnerabilities for both workstations and servers. Most agencies did not adequately train staff on IT security issues, and none of the agencies had fully developed and tested a continuity of operations plan. While most agencies adequately controlled their IT inventory, four agencies were missing or had lost track of computers. On the other hand, we found only a few problems with network access points, which were largely controlled by the Office of Information Technology Services. None of the agencies had a fully developed security management process, but all nine had at least some process components. Finally, security controls were far stronger at agencies where management made IT security a priority.
K-12 Education: Estimating Potential Costs Related to Implementing the No Child Left Behind Waiver in Kansas
Overall, school districts will likely incur between $34 million and $63 million in real or opportunity costs over the next five years to implement the four principles of the NCLB waiver, while the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) will incur little cost and may achieve savings during that time. Real costs refer to out-of-pocket expenditures for goods and services. Opportunity costs refer to the value of alternatives that must be foregone to pursue other options.
Most of the school district costs ($32 million to $60 million) are related to implementing the Common Core standards (Principle 1), but KSDE’s costs for this principle should be minimal. Our estimate of the total cost to implement the Common Core standards in Kansas significantly lower than other studies’ estimates to implement those standards.
Neither KSDE nor school districts should incur any significant costs to assess student and school performance (Principle 2), and KSDE could save about $3 million per year by not having to develop student assessment tests. We estimate school districts could incur costs of up to $3 million to train teachers and administrators to use the new evaluation system (Principle 3), but KSDE’s costs should be minimal. Finally, neither districts nor KSDE should incur any additional costs related to reducing paperwork and reporting (Principle 4).
State Employee Residence: Assessing Potential Increases in Revenues by Requiring State Employees to Reside in Kansas
We estimate that about 3,600 state and school district employees live outside Kansas. Imposing a residency requirement for state employees would only generate new tax revenues if out-of-state employees move to Kansas. If 25% of all out-of-state employees move to Kansas, a residency requirement could generate approximately $2 million a year in state and local tax revenues. This includes $1.4 million in new taxes paid by the employees, and another $650,000 in indirect tax revenues from increased economic activity. However, in order to generate meaningful revenues, a residency requirement would need to be implemented aggressively, which would significantly affect out-of-state employees. If the requirement was put into effect in the near term, employees would have to move or seek new employment. Grandfathering in current out-of-state employees would remove the impact on them, but would essentially eliminate the new tax revenue. Finally, adopting a residency requirement would limit the labor pool for state agencies and could be expensive to administer.
State Benefit Programs: Identifying Disincentives for Marriage
Most of the benefit programs we reviewed have income-based eligibility criteria that could discourage marriage in some situations, or have no effect at all. That’s because programs vary in how household income is defined. Some programs don’t distinguish between the income of married and cohabitating couples. Other programs may consider two unmarried people living together to be two separate households. Very few of the frontline program staff we interviewed think program eligibility rules have a significant effect on clients’ decision to marry. Further, the majority of clients we spoke with told us eligibility criteria have little to no effect on their decision to marry. Lastly, literature acknowledges that programs with income-based eligibility rules have built-in disincentives, but there’s little information about whether those disincentives actually cause people to avoid getting married.
State Agency Information Systems: Reviewing Selected Personnel Security Controls in State Agencies.
Overall, we found that all five agencies we reviewed could improve their personnel-related security policies. Three of five agencies did not conduct adequate background checks before hiring employees and none of the agencies consistently trained employees on security awareness and the acceptable use of information technology resources. All five agencies appropriately removed terminated employees’ computer access rights, but need to make other improvements to the termination process including documenting equipment recovery and conducting exit interviews. We also found that the Information Technology Executive Council (ITEC) does not adequately communicate its security standards to all State agencies and it does not have adequate mechanisms or resources to enforce its security standards.
K-12 Education: Reviewing Issues Related to the Costs of the Health Care Benefits Provided by School Districts (school audit)
Employers join health insurance pools in order to obtain lower and more predictable premiums. Currently there are five such pools available to school districts, including the State Employee Health Plan. We looked but identified only one district that could potentially save money by joining the State plan, primarily because the plan’s minimum employer contribution requirement is more than most districts currently pay, and because its annual deductible is lower. Because many districts are interested in forming a new Statewide pool of school district employees, we built estimates of what that pool might look like and what it might cost to insure. We looked at a sample of 22 school districts and two service centers and, based on our analysis, it didn’t appear that most of them would benefit from joining a Statewide pool, either because they wouldn’t save money, or because more out-of-pocket costs would be shifted onto their employees. Finally, if districts were to form a new pool, it would be difficult to sustain without sufficient safeguards, such as screening out districts with less healthy employees, instituting minimum employee participation requirements, or requiring higher employer contributions toward health insurance premiums.
K-12 Education: Reviewing the Potential for Cost Savings From Reorganization of Kansas School Districts
We developed two scenarios to illustrate the financial impact of restructuring and reducing school districts from the current number of 293—one that would leave a total of 266 districts, and another that would leave a total of 152 districts. Under the first scenario, we estimated that the affected districts’ operating costs would decrease by almost $18 million; under the second scenario they would decrease by more than $138 million. State funding for school districts would decrease by an estimated $15 million and $129 million, respectively. Under both scenarios, the reductions in funding for districts could be greater than the reductions in their operating costs, meaning that many districts could have a net loss. Furthermore, some consolidated districts may need to make more capital expenditures for new or expanded school buildings. School officials from districts we visited voiced a number of concerns about district consolidation, but none of the issues they raised prohibit consolidation. Finally, while Kansas currently offers some financial incentives to encourage voluntary consolidation, other potential incentives could be considered.
K-12 Education: Efficiency Audit of the Ellinwood School District
The Ellinwood school district has taken some positive steps to become more efficient and control costs, but it lacks a systematic approach for evaluating and managing its efficiency. In addition, the district miscategorizes some of its expenditure data, making meaningful efficiency comparisons with other districts difficult. We identified several significant opportunities for the district to operate more efficiently and reduce costs which, if addressed, could save the district about $540,000 each year. The most significant of these—and the one that would require the most change to implement—involves closing the elementary school, eliminating certain elementary school staff, and moving the elementary students to the middle-high school. We also identified opportunities to fill high school classes to capacity and to hire part-time teachers.
K-12 Education: Efficiency Audit of the Derby School District
The Derby school district has taken a number of positive steps to become more efficient and control costs, but it lacks a systematic approach for evaluating and managing its efficiency. We identified several significant opportunities for the district to operate more efficiently and reduce costs, which if addressed could save the district just more than $1 million per year. The most significant of these—and the one that would require the most change to implement—involves moving the high school from a block schedule to a traditional schedule and filling high school classes to capacity, thus eliminating the need for as many class sections. We also identified opportunities for consolidating two administrative buildings and for better controlling the district’s use of overtime.
K-12 Education: Reviewing Issues Related to Catastrophic Funding for Special Education
Claims submitted to cover the “catastrophic” costs for very expensive special education students—those costing more than $25,000 per year—jumped from 276 to 758 between 2008 and 2009, and catastrophic aid doubled, from $6 million to $12 million. Historically, districts submitted claims only for very expensive students who required full-time teachers, expensive contracted services, etc. The big increase in 2009 occurred because the Shawnee Mission district decided to prorate costs for all special education students, even its less-expensive ones. Several other large districts have begun prorating costs as well, and many others are likely to follow suit so they won’t lose out on funding. We estimated claims would jump to 5,500 and aid to nearly $48 million for 2009-10 if the law didn’t change and if all districts and cooperatives prorated costs and submitted all the claims they could. Proposed changes to the requirements for catastrophic aid—including increasing the threshold for qualifying and requiring districts and cooperatives to deduct other forms of special education aid they receive in computing their costs, would reduce catastrophic aid claims significantly. That would leave more money available to be distributed to all districts as special education teacher aid. Finally, for about 100 claims filed in 2009, districts or cooperatives received nearly $1 million in aid above the actual cost of providing special education services to these students.
State Universities: Can State Universities Provide Postsecondary Education More Efficiently To Reduce Costs? (A K-GOAL Audit)
Our focus was on general-use operating expenditures funded with State General Fund and tuition revenues; we excluded restricted funds like federal grants and student fees, the University of Kansas Medical School, and Kansas State’s Veterinary Medicine School and Extension Programs. In fiscal year 2008, general use operating expenditures per FTE student ranged from $8,330 at Fort Hays State to $14,191 at the University of Kansas. Overall, Emporia State and the University of Kansas spent about $2,000 more per FTE student than their in-State counterparts. The vast majority of the universities’ general use operating expenditures were for education-related expenditures (72% to 85% of the total). Most of the differences in the amounts spent for educational programs appeared to be caused by differences among the six universities in staffing and salary levels. Numerous options exist for delivering universities’ academic programs and courses more economically or efficiently. Actions that universities in other states have reported taking to help reduce academic spending include eliminating or combining low-enrollment course sections, academic departments, or degree programs within universities; collaborating across universities to share course content, teachers, and instructional programs; increasing the number of courses offered online or through distance learning; and increasing faculty workloads. Actions they’ve reported taking to help reduce their institutional spending include maximizing the use of existing classroom and laboratory space to reduce the need for additional space; consolidating or changing administrative functions or processes—both within and across universities; outsourcing some non-academic services such as food service and grounds maintenance; sharing purchasing costs, and reducing energy costs. The State’s six universities have implemented some of these ideas to varying degrees, but there are numerous opportunities for additional efficiencies. Given recent budget cuts, the universities already may have taken some of the actions described in this report.
This audit was limited to a review of available data on the non-instructional operational spending for 121 school districts to identify trends or patterns that could shed light on districts’ efficiency. While our review showed that per-student spending generally was driven by economies of scale--the more students there were in a district, the less they tended to spend--there was still a lot of variation in spending among similar-sized districts. When districts spent more per student than their peers in various areas, it tended to be in the area of staffing costs. In addition, we found that school districts didn’t always report expenditure and staffing data consistently, making meaningful comparisons difficult. We concluded that efficiency audits that are more in-depth than this one can serve a vital role in helping districts identify additional efficiencies. NOTE: Appendix B of the report contains detailed information on the non-instructional operating costs for the 121 districts included in our review.
K-12 Education: Reviewing School Districts’ At-Risk and Professional Development Programs
For the 2008-09 school year, the State will give school districts an estimated $368 million to provide additional services to students who are at risk of failing academically. We selected and visited 10 sample districts to determine whether the at-risk services they provide are supported by research and are implemented as part of a thorough school improvement process. In general, they appear to provide at-risk services, both academic and non-academic, that are research-based, and eight of the 10 districts had a good improvement process in place to address the needs of at-risk students. We also looked at the types of professional development school districts provide. Statewide, the most common types of development training provided by districts include curriculum and assessment development, instructional best practices, intervention strategies, and technology training. The programs provided by our 10 sample districts were supported by research, and for seven of the 10 districts were clearly tied back to student needs. Finally, a recent survey of Kansas teachers indicates that targeted professional development may help the performance of at-risk students.
K-12 Education: School Districts’ Use of Additional State Funding
Over the past three years, districts have received a cumulative total of $2.3 billion in new funding, including $1.6 billion from the State. Virtually all the increase in State funding was in four areas--general State aid, State equalization aid, special education categorical aid, and KPERS. In general, districts that received the most new funding per student had more poverty. District spending from the 2004-05 to 2006-07 school years--the most recent year for which spending information is available--increased by almost $630 million. More than 70% of that increased spending was for student instruction, mostly for salaries and benefits to hire additional teachers and paraprofessionals, or to increase teacher salaries. School districts also increased their spending for support services, administration, operations and maintenance, and transportation. Finally, student outcome data continue to show that student performance generally is improving, although larger and high-poverty districts continue to lag behind.
K-12 Education: Assessing the Quality of English as a Second Language Preparation in Kansas Teacher Education Programs
In general, teacher education programs in Kansas don’t appear to adequately prepare teachers to teach students for whom English is a second language (ESL). Overall, 60% of the new teachers we surveyed who’ve taught ESL students said they didn’t feel adequately prepared to teach them. Survey respondents also said they felt far less prepared to teach ESL students than to teach either the general population of students or students with disabilities. Those teachers who felt less prepared to teach ESL students also felt less prepared to teach students in general. Teachers from academic programs that emphasize hands-on experience tended to feel more prepared than those from programs that rely primarily on classroom instruction. Teachers told us requiring more dedicated coursework, hands-on training experience, and foreign language training could improve ESL training. Other factors that affected how prepared teachers felt included the English proficiency of their ESL students and the support they received from their schools.
K-12 Education: Estimating the Impact of a Second Count Date on School District Funding
As amended by the Senate, House Bill 2123 from the 2007 session would have allowed districts to receive additional funding if their student enrollment significantly increased from September to February. Over the past three school years, 43 districts would have received almost $7 million in additional funding if House Bill 2123 had been in place. Districts that would have benefited the most from the bill tended to be mid- to large-sized districts on the edge of a metropolitan area that received relatively lower amounts of State and local funding per FTE student through the State’s school finance formula. A review of the current second count date for military dependents shows that some of the statutory provisions for administering it appear to be unclear.
K-12 Education: Reviewing Issues Related to Special Education Funding
In 2005-06, the percent of special education “excess costs” covered by State categorical aid varied between 45% and 207% for 69 school districts and special education cooperatives. Those that spent more on special education per student had less of their excess costs covered by categorical aid. However, because some special education revenues and expenditures weren’t handled correctly, districts and cooperatives will receive almost $800,000 less categorical aid than they were entitled to for the 2007-08 school year. In addition, capping the amount of categorical aid districts and cooperatives could receive would free up a small portion of aid to be redistributed, but wouldn't completely eliminate the variation in the percent of excess costs that are reimbursed. Finally, recent changes to Medicaid will cost the State an estimated $24 million in Medicaid funding, starting in the 2007-08 school year. Under current law, the Legislature will replace 92% of the lost funding with State categorical aid, but because of the way categorical aid is distributed, districts and cooperatives in more affluent suburban areas likely will gain funding, while those in high-poverty areas likely will lose funding.
K-12 Education: Determining the Reasons for Variations in Virtual School Costs
The reported cost of operating virtual schools can vary significantly, with much of the variation in virtual costs due to differences in how schools account for costs. Once differences in accounting and reporting are taken into account, the operating expenditures for our four sample schools ranged from about $1,940 per FTE (Cherryvale) to just more than $4,400 per FTE (Emporia) for the 2006-07 school year. Other factors that contributed significantly to the variation in costs included the number of instructional staff in each school relative to its enrollment, as well as spending on technology, supplies, training, and travel.
K-12 Education: Reviewing the Cost of Vocational Education Programs
Traditionally, Vocational Education focuses on preparing students for occupations that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Vocational Education programs fall into seven major program areas— the most common ones are Business and Computer Technology, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Trade and Industry. Of the $34 million in State funding for Vocational Education in 2006-07, we estimated about $5 million (or 13%) was for classes that weren’t related to a specific occupation; these classes helped students develop general employability and life skills, or were generic study hall periods. While the Department of Education has a systematic process to review new and existing Vocational Education programs, staff approved four of 10 programs without having all the necessary information to assess their quality. A major overhaul of Vocational Education at the federal level will broaden the State’s current structure to include a number of professional occupations in the near future. This expansion could affect State funding by generating interest in new programs, or by bringing in more students.
Children’s Programs: Reviewing Whether They Are Coordinated To Avoid Duplication and Maximize the Use of Resources
Out of about 220 children’s programs in Kansas, 20 State-funded and three federally administered programs focus primarily on serving children age five and under. Those 23 programs reported serving more than 500,000 children and spending almost $310 million in fiscal year 2006. At the State level, the risk of duplication comes from having multiple programs offering similar types of services. This risk appears highest in three categories–preschool services for children, home-based education services to parents of young children, and child-care services to low-income clients. Having multiple agencies involved in administering programs can create administrative duplication. We identified six education-related programs administered by agencies other than the Department of Education and three social services/child safety programs administered by agencies other than SRS. At the local level, where most services actually are provided, the same types of administrative duplication can exist when multiple local agencies administer programs. Efforts to coordinate children’s programs at both the State and local levels primarily consist of coordinating groups and interagency agreements. A primary example is the Kansas Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Plan Stakeholders Group, which has worked to develop Statewide strategies for serving young children. Legislation passed in 2007 mandated a plan to bring early childhood education services under a single office in the future, which could have a number of benefits, but issues involving funding and the definition of “education” will be need to resolved. At the local level, issues such as community size and competition for funding can affect the extent of coordination that occurs. Finally, consolidating Kansas’ programs won’t increase federal funding coming into the State because most federal funding is either fixed or based on formulas.
K-12 Education: Reviewing the Research on Charter School Performance
Charter, magnet, and alternative schools give students public alternatives to traditional public schools. In 2006-07, almost 15,000 students attended the 60 charter, magnet, or alternative schools throughout the State. Researchers have found mixed results when comparing the performance of charter and magnet schools to traditional schools. There are no recent studies on the performance of alternative schools, but older studies found positive results.
K-12 Education: Reviewing Issues Related to Virtual Schools
Kansas currently has 28 virtual schools providing education to K-12 students, including adults working towards a high school diploma. These virtual students are a very small but rapidly growing population, currently representing about 2,000 students, or about 1% of Kansas’ total student population. Virtual schools are funded the same way as traditional schools, but cost less to operate. Although the data are limited, virtual students scored lower on 2005-06 State assessment tests than traditional students. The Department of Education has developed a set of comprehensive policies for general oversight of virtual schools, which have been recognized as some of the strongest in the country. However, the Department’s actual oversight of virtual schools is weak because it generally isn’t following the processes it has established to implement these oversight policies. In addition, many specific risks inherent in operating virtual schools aren’t adequately addressed, especially at the State level. Finally, the Mullinville school district’s practice of @giving@" virtual students to nearby districts isn’t allowed by law
K-12 Education: Reviewing the Staff Recruitment and Retention Strategies Used by Kansas School Districts
To recruit teachers, districts use strategies to identify traditional candidates, create new pools of teachers, and improve the financial incentives offered to teachers. To retain teachers, districts try to improve teacher working conditions, help new teachers adjust to the district and community environment, and increase compensation for current teachers. To recruit principals, districts try to identify current principal candidates, develop new principal candidates, and offer candidates financial incentives. Superintendents consistently rated financial incentives as effective strategies for teacher recruitment, teacher retention, and principal recruitment. Superintendents generally rate the strategies currently offered by the State as effective, especially the Department of Education’s employment website. Superintendents would like the State to remove restrictions on hiring retired teachers, ease teacher licensing requirements, and provide more funding for teacher compensation and other financial incentives.
K-12 Education: Alternative Models for Organizing Middle Schools and High Schools
High schools have been organized in basically the same way for much of the last century. Over the last 25 years, a variety of pressures have prompted many schools to attempt a number of school reforms. These reforms include offering alternative schedules, organizing schools around a theme, creating small learning communities, establishing alternative instructional formats, and implementing comprehensive school reforms. While most models have examples of successful schools, there is little rigorous research available that assesses the effectiveness of each model.
K-12 Education: Comparing the Centralization of School District Accounting in Different States (limited-scope audit)
The purpose of accounting systems is to communicate financial information about an organization. For that information to be valuable, it must be understandable, reliable, relevant, timely, consistent, and comparable. For many years, legislators have expressed concerns that it’s difficult to meaningfully compare expenditures for different school districts. When we looked at the accounting systems used in 20 states, none used a centralized accounting system, where all districts are required to uniformly record data into a single (central) computer system. Fourteen states have standardized accounting systems (where districts are required to uniformly record data into their own computer systems). Six states and Kansas have adopted a uniform chart of accounts for districts to use in reporting their accounting data, but not when recording transactions.
K-12 Education: Reviewing Free-Lunch Student Counts Used as the Basis for At-Risk Funding, Part II
The Department of Education doesn’t have a reliable count of students who receive at-risk services, because the Department hasn’t given school districts clear guidance on what to report. Based on the at-risk student data we gathered directly from a sample of districts, districts received at-risk funds for a different number of students than they served, and generally provided at-risk services to a different group of students than they received funding for. However, an actual student-to-student relationship can’t be expected between funding and services because at-risk funding primarily is based on the “stand-in” measure of free-lunch students. Of the 41 states for which information was available, only one distributes at-risk funding based on the number of students who actually receive at-risk services. In 39 states, some measure of poverty—primarily the free- and reduced-price lunch count—is used to distribute some or all at-risk funding. Ten states, including Kansas, distribute at-risk funding through a “poverty-plus” mechanism that combines a measure of poverty with additional at-risk indicators, such as low assessment scores.
K-12 Education: Reviewing Free-Lunch Student Counts as the Basis for At-Risk Funding
Based on our Statewide random sample, about 23,000 (17%) of the approximately 135,000 free-lunch students counted for at-risk funding in 2005-06 weren’t eligible for free lunches. As a result, the State overpaid nearly $19 million in at-risk funds. At the same time, according to survey responses from district officials, about 6,900 students may have been eligible for free lunches but their families didn’t apply. The free-lunch count used for at-risk funding also may include a number of students the Legislature didn’t intend to fully fund, such as adults attending alternative education schools, and free-lunch students who don’t attend full-time. We also identified problems with the Department of Education’s free-lunch reviews that, if addressed, could produce a more accurate count.In 2003-04, Kansas had 54,000 more free-lunch students Statewide than comparable U.S. Census Bureau estimates would suggest. Ineligible students would account for almost half that difference. However, the Census Bureau’s district-level poverty estimates also have several limitations, including difficulties in accurately measuring important populations, significant lag time in publishing figures, and decreasing accuracy as the estimates get further away from the 10-year Census count.
K-12 Education: Reviewing Issues Related to Developing and Retaining Teachers and School Principals
Only 0.5% of all teaching positions were vacant in 2005-06, but an additional 5.4% of all positions weren’t filled by a fully qualified teacher. Shortages are most severe in districts with high poverty, those in southwest Kansas, and in subjects like math and foreign language. Annually, about 9% of teachers leave the Kansas public school system, while another 7% move within the school system. Shortages may worsen over the next several years, as the number of teachers eligible to retire increases and the number of potential new teachers remains flat.After adjusting for regional cost differences, Kansas’ average teacher salary ranked 33rd nationally in 2004-05. Salaries for beginning teachers ranked 6th, but salaries for experienced teachers only ranked 36th. Annual teacher salaries rank very low compared to other professions, but hourly pay is much more competitive. Researchers have found a positive relationship between teacher salaries and retention, but not between salaries and student performance.Best practices for attracting, retaining, and developing teachers include improving compensation and working conditions, reducing barriers to entry, implementing mentoring programs, and dedicating adequate resources for targeted training. Best practices for attracting, retaining, and developing principals include identifying individuals with management skills and providing practical training, peer support, and coaching. However, there’s very little empirical evidence to support most of these strategies.
Cost Study Analysis: Elementary and Secondary Education in Kansas: Estimating the Costs of K-12 Education Using Two Approaches
The cost studies we conducted were designed to identify the estimated costs for K-12 public education in several areas. Besides regular education, we also identified and analyzed additional costs for serving students who were at-risk, bilingual, or in special or vocational education, as well as costs for transporting students and regional variations in teacher salaries. Our estimates showed the additional amount of foundation-level funding needed in 2006-07 would be at least $316.2 million using an input-based approach, and $399.3 million using an outcomes-based approach. Any increase in foundation-level funding also increases the State’s share of districts’ local option budgets and its contributions to KPERS on districts’ behalf. For at-risk programs, there’s little consistency in which students districts identify as at-risk or the types of services districts classify as at-risk. In addition, the State’s funding for at-risk services has little relationship to the individual students actually served. For bilingual programs, the State’s basis for funding doesn’t link funding with need. Finally, scholars have differing opinions about whether more resources improve educational outcomes; recent literature calls for improvements in research to better answer questions about these relationships.
School Finance: Putting District Budgetary Data into a More Accessible Database (limited-scope audit)
Each year, the Department of Education collects detailed revenue and expenditure data from school districts, loads it into a mainframe computer system, and uses it to produce a number of reports that are available on its website. Even so, the detailed information districts submit isn’t readily accessible, and it’s difficult to make comparisons between districts. We converted one year of revenue and expenditure data from school district budgets to a more flexible data format. The new format could allow legislative staff to analyze the data to answer legislators’ revenue and expenditure questions, and would be the first step toward creating an on-line system like the one maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Federal Funds: Determining Whether Opportunities May Exist To Leverage State Spending To Draw Down More Federal Funds
This audit involved a fairly high-level review of opportunities that may exist for the State to draw down additional federal funds. We identified 6 opportunities that appeared to have a high potential for generating as much as $20 million in additional federal revenues. Most of these opportunities involved federal reimbursements through the Medicaid program that could be claimed by school districts or community developmental disability organizations. We also identified 8 additional opportunities in social services areas (such as increasing targeted Medicaid rates and auditing agencies' cost allocation plans) that warrant further investigation to determine whether additional federal revenues could be generated. Finally, we observed that Kansas could benefit from a more coordinated effort to identify and secure more federal funds. One possibility would be a centralized office to coordinate federal funding and develop an overall strategy to maximize federal moneys.
How Including Previously Unreported Moneys Spent on K-12 Education Affects Kansas’ Rankings in Nationally Published Statistics
For the 1999-2000 school year, Kansas didn't report $204 million in expenditures that should have been reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. These included expenditures from federal grant funds, local gifts and grants, and school-level activity moneys. Because future federal aid payments were based on expenditures reported that year, Kansas' 2002-2003 federal education aid was at least $3.8 million less than it would have been. About 85% of those unreported expenditures were considered to be instruction-related. That was enough to:- raise Kansas' 1999-2000 percent spent on instruction from 57.3% to 59.2%- raise Kansas' ranking among the states in spending on instruction from 48th to 41st place- move Kansas' percent spent on instruction much closer to the average of 4 nearby states- make Kansas' reported expenditures per student--both in total, for instruction, and for support/non-instruction--among the highest of those statesWe did note significant inconsistencies in both the expenditure and staffing information NCES collects and publishes that made us reluctant to make more detailed staffing and expenditure comparisons by particular categories. We also noted that Kansas school districts have added more than 5,600 new positions since 1997-1998, even though Statewide enrollment levels have been flat.
School District Budgets: Determining Ways to Structure the Budget Document to Make It Understandable and Allow for Meaningful Comparisons
The laws, policies, and practices related to school district budgets are flawed in some areas. Because of the requirements or interpretations of State law, districts are overstating some expenditures and excluding other expenditures altogether. Staffing, enrollment, and expenditure information districts report in their budgets don't tie together, and aren't always reported consistently. In some local budget documents expenditures aren't summarized or grouped into categories, making it difficult to know how much money a district is taking in, or how moneys are being spent. We developed a new format for districts' local budget documents that realigns and summarizes categories of information, includes all revenues and expenditures, and tries to address most of the problems we identified. The new budget format ultimately can be used as a tool to help identify where a district's costs may be out of line compared with peer districts, Statewide averages, or other benchmarks. District officials and board members can use it to explore the reasons for differences in greater detail, and to consider any adjustments they may need to make to increase their district's efficiency. The format presented will need to be reviewed and refined to make it as meaningful and useful as possible.
This document accompanied the audit report, “School District Budgets: Determining Ways to Structure the Budget Document to Make It Understandable and Allow for Meaningful Comparisons.” It shows a new format for districts' local budget documents that realigns and summarizes categories of information, includes all revenues and expenditures, and tries to address most of the problems we identified in the audit. The new budget format ultimately can be used as a tool to help identify where a district's costs may be out of line compared with peer districts, Statewide averages, or other benchmarks. District officials and board members can use it to explore the reasons for differences in greater detail, and to consider any adjustments they may need to make to increase their district's efficiency. The format will need to be reviewed and refined to make it as meaningful and useful as possible.
School District Budgets: Determining Why Kansas School Districts Tend to Spend a Smaller Percentage Of Their Budget on Instruction Than School Districts in Other States
In 1998, Kansas spent less than the average of 4 comparison states (Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma) on Instruction costs, primarily because the amount Kansas paid for teacher benefits was lower than the average of what these other states had paid. Kansas districts spent a higher percentage of each educational dollar on Non-Instruction activities primarily because Kansas employed approximately 2,100 more Non-Instruction staff than the 4-state average. About 400 of those additional employees were in district-level administration, but more than 1,700 of them were categorized as @Other@" Non-Instruction staff
Special Education: Determining Whether School Districts Are Accountable for Meeting Goals Contained in Students’ Individual Education Programs
Overall, we concluded that 413 of the 434 goals listed in the Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) we reviewed (95%) were clearly defined and measurable. Only about one-third of the children in our sample had achieved at least one goal on their most recently completed IEP, but 69% of the children had made progress toward meeting their goals. State regulations require districts to make a “good faith effort” to help children achieve their special education goals, but don’t hold districts “accountable” if children don’t meet those goals. Both the Department and the school districts in our sample could improve their efforts to ensure that special education services actually were provided. Statewide, an average of 7% of the children enrolled in special education left the program each year because they achieved their goals. Based on available comparative statistics, it appeared Kansas’ rate compared favorably to other states’ rates. It was uncertain whether districts’ and the Department’s increased focus on measurable goals and student outcomes will result in children leaving special education programs at a faster rate than in the past--for many children there’s no expectation they’ll ever leave special education services.
Early Retirement Incentive Programs in Kansas School Districts: Reviewing Their Funding and Effects on the Supply of Teachers
School districts fund their early retirement incentive programs on an annual basis because they aren't authorized to set aside and invest moneys as KPERS is. The districts’ 1999 actuarial valuations showed these programs had large actuarial liabilities, but those figures weren't indicative of whether these programs were adequately funded. The portion of school district budgets used to fund these programs has increased slightly over the past 5 years, but the amounts still are not large in most cases. Because these programs aren't mandated by State law, districts have the option of changing or eliminating them as part of the negotiation process. Even if a school district wasn't able to afford its program, the State would have no liability to provide the funding. Our statistical analysis showed a very slight relationship between early retirement incentive programs and teacher vacancies, but school officials cited other factors as causing shortages of teachers. These factors included low pay and competition from outside sources. However, early retirement programs may play an increasing role in the level of teacher vacancies in the future. Finally, methods other states have used to help fill teacher vacancies include recruitment bonuses, job fairs, and alternative certification programs.
School District Credit Cards: Determining Whether School Districts Exercise Adequate Oversight Over the Use of Those Cards (100-hour audit)
The former superintendent of the Haysville school district was able to misuse the District's credit card because he wasn't required to submit receipts, his purchases weren't reviewed by someone with authority over him, and the school board didn't review detailed enough information to really know what he was purchasing. Sixteen other school districts we surveyed commonly used credit cards and most also lacked adequate procedures to guard against the misuse of those cards. Most districts' procedures weren’t written, and only 1 district had taken steps to adequately review its superintendent's purchases. The 3 school districts we visited didn't always have receipts for their credit card purchases or hadn't retained some credit card statements, even though such things were required by their policies. However, with the exception of the purchases already brought to light in Haysville, none of the purchases we reviewed appeared to be inappropriate.
High-Capacity Telecommunications Services: Examining Local Telephone Companies’ Compliance with the 1996 Telecommunications Act
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 required local phone companies to promise to provide existing and newly ordered broadband services at discounted rates. The Act didn't require phone companies to provide uniform rates to school districts, or to build a network that would interconnect all school districts. The Commission's actions haven't been sufficient to ensure that local phone companies provide broadband services at discounted rates. The amounts school districts pay for access to the Internet vary considerably, but recently charges have dropped and become more uniform. The KAN-ED proposal and the Telecommunications Act both would allow school districts to obtain broadband services, but they are very different in other ways. The proposed KAN-ED network is more likely to achieve the goal of getting all districts hooked up with high-speed lines to the Internet.
Reviewing Decision-Making at the State Board of Education
Several major policy decisions have been delayed because of tie votes by the State Board of Education. These decisions involved adoption of mathematics curriculum standards, approval of a contract for writing student assessments required by State law, and adopting new requirements for teacher certification. Although the fiscal impact of these delays has been minimal, the people in the educational community we talked with consistently mentioned frustration as a cost of the tie votes and delays. However, most people we spoke with during this audit also noted that there is a concentrated effort by the current Board members to work together.
Reviewing Issues Related to Funding for Special Education
In fiscal year 1997, the Legislature appropriated enough State categorical aid to finance 80% of the Statewide “excess” costs of special education. However, for our sample school districts categorical aid didn’t uniformly fund 80% of their individual “excess” costs of special education. That percent ranged from 69% to 137%. The amount of “excess” costs funded was different from the 80% Statewide figure because the method used to distribute categorical aid—as set out in law—has no relationship to the way excess costs are funded. The amount of “excess” costs funded varied so much among districts primarily because some districts spent more than others; the more a district spends per student, the lower its percent of “excess” costs funded. Some districts spent more than others for several reasons, including having more teachers per student and higher teacher salaries. Looking at other aspects of special education, we found that more than 96% of the students whose files we reviewed met the criteria for being placed in special education programs. Students also were getting the special education services prescribed for them. In addition, most students in our sample made some progress toward meeting their annual goals and objectives.
Reviewing Issues Related to Community Colleges’ Customized Employee Training Courses
In fiscal year 1997, 16 of 19 community colleges offered customized training courses to business employees for college credit. Dodge City Community College offered most of that training, primarily for two meat-processing plants. Most customized training classes are taught by company employees, and at the companies’ own facilities using their equipment. Because the colleges and businesses generally have agreed the businesses would pay tuition while the college would pay them back for instructors’ fees and “rent,” most customized classes were provided at no cost to the requesting businesses. Some businesses even made money on these classes. For example, the two meat-processing plants in Dodge City received almost $600,000 more than they paid in tuition. In this case, Dodge City Community College also came out ahead financially because it received almost $1.6 million in State aid for these classes. Altogether, community colleges got nearly $2.1 million in State credit-hour aid for customized training courses. Because the total amount of credit-hour aid is fixed and is distributed in proportion to the credit hours each college generates, Dodge City got much more of the available aid than it would have if it didn’t have such an extensive customized training program.
Assessing Selected School Districts’ Use of General Fund Revenues and Lease-Purchase Arrangements for Capital Improvement Projects (100-hour audit)
During fiscal year 1995, Kansas school districts transferred more than $14 million from their general funds to their capital outlay funds. However, we couldn’t tell how the transferred moneys were spent—on land and buildings or other capital outlay projects. In addition, 19 school districts reported spending about $3.5 million of their general fund moneys during fiscal year 1996 for 23 separate lease-purchase agreements to buy buildings or additions to existing buildings. Although allowed by law, the use of lease-purchase agreements has been a concern because they can be used to circumvent the wishes of a district’s voters. We saw five instances where school districts entered into lease-purchase agreements after voters defeated related bond issues. Although none of these five districts were required by law to publish their intent to enter into lease-purchase agreements, four of the districts did publish notice. Finally, we saw two instances where State law could be clarified—one regarding the maximum length of time for a lease-purchase agreement, and one regarding when a lease-purchase agreement is subject to public notice.
Reviewing the Use of State Assessment Tests in Kansas
The State assessment tests were designed to measure students’ average performance at individual schools over time. Officials from the Department of Education and the University of Kansas’ Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation said the assessment test results shouldn’t be used as the sole factor in comparing individual students’ performance or in making comparisons between schools or districts, because of the many other factors that can affect such comparisons. Most school officials are using the assessment test scores appropriately, but confusion about how the test results should be used has caused some school officials to use the results for purposes they weren’t designed for. Recent actions by the Legislature also could contribute to such uses. Some school officials expressed positive opinions about the tests, while others expressed concerns that the tests didn’t provide any new information, that scoring was inconsistent, or that the tests took too long to administer. Teachers generally liked the performance component of the writing assessment test, but disliked that aspect of other tests. Assessment tests in other states we reviewed generally were similar to those in Kansas, except that their tests generally are scored centrally and other standardized tests are required.
Reviewing the Effect of Student Expulsions on School Districts and Students
Schools did not appear to be expelling students immediately after September 20th- the day when they are counted for State aid purposes. But they did expel more students in October and November than during other months of the school year. Typically, students were suspended or expelled for multiple infractions, and were removed from school for a period of about three months. Most students who were allowed to return to their school later in the year did so. About half the students we were able to track in the community were involved with some type of educational program while they were suspended or expelled, and most of those programs were supported by State aid. In a few cases, students were home schooled, or attended a private school at their families’ expense. Slightly less than half the students stayed home or worked during the time they were out of school.
Reviewing the Efficiency of State Printing Plant Operations (100-hour audit)
With few exceptions, standard jobs (such as letterhead, envelopes, and business cards) being printed at State agencies with their own printing facilities could be done by the State Printing Plant or a private-sector printing firm. For our limited sample of such printing jobs, the State Printer’s estimated charges were less to print most items than commercial printers or other State agencies, even though the other State agencies don’t include all costs of operation in their estimated charges.
Reviewing the Efficiency of Central Services In the Wichita School District
Most large school districts we contacted have central service facilities, but most do not provide services such as pest control, trash disposal, and roofing repair with district employees, as Wichita does. When viewed on a per-square foot basis, the Wichita school district's annual operations and maintenance costs were about 14 percent, or $3.8 million, higher than the average of other large districts in Kansas. About $1.3 million of Wichita’s higher costs were caused by higher electrical rates, and about $1 million could be attributed to leave policies and other fringe benefits that are more generous than other area public sector employers' benefits. We also found that the district had more vehicles than it needed, had excess inventories of supplies, had not aggressively explored ways to save money by contracting for services, and did not have systems to ensure that maintenance employees work efficiently. The district is installing a warehouse inventory system that will reportedly save $900,000 in each of three years, and is considering a proposal that could save it $700,000 annually in transportation costs.
Exploring Options for Consolidating School Districts: An Overview
In general, the audit showed that Kansas had more school districts, and fewer students in those districts, than most other states. Average school and class sizes in Kansas also were smaller, which has resulted in Kansas having more teachers and staff per student than other states. Despite these factors, Kansas' spending per student was slightly less than the national median, mainly because Kansas' average teacher salary was below the median. Within Kansas' 304 school districts, enrollment heavily influenced operating expenditures per student, which ranged from $2,900 to $11,400 in 1990-91. As a rule, smaller school districts have much higher expenditures per student than larger districts, primarily because they have much smaller classes and more teachers per student. Unless schools are closed, average class sizes are increased, and teaching staff are reduced, consolidating school districts in Kansas is not likely to result in significant savings.
Analyzing the Relationships Between Funding Levels and the Quality of Education in Kansas School Districts
We found no statistically significant relationships between school districts' general fund expenditures and their students' performance on achievement tests, minimum competency tests, attendance rates, or dropout rates. We found a slight tendency for school districts' dropout rates to increase as the percentage of students receiving subsidized lunches increased, but saw no relationship between any areas of student performance and such factors as pupil-teacher ratios, enrollments, taxable incomes per student, and average teacher salaries.The State's 20 wealthiest school districts were able to spend more on education than other districts while assessing a low mill levy. For the remaining districts, general fund spending on education declined as district wealth declined, although assessed mill levies remained nearly the same regardless of wealth.
An Update of Special Education Programs and Costs in Kansas
Special education enrollments grew by nine percent between fiscal years 1986 and 1990. The most significant increases occurred in the speech and language impaired and gifted programs. Between fiscal years 1986 and 1989 (the latest information available), special education expenditures increased by about 21 percent, mostly because of the growth in salaries and benefits. A large increase in staff in fiscal year 1990 may have caused special education costs to rise as much as 12 percent during that year. Nearly half the student files we examined lacked complete documentation showing that students met the placement criteria or that district staff did all they were required to do in determining students’ eligibility.
Wichita School District: Personnel Practices and Management of Resources
Wichita's overall costs and staffing levels did not appear to be out-of-line compared with the four other large districts in Kansas and similarly sized districts in the Midwest. Wichita appeared to have fewer teachers and more support personnel per student than the average in the other school districts in Kansas. In addition, the district appeared to have a number of elementary schools that could potentially be consolidated. The district documented most of its personnel actions, although documentation was sometimes insufficient for teacher transfers, evaluations, and informal Affirmative Action complaints. The district's personnel practices appeared to be in compliance with most federal and State laws, but did not always comply with certification requirements or with its written procedures for carrying out Board of Education policies.
Off-Campus Vocational Education Courses Offered by Kansas Community Colleges
The 19 community colleges taught 903 off-campus vocational courses in the Fall 1989 semester. The Department of Education has improved its procedures for approving classes taught outside colleges’ designated service areas, but still approved some Fall 1988 classes without the required documentation. The average cost associated with 100 classess we examined was $2,494, or about $54 per credit hour, while average revenuew per class were $4,078, or about $108 per credit hour. Most students we surveyed were very satisfied with their off-campus courses.
Federal regulations require school districts to begin taking action to control asbestos-containing material in their buildings by July 1989. To comply with past and current federal regulations, school district’s estimate they will spend a total of $66 million by 1992. In some instances school districts have done more to control asbestos than required by federal regulations -- primarily by removing the asbestos material rather than requiring or maintaining it -- and thus spent more than necessary. Despite the large amount of money involved, the work performed and people involved are largely unregulated, so districts have little assurance that the asbestos control work performed is adequate and proper.
Off-Campus Courses Offered by Kansas’ Community Colleges
The number of academic off-campus courses has grown substantially since a previous audit. Most of the growth occurred in English, speech, and mathematics courses. For the Spring 1988 off-campus classes sampled, total revenue were almost twice the total costs incurred by the colleges. All the community colleges take steps to ensure the quality of off-campus courses, and off-campus students indicate they are highly satisfied with the quality of courses they have taken. The audit makes recommendations to the Department of Education for ensuring that off-campus classes are approved as required by the policies of the State Board of Education.
While the percentage of school children receiving special education services has dropped slightly in recent years, special education cost have increased by 36 percent. Increases in salaries and fringe benefits account for most of the increase in costs. Half the student files reviewed by the auditors lacked the documentation showing that the districts met the regulatory placement requirements.
Teacher and Administrator Salaries in Kansas School Districts
This audit provides salary figures and background data for every Kansas school district. Over the past four years, teachers’ average salaries rose 26.6 percent, a slightly higher percentage than the 25 percent increases experienced by principals and superintendents. Fiscal year 1985 average salaries were $21,121 for teachers, $33,596 for principals, and $41,839 for superintendents. The average salaries for principals and superintendents varied greatly according to the size of the district, while teacher salaries were relatively constant regardless of district enrollment.
No significant changes have been made in the transfer process since a 1980 performance audit recommended ways to improve that process. But the problem with course transfers does not appear to be a large one.
About one-fourth of all audited purchases greater than $5,000 were made in violation of State bidding laws. Districts failed to obtain sealed competitive bids, did not award bids to the lowet bidder, or split invoices to keep purchases under $5,000.
Examining Faculty Workloads
Published: APRIL, 1985
This audit reviews the workloads of full-time faculty at four State colleges and universities. One result of the study was that full-time faculty reported an average of nearly 54 hours of work during the surveyed week. The audit showed that there is no formal policy Statewide to ensure that faculty members can communicate effectively in English. The audit also examined the extent to which graduate teaching assistants share the teaching load with full-time faculty members.
Options for Containing Special Education Costs in Kansas
Published: MARCH, 1985
The primary reason for increased costs special education appears to be increases in the number of teaching units. The increased costs feed directly into the formula to determine excess costs. The audit presents several options to reduce the State’s special education expenditures. The audit also recommends that the Department of Education collect full time equivalent student information by category, and budget information by program.
Analyzing Differences in Per-Student Costs at Community Colleges
Community colleges’ general fund budgets per pupil differ significantly. This difference is partly because of the way schools budget money, but mostly because of varying personnel costs. More employees per student higher wages, and greater use of full-time faculty were the most frequent reasons found for higher personnel costs.
Examining Certain Aspects of Community College Funding
Overall, state and local funding have stayed relatively constant over the past decade as a percent of total revenues. Students now complete about 85 percent of the courses they attempt. If States aid were computed on that basis, the schools would stand to lose about $4 million a year. State aid rates could be raised by up to $4 per credit hour before current funding levels would be exceeded.
Verifying School District Enrollments: Shawnee Mission and Kansas City School Districts
Inaccurate or erased records and school officials’ failure to keep back-up attendance documents made the enrollment counts in several Kansas City schools nearly impossible to verify. Because enrollment counts are used in computing State equalization aid, the Department of Education needs to hold school districts more accountable for their records. A follow-up audit of the Kansas City district by the Department confirmed that some students who were counted should not have been. The recount resulted in a $117,835 reduction in State aid to the district.
Analyzing the Performance Evaluation System in Kansas
The system is well designed, but performance standards often are not written so they can be objectively measured, ratings often are not adequately justified, performance improvement goals are rarely used, and the system is not always uniformaly applied. The evaluation system is addressing problems of poor performers , but without the merit pay incentive, its effectiveness at reinforcing good performers has deminished.
Kansas spends a higher portion of its budget on higher education than most other states, mainly because more of its population is enrolled in the higher education system. It appears that ways can be found to make the system more efficient without sacrificing quality.
Variations Between School Districts in Special Education Placements
There are considerable differences between districts in the size of certain special education programs. These variations are affected by placement procedures, economic factors, and different philosophies between districts about “mainstreaming” borderline students or providing special services for them.
On September 15 each year, school districts count the nunmber of students enrolled in their schools. This number is used as a mojor componenet of the formula to districute State equalization aid. Because enrollment figures have an impoortant effect on the distribution of State aid,k the Legislative Post Audit Committee requested a review of how these figures are arrived at and how accurate they are. The two largest districtsin the State, Shawnee Mission and Kansas City were reviewed.
School Districts: Summary Report-School District Performance Audits
This audit summary report deals with the broader implications of the previous school audits. The summary states possible action that might be taken Statewide to address problems that appear to be similar in many districts. Recommendations to the Department of Education include informing districts of investment opportunities that would increase interest earnings and instructing district officials that they are legally authorized to request documentation of income from applicants for free and reduced-price meals. There are several recommendations listed in detail.
In March 1982, the Legislative Post Audit Committee directed the Division to conduct four more school district audits in fiscal year 1983. These audits were to provide a clear picutre of how each district is spending its money and managing its resources and program. In addition, the Committee directed that we place emphasis on special education and transportation programs. This report covers the Kansas City school district, which is located in Wyandotte County. The district has 22,803 full-time equivalent students and voers 59 square miles. In fiscal year 1982, the district had $86.2 illion in available funds and $60.8 million in expenditures. State aid received in fiscal year 1982 accounted for about 42 percent of the district’s available funds, up from 38 percent in fiscal year 1978. Most of the State funding was in the form of equalization aid. The audit makes a number of recommendations that could improve the efficiency of the district’s operations and could save the district money. The audit recommends that the district develop a long-range plan for closing enough elementary schools so that remaining building are fully used. While the district plans to recommend the closing of four schools, the auditors estimated that as many as 10 schools could be closed. For each school closed, the district can save about $100,000; by closing 10 schools it could save as much as $1 million a year in maintenance, utilities, and staffing costs. The audit also recommends that the district reduce its maintenance costs to a level more comparable to other large districts, and consider reducing the number of licensed crafsmen.
In March 1982, the Legislative Post Audit Committee directed the Division to conduct four more school district audits in fiscal year 1983. As with last year’s audits, these audits are to provide as clear a picture as possible of how each district is spending its money and managing its resources and programs. In addition, the Committee directed that the auditors place special emphasis on special education and transportation programs. The report covers the Phillipsburg school district. The district has 770 full-time equivalent students and covers 353 square miles. In fiscal eyar 1982, the district had $3.2 million in available funds and more than $2.3 million in expenditures. State aid received in fiscal year 1982 accounted for about 28 percent of the district’s available funds, up from 20 percent in fiscal year 1978. Most of the State funding was in the form of equalization aid. The audit recommends several areas in which money can be saved. The recommendations with the greatest financial impact deal with the district’s investment practices. We found that by combining some certificates of deposit, by pursuing higher yielding investments for some of the district’s money currently held in 5.25 percent checking accounts, and by obtaining interest on some checking accounts that are currently non-percent increase in interst earnings. Other cost saving recommendations include one directed to the Legislature that it consider amending purchasing statutes to allow Phillipsburg and other school districts to purchase items from regular vendors instead of special industries if districts can decrease their costs by doing so.
The Wamego School District operates four schools--two elementrary schools, one middle school, and one high school. All of them are located in Wamego, a town with a population of about 3,100. During the 1981-82 school year, the district had a full-time equivalent enrollment of 1,007.7 students. Enrollment decreased by 79.9 students from the 1977-1978 school year, but preliminary figures for the 1982-1983 school year showed an increase of 24.8 students. Enrollments are projected to remain stable or increase slightly during the next few years. The district had 124.2 full-time equivalent staff positions during the 1981-82 school year, including 64.8 regular classroom teachers. The teaching staff has increased by about nine percent since 1978. Between fiscal years 1978 and 1982, the funds available to finance the district’s operations rose from $2.1 million to $3.9 million, an increase in 85 percent. This increase is considerably greater than the inflation rate of 45.3 percent during the same period. State aid, local taxes, and balances carried over from the previous year constituted most of the funds available. Local and county taxes, federal aid, and other sources such as reimbursements for school lunches have decreased as a percent of the total funds available, while State support and beginning balances have increased. The district’s expenditures rose at a slower rate during the same period. Expenditures increased 54 percent from fiscal year 1978 to fiscal year 1982, or from about $1.8 million to $2.8 million. Part of the increase can be attributed to a substantial jump in bond and interest expenditures for major construction programs.
Summary Report - School District Performance Audits andDoniphan County Education Cooperative
An audit report was issued for each of the following school districts: Wichita, Topeka, Columbus, Spring Hill, Russell, Elwood, Greeley, & LeRoy-Gridley. The summary report deals with the broader implications of the series of audits; it makes recommendations for possible action that might be taken statewide to address problems that appear to be similar in many districts. Such as: Improving budget practices and procedures Improving investment practices and procedures Encouraging more efficient use of staff and buildings.Part II covers the Doniphan County Education County Education Cooperative. When the LPAC selected the school districts, it also directed the Division to review the Cooperative, which provides special education services to one of the audited districts. Special education was one program of particular interest to the Committee.
This report is one in a series of school district audits. At the direction of the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the Task Force on School Finance, LPA has addressed a wide variety of subjects in the operation of the districts, ranging from budgeting practices to class sizes and transportation programs. Basic findings: The district’s financial picture appears healthy; its carry-over fund balances reflect its ability to finance construction and renovation projects and still maintain funds to cover expenses; and the General Fund expenditures are comparable to other districts its size. Transfers from the General Fund, although necessary to support day-to-day operations of some programs financed through special revenue funds, significantly increase the amount of State aid going to support programs that already receive State categorical aid. The district complied with most State laws and guidelines for purchasing items and managing funds, but was not in compliance in a few instances. The number of staff positions has declined in recent years, though not as much as the decline in enrollment. Salaries for classroom teachers and for principals are lower than the averages for other districts. The current level of staffing for teachers appears comparable to districts of similar size, but the level of staffing for administrators appears high. The district’s minimum requirements for graduation from high school exceed the State’s minimum, and its course offerings are extensive. By shifting grade levels at its middle and elementary schools, the district can close some of its elementary schools. The district provides transportation to large numbers of students it is not required by law to transport. Federal cutbacks in the school lunch program, together with rising costs, mean that the district will have to find additional funds to keep the school lunch program solvent in the future. School officialns currently do not verify information on most applications for free or reduced price meals.
This report is one in a series of school district audits. At the direction of the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the Task Force on School Finance, LPA has addressed a wide variety of subjects in the operation of the districts, ranging from budgeting practices to class sizes and transportation programs. Basic findings: The district’s: financial picture appears sound, the fund balance appears high, and the expenditures are higher than other districts its size. The district generally spends nearly all it is allowed by law to spend from the General Fund. Transfers from the General Fund, although necessary to support special revenue funds, significantly increase the amount of State aid going to support programs that already receive State categorical aid. By managing its cash flow more wisely, the district can increase the amount of money it invests. The district needs to make changes to comply with certain laws, guildelines, and accounting controls. Average teachers’ and administrators’ salaries are comparable to or lower than averages for other districts. District-wide, the current level of staffing for teachers is higher than other medium-sized districts in the State. Despite continuing enrollment declines, the Russell County School district continues to operate and staff an inordinate number of schools for its enrollment size. There is considerable evidence to suggest that the Gorham and Dorrance schools should be closed and that their students should be transferred to the Russell schools. The Russell County School Board apparently already has the authority to close the high schools in Gorham and Dorrance. There is evidence to suggest that the elementary school in Luray should be closed and that its students should be transferred to the high school in Lucas. If a need for additional facilities would be indicated in the surrounding districts of Sylvan Grove and Paradise, the Luray and Lucas facilities might be consolidated with those districts. The local Board of Education interpreted State law as not allowing auditors access to personnel records. The district doesn’t always submit accurate information to the Dept. of Education. The district’s transportation costs, do not seem out of line when compared with other large, sparsely populated districts. Federal cutbacks in the school lunch program, together with rising costs, mean that the district will have to find additional funds to keep the school lunch program solvent in the future. School officials currently do not verify information op applications for free or reduced price lunches.
This report is one in a series of school district audits. At the direction of the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the Task Force on School Finance, LPA has addressed a wide variety of subjects in the operation of the districts, ranging from budgeting practices to class sizes and transportation programs. Basic findings: The district depends heavily o State equalization aid, seems financially sound, and their expenditures are comparable to other districts its size. Transfers from the General Fund, although necessary to support special revenue funds, significantly increase the amount of State aid supporting programs that already receive State categorical aid. Enrollment in the district increased by 9% from 1977 to 1981, and short-term and long-term projections call for further increases. As enrollments have increased, teaching staffs have grown; but the district’s student-teacher ratios are still higher than averages for districts or comparable size and for all districts Statewide. Salaries for teachers and administrators are higher than averages of similiar-sized districts. The district currently appears to have enough classrooms and other facilities, but as enrollments increase, the district faces the problem of accommodating extra students. The district doesn’t always submit accurate information to the Dept. of Education. School officials seldom verify information on applications for free or reduced price lunches.
This report is one in a series of school district audits. At the direction of the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the Task Force on School Finance, LPA has addressed a wide variety of subjects in the operation of the districts, ranging from budgeting practices to class sizes and transportation programs. Basic findings: The district’s financial picture is slightly tenuous, but expenditures compare favorable with other districts its size. The district’s General Fund budget appears to reflect financing needs. Transfers from the General fund, although necessary to support special revenue funds, significantly increase the amount of State aid supporting programs that already receive State categorical aid. The volume of reimbursements made by the district into its General Fund presents a reporting and accounting management problem. The district is not in compliance with several State laws regarding purchasing contracts. It needs to make changes to comply with certain State laws, regulations, and guidelines. The district’s high school classroom facility may soon need to be rebuilt or extensively repaired to ensure student’s safety. The current level of staffing for teachers appears comparable to districts of similar size, but the level of staffing for administrators appears high. The district’s minimum graduation requirement for physical education was one- half credit unit short of the State requirement. The district doesn’t always submit accurate information to the Dept. of Education. Federal cutbacks in the school lunch program, together with rising costs, mean that the district will have to find additional funds to keep the school lunch program solvent in the future. School officials request income verifications on some applications for free or reduced price lunches, but that verification policy should be expanded. Nearly two-thirds of the studens enrolled at Columbus Unified High School take vocational courses from the Southeast Kansas Area Vocational-Technical School at Columbus.
This report is one in a series of school district audits. At the direction of the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the Task Force on School Finance, LPA has addressed a wide variety of subjects in the operation of the districts, ranging from budgeting practices to class sizes and transportation programs. Basic findings: The district’s expenditures compare favorably with other districts its size The district’s General Fund budget exceeds financing needs Transfers from the General Fund, although sometimes necessary to support special revenue funds, have built up carry-over balances in some of thes funds as well. The district can earn more interest on the money it invests. The district needs to make changes to comply with certain laws, guidelines, and accounting controls. District-wide, the current level of staffing for teachers and administrators appears comparable to other small districts in the State. Salaries for teachers and administrators are lower than average for small school districts. There is considerable evidence to suggest that Gridley High School should be closed and that its students should be transferred to LeRoy High School. The district is not evaluating experienced teachers as often as State law requires. There are ways to operate the district’s transportation program more efficiently and economically. The district should be able to compensate for federal funding cuts in school lunch program because it has a large beginning balance and because of recent increases in the price of school lunches. School officials currently do not verify information on applications for free or reduced price lunches.
This report is one in a series of school district audits. At the direction of the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the Task Force on School Finance, LPA has addressed a wide variety of subjects in the operation of the districts, ranging from budgeting practices to class sizes and transportation programs. Basic findings: The district’s financial picture appears healthy. The district’s expenditures compare favorably with other districts its size. The district’s General Fund budget exceeds financiing needs. Transfers from the General Fund have been necessary to support special revenue funds. By managing its cash flow more wisely, the district can increase the amount of money it invests. Even for the money it now invests, the district could earn substantially more interest. The district is not in compliance with several State laws regarding purchasing contracts. The district allowed several activity funds to have deficit balances, violating guidelines that funds never have a deficit balance. The district appears to have enough classrooms and other facilities for the courses it offers. As enrollments have declined, the size of the staff has been reduced, though not at the same rate as the decline in enrollment. The current level of staffing for teachers and administrators appears comparable to other small districts in the State. Salaries for teachers and administrators are higher than average for small school districts. The district is not evaluating less experienced teachers as often as State law requires. The district does not always submit accurate information to the Dept. of Education. The district’s transportation costs, although high, do not seem out of line when compared with other large, sparsely populated districts. Federal cutbacks in the school lunch program, together with rising costs, mean that
Elwood School District
Published: OCTOBER, 1981
This report is one in a series of school district audits. At the direction of the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the Task Force on School Finance, LPA has addressed a wide variety of subjects in the operation of the districts, ranging from budgeting practices to class sizes and transportation programs. Basic findings: the district depends heavily on State equalization aid. With State aid, the district’s financial picture appears healthy; expenditures compare favorable with other districts its size. The district’s General Fund budget exceeds financing needs. Transfers from the General Fund, although sometimes necessary to support special revenue funds, have built up carry-over balances in some of these funds as well. The district can ear more interest on the money it invests; it needs to make changes to comply with certain State laws. The district appears to have enough classrooms and other facilities for the courses it offers. The district’s current staffing level for teachers and administrators appears comparable to other small districts in the State. Salaries for teachers are comparable to other small districts; salaries for administrators are considerably above. Evidence suggest that consolidation with other districts should receive careful consideration. Federal cutbacks in the school lunch program, together with rising costs, means that the district will have to find additional funds to keep the school lunch program solvent in the future. School officials currently do not verify information on applications for free or reduced price lunches.
This audit examines a “growth industry” in higher education--off-campus courses. Off-campus education has problems associated with its growth. The auditors examined two such problems--duplication of courses and programs by different schools, and unequal quality of off-campus and on-campus courses. The report recommends that the Legislature establish a set of policies and guidelines for reducing unnecessary duplication and for making on- and off- campus courses more uniform in their quality. It also recommends someone be designated to more carefully control the quality and proliferation of off-campus courses. Finally, the report recommends that hobby and recreation courses be clearly defined in order to separate courses that should receive State aid from those that should not.
The Kansas Community Junior College System, Part I: State Financing and Supervision
This audit assessed State aid and supervision of the 19 community junior colleges in Kansas. State aid to the colleges totaled $12.5 million in fiscal year 1977, accounting for nearly one-third of their revenues. To determine the effect of this aid on the funding of the colleges’ academic and vocational programs, the audit examined all 19 colleges’ costs and revenues. The survey showed that many of the State-supported courses and programs were costing less than the money provided to fund them. Some colleges took in almost double the cost of teaching outdistrict courses and the colleges combined took in $5 million more than the cost of operating their vocational programs. Such information is now largely unavailable to legislative and executive officials. To provide better information about funding levels and expenditures of State funds, the audit recommended the development of a uniform accounting system on a program basis.The audit found that the Department of Education doesn’t have adequate criteria for assessing whether courses are academic courses that qualify for State aid. The audit recommended that better criteria be established.Other findings and recommendations in the report relate to changing computation procedures for the colleges’ general fund budget limitations so colleges with declining enrollments will not receive larger budget increases than colleges with stable enrollments, ensuring greater accountability of State funds through improved audits, expanding budget requests, and reviewing the colleges’ State plan.
Program Results Evaluation of the Kansas Tuition Grant Program
The purpose of this audit is two-fold; (1) to examine the administration of the program by the State Education Commission and, (2) to assess the Program’s impact on Kansas students and independent colleges.