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USA-Kansas Response to LPA Audit
Despite everything schools have done with the additional funding over the last 18 months, there still seems to be some dissatisfaction from a few legislators and a newspaper editorial board. The most recent concern stems from the December 2019 Legislative Post Audit on At-Risk spending. Of the 20 schools audited, LPA reported the majority of the dollars were spent on teachers and programs, but the audit also generalized the money was not specifically on at-risk students. At the same time, the audit reported districts spent more money on at-risk students than they received from state at-risk dollars. If the combination of those statements is not confusing enough, the audit team also determined the Kansas State Department of Education did not do their job in providing schools with appropriate at-risk programs and guidance.
For most administrators who have a strong understanding of at-risk students, these statements can be extremely frustrating for the simple fact in today’s world identifying at-risk students is like hitting a moving target. School districts spend the majority of their identified at-risk dollars on teachers because it is the most efficient use of the money. By keeping the number of students in a classroom down, teachers have more time to individualize student instruction and support specific student’s needs. Again, it warrants repeating, school districts do not rely completely on at-risk funds to support at-risk students. In the 20 districts audited, the audit revealed an additional $37 million from the district’s budget was spent on at-risk services and programing.
Addressing the statement KSDE is not providing guidance is just a simple case of not understanding education and the challenge of the at-risk student. There is no such thing as a magic list of programs that are going to support over 1,000 schools in 286 school districts in a state as diverse as Kansas. To add to the difficultly of understanding at-risk students, making sure every intervention is “research based” is just misguided. Principals and teachers are dealing with new student challenges each and every day, which puts students “at-risk” of not being successful in school or not graduating on time. These additional at-risk dollars are provided to schools based on the number of students who receive free lunches, but free lunches do not identify all students at-risk. Some of those identified by the SES statutes are not at risk at all. In reality, if we really counted students at-risk in school, those numbers might double what a free lunch count shows. Identifying students who are at-risk goes much deeper than a simple reading or math intervention program and deeper than well-planned MTSS strategies. It requires people who are capable of caring, supporting, and leading students who are struggling in the moment.
In a world in which schools must suspend or file charges against students for making juvenile gestures or comments in the name of safety, where companies intentionally design drug paraphernalia to look like traditional school supplies so kids can use them in school and not get caught, where one in eight teenagers contemplate suicide, when elected officials model bullying behavior on a variety of platforms, including social media, the list could go on for pages. The question we should be asking is how can we ever expect to develop a master list of supports designed to help all kids at-risk when the dangers are so agile?
Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the primary strategy for supporting students who are in need of assistance, support, guidance, or just a shoulder to cry-on should be left to the professionals at the level closest to the students? Wouldn’t it say a great deal to the other states in this great country we all live in that in Kansas we trust our principals, teachers, superintendents, counselors, social workers, paras, bus drivers, food service workers, custodians, coaches, and any other specialists who work in our schools and we appreciate their time, expertise, and love they share with our children? Before anyone jumps to a conclusion about why something is being done in a school, maybe we should ask the leadership team “why” before we just assume the worst.
Memberships Has It's Benefits!
September 2019 Issue
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During the 2018-2019 membership year, USA-Kansas launched a new online publication for Kansas Administrators, Under the Umbrella. The Magazine contains articles, stories, and pictures from Kansas schools, programs, and events. In 2019-2020, our goal is to increase the content with more member experiences.
The intent of this publication is to provide one more method of connecting Kansas leaders with successful programs and activities . If you are interested in sharing about a program in school please contact Jerry Henn (firstname.lastname@example.org). He can provide you with more information.
August - Starting the New School Year
September - Understanding the Data
October - Understanding Relationships
November - Building Collaborative Leadership
December - Using Reflective Growth as a tool
January - Women in Leadership
February - Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
March - Working with the Results
April - Hiring the Best and Brightest
May - Uniting Leadership Convention 2020
1420 SW Arrowhead Rd., Suite 100 Topeka, KS 66604
Monday - Friday 8:00am - 4:30pm
Closed Saturday - Sunday
1420 SW Arrowhead Rd., Suite 100
Topeka, KS 66604