Topeka Four members of the Kansas State Board of Education issued a statement Wednesday saying the Kansas State Department of Education had no role in a study that was used to justify the amount of money contained in a new school funding bill that lawmakers passed this session.
Their statement directly refuted comments made before the Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday by Jeff King, a former state senator who was hired by the Legislature in April to serve as special counsel in the school finance litigation.
“The Kansas State Board of Education would like to clarify what it believes were misstatements made by Jeff King, an attorney representing the state, during Kansas Supreme Court oral arguments on K-12 education funding Tuesday,” the statement read.
The controversy concerns what some lawmakers called the “successful schools model” that was used to create the school funding formula. That model looked at how well students within a district performed on state reading and math tests and compared that to how well they would be expected to perform, given the demographic makeup of the district and other risk factors.
Using that data, researchers identified 41 districts in which students performed significantly better than would be expected, calculated the average amount of money per student those districts were spending and used that figure as the basis for the new formula’s base per-pupil aid for all districts.
Although the Kansas State Department of Education has used that kind of analysis when looking at other measures of school performance, the analysis used in the school finance formula was done by the Legislature’s own nonpartisan Research Department.
Nevertheless, in response to a question from Justice Dan Biles of the Kansas Supreme Court, Jeff King, an attorney for the state, said it came from the State Board of Education.
“I do know that the data was used, the analysis to determine those 41 schools was not a legislative analysis, but was actually a state board analysis done using their calculations as presented by Commissioner (Randy) Watson to the Senate and House committees,” King told the court.
King is a former state senator and former Senate Vice President who was hired by the Legislature in April to serve as special counsel in the school finance litigation. He was also named a special assistant attorney general in the school finance case specifically so he could take part in Tuesday’s oral arguments.
The origin of the study could be important as the court deliberates the case because the study was used to justify a $293 million increase in annual school funding, phased in over two years.
But the official position of the Kansas State Board of Education, as well as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, is that schools need at least an additional $600 million on top of that in order to produce the kind of results that the Supreme Court has said are necessary to show that funding is constitutionally adequate.
Watson did, in fact, make a presentation to the House and Senate committees that worked on the school finance bill, and he used a chart in his presentation similar to the one used in the school finance analysis. But the State Board of Education members said Watson’s chart was based on high school graduation rates, not on student test scores.
“The State Board of Education is disappointed to be linked to a calculation with which it had no involvement,” the statement said.
The statement was signed by board chairman Jim Porter of Fredonia, vice chair Kathy Busch of Wichita, legislative liaison Jim McNiece of Wichita, and assistant legislative liaison Deena Horst of Salina.
In a telephone interview, King apologized for any misunderstanding. He said the message he tried to convey was that the methodology behind the successful schools model was developed by the Department of Education, but that the model itself was developed by the Legislature’s Research Department.
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