By Gene Meyer | Kansas Reporter
TOPEKA — Want to know how to spend Kansas’ educational resources as efficiently and effectively as possible?
Form a committee.
Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, has.
Ditto the Kansas Association of School Boards.
So did the Legislature, in 2006, when it formed the Kansas 2010 Commission to take a five-year look at the question as part of a far wider examination of school funding.
Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, rented a committee — sort of. She engineered a Standard & Poor’s 2006 study and 2007 follow-up that measured the fiscal efficiency of each of Kansas’ then-300 individual school districts. There are 286 now.
Kansas’ Division of Legislative Post Audit, the Legislature’s auditing arm, since then has run its own performance checks on seven of those districts, all of which volunteered for them.
There may have been other studies or panels too, but memories have faded. Dale Dennis, the Kansas State Department of Education’s deputy commissioner for finance, estimates school finance efficiency panels are formed “every three to five years or so, though they aren’t always called that.”
“It’s not a new topic,” Brownback said in a news conference this week. “I remember Gov. Finney talking about it.”
That would be former Gov. Joan Finney, a Democrat, who served 1991-1995.
So, what did those earlier inquiries turn up?
It’s hard to tell, said Stephen Iliff, a Topeka CPA, Kansas 2010 Commission member and longtime advocate, applying business standards to Kansas school finance decisions. Iliff also is a member of the Brownback education efficiency task force, which held its first meeting this week.
“I remember that Standard & Poor’s wrote a great report in the Sebelius administration,” Iliff said. “The trouble was, nobody really paid attention.”
Kansans do pay attention to some of those efforts, said Rochelle Chronister, a former state legislator, former Kansas Republican chairwoman and former head of the cabinet agency then known as Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services who also headed the five-year Kansas 2010 Commission.
“I think legislators are always interested in what we find,” Chronister said. “School districts listen too. “
Chronister said she wants to meet with the governor’s task force too, to include applicable 2010 Commission findings in recommendations that the task force is expected to make.
Meantime, the Kansas Association of School Boards announced Wednesday that it was setting up its own efficiency task force of local school board executives and school administrators to balance what its members feel is an over reliance on CPAs and business analysts on the Brownback panel. There are no current school board members, teachers or education professionals on that task force.
Contact Gene Meyer at email@example.com.