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KS: Former head of state-audited school joins school spending task force

By   /   October 18, 2012  /   No Comments

By Gene Meyer | Kansas Reporter

DETAILS: The sole educator named to a state school spending task force says defining what counts as classroom instruction should be the panel’s first step.

FAIRWAY — Two years ago, Kansas Legislative Post Auditors told Brian Pekarek how they thought the tiny north central Kansas school district he led could cut expenses by $232,000 a year.

Now Petarek has been named to a state task force to help all of Kansas’ 286 school districts find similar ways to streamline their spending so that more of their funds end up in classrooms.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback appointed the Iola Unified School District 257 superintendent to the Governor’s School Efficiency Task Force following criticism that only business executives and accountants were named to the panel three weeks ago.

Two years ago, as leader of the smaller Clifton-Clyde Unified School District 224, Pekarek and the school board there volunteered for a performance evaluation by the state auditors as part of an earlier effort to see how Kansas schools might cut overhead and send that money to classroom instruction. Only six other districts similarly volunteered.

The audit found that Clifton-Clyde could save as much as $232,000 a year in operating expenses, primarily by putting more students in partly filled classrooms and eliminating departments with low enrollment.

Kansas statutes make it an official policy to aim to spend no less than 65 percent of state school money on programs and projects that involve actual classroom instruction. But determining exactly what constitutes classroom instruction needs to be the first order of business for the task force, Pekarek said Thursday.

“We have to ask how they came up with that 65 percent number and what’s in it,” he said.

Task force members are scheduled to meet Nov. 9 in Topeka. Brownback, meanwhile, has also opened an online portal on the official state website where Kansans can anonymously post suggestions for curbing perceived spending abuse or increasing spending efficiency.

Contact Gene Meyer at gene.meyer@kansasreporter.org

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Gene Meyer