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KS: DeBacker doubts new education standards will cost $63 million

By   /   December 13, 2012  /   No Comments

ADDING IT UP: State auditors estimate that it will cost Kansas school districts $34 million to $63 million over the next fives years to meet new education standards adopted by the state. But Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker says many initiatives are already in progress, and she is skeptical it will cost that much.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

TOPEKA — State auditors say schools will pay plenty to get out from under the controversial No Child Left Behind Act, but Diane Debacker isn’t buying it.

Debacker, Kansas education commissioner, said she doubted estimates from state auditors that it would cost public school districts $34 million to $63 million over the next five years to adjust to the Common Core State Standards, a new set of educational guidelines aimed at standardizing math and English education across the country.

Joe Lawhon, principal auditor for the Legislative Division of Post Audit, presented the report to lawmakers Thursday afternoon. The audit estimates school districts would probably incur the bulk of the cost —  $30 million to $50 million — replacing textbooks and other instructional materials over the next two years. Staff training could cost an additional $2 million to $10 million.

The Kansas State Department of Education, on the other hand, could save as much as $3 million annually by using the common core system. Savings would come because KSDE could skip the process of developing student assessment tests.

“Nearly all of these costs will be incurred by school districts, however, school districts will have options to avoid out-of-pocket expenditures,” Lawhon said.

Those options, Lawhon said, include replacing only the required English and math textbooks while delaying replacements for other subjects, and scheduling staff training with existing training days to avoid unnecessary costs.

But DeBacker reminded legislators that Kansas educators and administrators haven’t been sitting idle.

DEBACKER: Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker

“I think what we have to keep in mind is that districts are currently doing this work,” DeBacker said.

“You’re going to see added expenses in math and English language arts because new standards were adopted in October 2010, but you would see that whether it was the Common Core State Standards or the Kansas Common Standards.”

Lawhon said the audit estimate isn’t perfect, but it’s designed to at least give officials an idea of what could lie ahead.

“In estimating future costs, there are a lot of unknowns,” Lawhon said. “We did our best to come up with a credible estimate, but some things are just uncertain.”

DeBacker said many school districts replace textbooks on the same revision cycle as the state department of education, meaning many have been planning for this expense. She said school districts cannot calculate costs associated with the new education standards.

Because it’s not a line-item expenditure, DeBacker said, “there’s no way to pull that out.”

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at @muckraker62.

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Travis Perry