Kansas schools coalition discusses funding incentives

Since the federal No Child Left Behind law 15 years ago, there’s been a great emphasis on student achievement in school, defined as how well students perform on standardized tests.

Thursday, a group of educators meeting in Salina discussed shifting that focus to student success, defined as how well students do in life.

The Coalition of Innovative School Districts, created by the Kansas Legislature in 2013 to allow a small group of school districts to work outside some of the state’s usual educational red tape, discussed an addition to the school finance formula that would reward districts based on how well their students do after they graduate.

Randy Watson, superintendent of the McPherson School District and soon to be Kansas Commissioner of Education, said the idea came out of discussions among legislative and education leaders from around the state. Discussions were led by Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Though details are sketchy, the plan would reward districts in the coalition based on a series of post-graduation factors, such as the number of students who:

▪ Had completed two semesters of college and enrolled in a third semester within two years of graduation

▪ Had earned an industry certification (such as a welding certificate) within two years of graduating

▪ Had completed military basic training within two years of graduation

▪ Had a job and were earning at least $27,500 a year within two years of graduation, or

▪ Were working at least 30 hours a week if they have a significant disability.

Under the plan, a district would receive $1,000 for each successful student, with the amount adjusted for the district’s poverty rate; a district with a 10 percent poverty rate would get 10 percent of that $1,000.

In addition, districts would lose money from this “success index” funding for each student who went to college and needed to take remedial classes.

Using what information it could find, the Kansas Department of Education estimated how much each of the coalition’s six districts would receive if the proposal were in place now, based on figures from the class of 2011.

McPherson, for example, would get an additional $25,163, Hugoton an additional $15,848 and Kansas City an additional $287,485.