What Should the Legislature Should do About At-Risk?

The Topeka Capital-Journal offers a review of its recommendations for the legislative session. Front and center: education.

“We’d all feel better about the second and third years of the education plan,” an editorial reads, “if you could assure us Kansas has enough money to pay for it. A better-than-expected state revenue forecast helps ease our concern somewhat, but we’d suggest you find a way to lock away once and for all the millions and millions of dollars demanded by your friends across the street at the Supreme Court.”

On the related matter of at-risk students, the paper had this to say:

“We’d encourage a closer look at the controversial and difficult-to-monitor issue of “at-risk” students. Turns out, the already rather pricey education bill might be unnecessarily padded because of confusion about the number of at-risk students.”

We’re all in favor of sound accounting practices, of course. But instead of simply giving more money to schools based on their head count of “at risk” students, why not help out those students by giving money to their parents, in the form of a voucher that can be used at the school of the family’s choice? That’s one way to avoid the conflict of interest that arises when the schools that certify students as being “at risk” automatically get the extra funding for having an at-risk student.

Source: 2007 Legislative Session–Get to Work

Meanwhile, the Emporia Gazette reports that the definition of “at risk” could be up for debate:

“Some details of the school finance plan may also get some tweaking, said Rep. Don Hill, R-Emporia, such as how to define an “at-risk” student. Right now, that’s based on whether the student qualifies for a free or reduced-cost school lunch. Changing the definition could impact districts with high “at risk” populations, including Emporia.

‘It’ll be looked at, for sure, to see if there might be a better way to put those numbers,’ Hill said. ‘It’s certainly not perfect. The question is, to the extent that it has flaws, can it be improved on?’”

(Source: Lawmakers prepare for new term, Emporia Gazette, January  6)

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