Some Education Bills to Promote Transparent, Honest Spending

Here’s an idea that is worth watching. The text is taken from Kansas Votes:

House Bill 2239 (Implement statewide USD accounting system)
Introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R) on February 3, 2009, in his role as committee chair, to require the Kansas State Board of Education to develop and implement a uniform system of financial accounting for all school districts (USDs). The accounting records maintained by each USD must be coordinated with the statewide accounting system and must show expenditures for each attendance center in the USD. It must also allow USDs to report any other information required by state or federal law, including other particular information detailed in the bill.

State taxpayers have a significant investment in school districts, no matter where they live. A uniform accounting system helps citizens understand what’s going on, and to compare districts. KSDE already offers guidance for district-level accounting, but a focus on schools would be useful.

There’s another measure dealing with transparency of district spending:

Senate Bill 226 (Publish legislative votes, USD budget data on state website)
Introduced by Sen. Jay Emler (R) on February 5, 2009, in his role as a committee chair, to require the Kansas Department of Administration to include on its public access website a record of each legislator’s vote on any bill during the legislative session, updated on a daily basis, and starting with 2009 legislative session. The bill also would require all school districts to develop annual reports that detail their district’s bond debt payments, salaries of all district employees, contract payments, and more, then submit their reports to the Kansas Secretary of Administration for publication on a state website by September 1, 2010.

Districts do report some financial information on the KSDE web site, but this legislation would expand the scope of disclosure. Disclosure in the spending of the public budget is good.

Next is a measure to make sure that districts are getting the money they deserve for children from low-income families:

House Bill 2307 (Check family income for “at risk” school funding status)
Introduced by Rep. Clay Aurand (R) on February 6, 2009, in his role as committee chair, to require the Kansas State Board of Education to review whether any ineligible students have been incorrectly identified by their school district as meeting the family low-income criteria of the National School Lunch Act. If their family income exceeds that program’s limit on September 20 of any year, the school district would not be able to claim additional state aid for that student as an “at-risk” enrollee that year.

That seems pretty simple. If the district is going to receive money for “at-risk” students, those students ought to actually be “at risk.” Currently, “at risk” means “low income,” which is not necessarily the same as at risk. Some children from high-income families are for a variety of reasons not excellent students, and some students from low-income families do a great job in school. But whatever our measure of “at risk” is, government owes it to taxpayers to make sure that the label is accurately applied.

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