The Rundown is your source for news and updates from the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit including conversations with staff discussing the findings of performance audits released to the Kansas Legislature.
A Comparison of Virtual School Expenditures and Outcomes in Kansas and Other States (September 2022)
Virtual school programs are an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Most of the state-run virtual school programs we identified still allowed local districts to operate virtual school programs, but we could not compare student outcomes or expenditures between states. In Kansas, local school districts operate virtual school programs. 105 school districts out of the 286 Kansas school districts spent at least $50 million on virtual school programs in the 2020-21 school year. We reviewed 4 state-run models, 3 of which also offered district operated virtual school programs like Kansas. A lack of data limited our comparison of other states' virtual school program expenditures and outcomes. Data reliability issues prevented us from evaluating outcomes for virtual students in Kansas.
COVID Relief Funding Distribution (September 2022)
In response to the COVID pandemic, the federal government enacted six major relief bills totaling over $5 trillion. The federal government allocated about $34 million to the state of Kansas. Out of that, the state had discretion on how to spend about $2.6 billion. In May 2020, the governor established the Office of Recovery and created a taskforce to distribute and administer certain COVID relief funds. The state distributed CARES Act discretionary funding through a 3 round proess that involved the SPARK taskforce and the State Finance Council. About $1.6 billion in ARPA funds are currently being distributed thorugh legislative appropriation and the SPARK taskforce.
The state's distribution of CARES Act funding appeared appropriate and reasonable. Most of the CARES Act expenditures we reviewed were likey allowable under federal spending rules. However, some expenditures appeared wasteful or raised other concerns even though the expenditure may be allowable under federal rules. Federal rules likely contibuted to the problems we encountered.
Reviewing Connectivity Emergency Response Grants (CERG) for Broadband Development (September 2022)
To increase connectivity in unserved and underserved areas in Kansas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kansas Department of Commerce (Commerce) and other stakeholders developed the Connectivity Emergency Response Grants program in 2020. The program received $50 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Commerce awarded about $48.5 million of that funding in connectivity grants to the internet service providers and Kansas communities that applied. 66 grants went to 39 entities across seven regions of Kansas. South Central Kansas received about $14 million. Southwest Kansas received about $11 million. Northeast Kansas received about $9 million. Southeast and East Central Kansas received just over $5 million each. North Central and Northwest Kansas received around $550,000 or less. The North Central and Northwest regions also requested the least in CERG funding.
Reviewing Issues Related to State Cryptocurrency Tax Policies [July 2022]
Kansas’s cryptocurrency tax policies generally aligned with federal policies, but some of those policies have been difficult to enforce in recent years. Federal tax policy is set up to tax cryptocurrency in several ways. Kansas’s income tax code mirrors federal tax policy. As a result, the state should receive income tax revenue from cryptocurrency transactions. However, it’s unlikely Kansas receives all income tax revenue from cryptocurrency transactions because of a lack of federal reporting guidelines. Finally, state governments have yet to agree on a set of best practices regarding the taxation of cryptocurrencies.
Availability, Cost, and Quality of Centralized IT Security Services [July 2022]
The 2018 Kansas Cybersecurity Act created the Kansas Information Security Office (KISO) to reduce state agencies’ cybersecurity risk. KISO offers agencies 3 cybersecurity service levels--basic, intermediate, and advanced--that appear to align with the Cybersecurity Act requirements we could review. However, KISO’s services may not have as many effects as the Legislature intended because few agencies use intermediate or advanced services. Agency officials we surveyed had mostly positive opinions about KISO’s services but officials may not always know what their agencies’ needs are or what KISO services they receive. That may be because KISO’s communication with agencies isn’t proactive enough.
KISO is funded through fees it collects from agencies. Its revenues appeared to be less than its costs in fiscal years 2020-2021. But we don't know if KISO’s services are cost-effective because of data limitations and neither do KISO officials or most of the 7 agencies we interviewed. KISO officials described steps they take to limit their costs, some of which may have unintended negative effects.
The Audit Proposal Process and New Audits
While some audits are statutorily required, most are requested by legislators and approved by the Legislative Post Audit Committee. A legislator, legislative committee, or representative from the Governor’s Office contacts our staff to let us know they are interested in an audit. In this Rundown episode, Chris Clarke, Legislative Post Auditor, and Kristen Rottinghaus, Deputy Post Auditor, discuss the audit proposal process and summarize the new audit proposals LPA staff will be working on in the coming months.