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.
Estimating the Cost of K-12 Education [October 2023]
In 2022, Kansas school districts received $7.9 billion in funding from state, local, and federal sources, up 12% from 2017. Since 2017, public school enrollment has decreased while staffing and spending have increased. Only about 1/3 of students met state standards in the 3 subjects we evaluated, and the numbers have been declining since 2017.
It is unlikely that any amount of additional spending will result in all students meeting state standards. We used a logistic regression model to predict how increases in regular education spending might affect student outcomes. Across-the-board spending increases were associated with almost no increase in the percentage of students who met state standards. Targeted increases in spending were associated with improvements in the number of students who met state standards, but significant numbers of students would still be unlikely to meet state standards. Targeted increases in spending were associated with improvements in the number of students who met state standards, but significant numbers of students would still be unlikely to meet state standards. We identified several factors, such as teacher pay and administrative spending, that were also associated with whether students met state standards. Much like our own model, the research we reviewed found a positive relationship between spending and outcomes but it was not strong in all circumstances. Research also suggests spending on teacher pay, books, and time in class may improve student outcomes.
We estimated how much it would cost to provide special education services in Kansas. In the 2021-22 school year, Kansas school districts provided special education services to nearly 89,000 children. We estimated it would cost between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion to provide special education services that would allow students to meet their IEP goals. Our special education estimate has a few important caveats related to staffing and efficiency.
Assessing the Impact of Permanent Work from Home Options [August 2023]
As of Spring 2023, the State of Kansas currently employs about 18,000 employees across 81 state executive branch agencies, boards, or commissions. State agencies have discretion to create their own work-from-home policies. State agencies reported about 30% of state employees currently work from home all or part of the time. They also estimated that an additional 15% of state employees could also work from home going forward. Some state jobs are better suited for working from home than others. Permanent work-from-home options could help the state hire and retain staff, have limited impact on productivity, and have a mixed impact on costs. Cost increases could be offset by reducing office space, but this has yet to occur in Kansas.
Evaluating the Rural Opportunity Zones Program [August 2023]
The Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ) program incents individuals to move to rural Kansas counties. Currently, 95 of the state's 105 counties qualify as rural opportunity zones. The program incents individuals to move by providing up to 2 benefits: up to $15,000 in student loan repayment assistance over 5 years and, for individuals who relocate from out-of-state, a 100% state income tax credit for up to 5 years.
As part of this audit, we used program data to estimate how often the ROZ program incented program participants to move to rural counties. We also used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to help estimate to extent to which the ROZ program counteracted rural depopulation. Based on our estimates, the ROZ program had limited effects on rural depopulation on a statewide basis. However, the program had more significant effects on the extent to which 19 counties gained or lost population.
Reviewing the African American Affairs Commission’s Statutory Compliance and Expenditures [August 2023]
The Kansas African American Affairs Commission is a liaison office within the Governor’s Office and its fiscal year 2022 expenditures were about $130,000. It is comprised of 7 commissioners and an executive director. In this audit, we reviewed the commission and executive director's statutory compliance and expenditure approvals.
The commission and its executive director are required to meet various statutory requirements and bylaws to accomplish their mission. The commission did not comply with 2 of 6 meeting-related duties and 1 of 3 staff-related duties outlined in law or bylaws in the timeframe we reviewed. The executive director complied with her statutory duties to serve the commission in 2022 and the first half of 2023. The commissioners who responded to our survey generally had positive reviews of the executive director’s performance, but some thought she wasn’t as effective or responsive as she should be.
With regard to its expenditures, the commission’s fiscal year 2023 expenditures seemed reasonable to accomplishing its duties at a high level. However, about half of the 11 individual expenditures we reviewed in detail did not receive written approval to ensure they were appropriate. Commissioners told us they had insufficient financial awareness and oversight, in part because the executive director has not shared relevant information.
Evaluating At-Risk Expenditures and Statutory Compliance [July 2023]
In 2021-22, the state provided $406.3 million in dedicated funding for school districts to deliver additional services to students at-risk of academic failure. State law requires that district spend money from their at-risk fund only on programs approved by the State Board of Education. Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) officials told us the State Board has delegated the task of approving at-risk programs to the department. None of the KSDE-approved programs we reviewed met the statutory criteria necessary to be included on the list. Further, most of the approved programs we reviewed had little to no evidence of effectiveness. Additionally, many KSDE-approved programs did not appear to meet the purpose of at-risk programs, which is to provide above and beyond opportunities to at-risk students. The problems we identified with KSDE's approved at-risk list are the result of several factors. This includes things such as, KSDE's process for approving at-risk programs does not include some statutorily required criteria, the department does not follow it's own process, and the board does not provide any oversight to the department. This audit showed the same problems as in our 2019 at-risk audit, and none of our recommendations have been adequately implemented.
Most of the $176 million in at-risk expenditures we reviewed for 20 districts was spent on salaries and benefits. About 30% of the $5.2 million in expenditures we reviewed did not adhere to statutory spending rules. Further, it is unclear how much of the districts' at-risk spending targets at-risk students or provides them an "above and beyond" opportunity. Problems with the at-risk spending guidance KSDE provided to school districts may contribute to some of the unallowable spending we found.
Over the last 6 years, students eligible for free lunch have consistently performed worse on state assessments than students who are not eligible for free lunches. All 3 cohort groups we evaluated performed worse over time, but this trend was more pronounced for students eligible for free lunch. Additionally, the graduation rates and ACT scores of students eligible for free lunch were also lower than other students.
Information Systems: Reviewing Specific IT Security Controls Across State Agencies and School Districts [July 2023]
This audit determined whether selected state agencies and school districts adequately complied with certain IT security standards and best practices. State agencies must follow state IT security standards to protect sensitive information against data loss and theft. Local entities are not required to follow the state's policies.
9 of 15 entities we audited did not substantively comply with IT standards and best practices in at least 2 of 3 subject areas we evaluated. Specifically, 8 of 15 entities did not substantively comply with selected security awareness training controls. 10 of 15 entities did not substantively comply with selected account security controls. Lastly, 8 of 15 did not substantively comply with selected incident response controls. The findings demonstrate a poor "tone at the top" at many entities--meaning lack of top management oversight and supervision.