TOPEKA, KS – At its June meeting, the Kansas State Board of Education approved temporary changes to licensure requirements for substitute teachers, discussed a recommendation to reduce the Fine Arts graduation credit requirement, and got a first look at possible budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2024. The Board also heard updates on the state mental health intervention program, the work of the KSDE School Safety Division, and the progress of the department’s work with school districts to improve cybersecurity. The board agenda and packet are available here. The recording of the two-day meeting is here.
The State Board in January of this year temporarily eliminated its requirement that applicants for a substitute teaching license have 60 hours of college credit. The action, which allowed a person with a high school diploma to apply for a Temporary Emergency Authorized License (TEAL), was prompted by a severe, COVID-induced teacher shortage. The move was controversial in some quarters, but many school districts said it helped address the substitute teacher shortage. You can read KASB coverage of the January decision here.
The amended requirements expired June 1, but Education Commissioner Randy Watson and KSDE staff predict perhaps the worst teacher shortage in state history when school resumes this August.
To help address the shortage, KSDE proposed to grant substitute licenses if the applicant has either a bachelor’s degree or 60 hours of college credit or completes an online training module component. This training would include setting expectations and classroom management strategies, delivery of instruction and checking for understanding, meeting the social and emotional needs of students and strategies to adjust instruction and the classroom environment. KSDE staff said the temporary relaxation would expire at the end of 2022; meanwhile, the state’s Professional Standards Board and the KSDE teacher vacancy and supply committee will work on permanent solutions to the longstanding teacher shortage crisis, which was exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.
Some board members said they weren’t comfortable voting on the recommendation this month, citing a lack of input from professional experts and opposition from teachers and other constituents. Others said immediate action was needed to ensure substitutes are in place when school resumes in roughly eight weeks. After a lengthy discussion, the proposal — with clarifications that TEAL assignments would be for no more than 15 consecutive days in one class and that the temporary proposal will expire at the end of 2022 — was approved on a vote of 7-3 with board members Haas, Jones and Waugh voting no.
Board members heard objections from Kansas fine arts teachers about a state Graduation Requirement Task Force recommendation to change the minimum high school graduation credit requirement from one credit of Fine Arts to one-half a credit. The recommendation would theoretically allow boards to require students to take an additional .5 credit of a non-fine arts course to qualify for graduation. No action was taken at the meeting; Task Force Chair Jim McNiece and Watson said discussions of the recommendations will continue.
Deputy Commissioner Craig Neuenswander presented a preliminary Fiscal Year 2024 KSDE budget proposal for K-12 appropriations. The State Board is required by law to submit an annual budget request to the state legislature.
Neuenswander noted the ongoing concern over legislative underfunding of special education in Kansas. State law directs lawmakers to pay for 92 percent of the “excess cost” (after accounting for an additional federal funding contribution) of educating special education students. Current appropriations for special education state aid represent 70.8% of excess costs; the last time the state complied with the 92% requirement was in the 2010-11 school year.
The federal government currently funds about 15% of its promised 40% excess cost reimbursement under the federal law that mandates students receive special education services. The combined state and federal shortfall means school districts often tap into their general funds to pay for mandated special education services.
Neuenswander said the special education state aid level will fall to 63% of excess cost in 2023-24 because of the expiration of federal COVID aid for special education unless the Board requests additional funding. He presented three options for the Board to consider in its FY 24 budget proposal for special education state aid:
-Request funding to comply only with the final year of the Gannon school finance agreement, with no additional special education state aid. With the expiration of federal COVID funds, districts would receive 63% of their excess costs for special education.
-Increase special ed state aid in FY 24 to target a specific percentage of excess costs, with targets from 70% to 92%. The legislature would have to appropriate $223 million in FY 2024 to reach the 92% figure.
-Request a five-year phase-in of special education state aid at $77 million per year.
The Board will finalize the FY 2024 budget proposal at its July meeting.