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Risk for at-risk students

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

A bill being considered by a Kansas Senate Committee, SB 103, could change the definition of at-risk students and affect school districts' funding.

Funding is based on students eligible for free or reduced lunches. The bill being considered would use criteria for students in lower grades, kindergarten to grades three or four, but only those identified as not proficient in academics would be listed as at-risk in the upper grades.

If passed, it would represent a "shift in philosophy," said Mark Hauptman, Hays USD 489 assistant superintendent for special services.

Historically, Hays has not had a high number of students eligible to receive free and reduced lunches compared to other districts, Hauptman said.

He isn't sure what the final version of the bill will be, but a change from using free and reduced lunch eligibility likely would mean less money for the Hays district.

Trego County USD 208 Superintendent George Griffith was among those who appeared before the Senate Committee earlier this month. Griffith appeared on behalf of Schools for Quality Education, an organization of more than 100 rural Kansas school districts.

"It would take a lot of money from rural schools," Griffith said of the bill.

Students would be classified as at-risk only after they failed to pass a test.

A test might not be a good indicator because a student might not be a good test-taker, or circumstances might cause a student not to do well on a particular test on a certain day, he said.

"It's reactive, not proactive," Griffith said.

No action was taken at the hearing for the bill.

"We don't know where it stands," Brad Neuenswander, deputy commissioner, Division of Learning Services, Kansas State Department of Education, wrote in an email.