TOPEKA — Attorney General Derek Schmidt recommended Monday to legislative leaders, the governor and public education officials an independent audit be performed of state appropriations to K-12 schools following disclosure $45 million was delivered during the past five years in apparent violation of Kansas law.
Schmidt recommended the 2018 Legislature, the Kansas Board of Education and the Kansas State Department of Education collaborate on an examination to determine whether improper allocations were limited to transportation aid for more urban districts.
“In the interest of accuracy and consistency, I recommend a coordinated approach,” he said. “Launching multiple, uncoordinated reviews would risk subsequent, potentially unproductive arguments about any differences in their respective approaches or conclusions.”
The assessment of financial transfers is prudent given the Legislature’s responsibility to answer a Kansas Supreme Court decision that state financing to more than 280 public schools violated the Kansas Constitution, Schmidt said.
Gov. Sam Brownback proposed the state approve legislation adding $600 million to school finance formulas during the next five years.
Conflict among legislators and public education advocates regarding the $11 million in transportation funding earmarked each year for high-density school districts escalated when House and Senate Republican leaders demanded the Board of Education suspend Dale Dennis, a high-ranking official in the department. Dennis told state auditors he was involved decades ago in making the transportation funding transfers at the behest of legislators.
“As attorney general,” Schmidt said in a letter, “I am concerned about the substance of the audit report’s findings that KSDE distributes public funding in a matter not authorized by state law. I encourage all involved to stay focused on the important legal and policy issues raised in the audit report.”