Superintendents push to extend funding for at-risk students in Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Money that is targeted to help poor or struggling students in the state could be going away.

Superintendents from Kansas schools were at the Capitol on Tuesday stressing to lawmakers how critical at-risk funding is for students.

The state provides money to schools for at-risk students, but some of that money is scheduled to go away this summer because of a sunset clause in the law.

The amount depends on how many students the school has on free or reduced lunch, as well as other students that can be counted if they are struggling in the classroom.

Certain schools get even more money if they are classified as high density at-risk, meaning they have more disadvantaged students than other schools.

Schools take the additional money to implement new programs, hire more teachers, and get students one on one help.

“We’ll have kids in a 5th-grade classroom with a reading level from first grade clear up to 10th grade, and so you can’t teach to the middle anymore, you need to meet those kids where they’re at and bring them forward,” said Rusty Arnold, superintendent for Independence Public Schools.

Independence schools get more than $400,000 a year for at-risk students. Their superintendent said students would hurt the most if funding decreases.

Eligible schools are receiving $54 million from the high-density at-risk program this year alone.

“If we lose that kind of money, that means we’re going to have to cut teachers and reduce some of our programming, and we’re starting to see positive results,” Arnold said. “We don’t want to do that, we know it will hurt our kids, and it will hurt our ability to educate kids,” he said.

People that questioned the funding said they want to see the results if additional funding is working.

Though lawmakers debated how well the program works, no one advocated to lawmakers to get rid of high-density at-risk funding.

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