Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Kansas Commissioner of Education Diane DeBacker has asked the state attorney general for an opinion about a new law establishing innovative school districts that will be largely exempt from compliance with state laws. The law, called the Kansas Coalition of Innovative Districts Act (H.B. 2319), went into effect July 1 and sets up a coalition board independent from the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). The coalition board can authorize up to ten percent of Kansas' school districts to be "public innovative districts" exempt from compliance with most state public education laws. In a letter to the state attorney general, Dr. DeBacker questioned whether the Innovative Districts Act violates Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, which gives KSDE authority over "general supervision of public schools, educational institutions and all the educational interests of the state." DeBacker stated that the Act "does not pass constitutional muster because it improperly infringes on the authority of the KSBE and its role in the general supervision of education in the State of Kansas." Modeled on the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Innovation Schools and School Districts Act,” the new education board may grant exemptions to up to 29 “innovative school districts.” To qualify, districts have to demonstrate how planned innovative measures will improve student achievement.