Monday, September 16, 2013

State school board wants stronger enforcement of criminal registry law

By PETER HANCOCK, The Lawrence Journal-World

The State Board of Education will meet in Topeka this week to discuss non-budget policies the board may choose to bring to the Legislature next year, including ways to strengthen laws that prohibit issuing or renewing licenses to people who have committed certain criminal acts.

Current law prohibits the board from knowingly issuing or renewing a license to anyone known to have committed any of a long list of offenses that include sexual offenses, violent crimes and various drug crimes.

But the statute also requires that county and district attorneys notify the agency whenever anyone in their jurisdiction is convicted or enters a criminal diversion agreement stemming from those crimes so their names can be crosschecked against the database of licensed educators.

Some board members expressed frustration in April after hearing from the department's attorney that most local prosecutors in Kansas do not comply with that law, and that Attorney General Derek Schmidt was reportedly unwilling to take action against prosecutors who do not comply.

Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis, the agency's primary liaison with the Legislature, will outline various options for the board to consider, such as phasing in a requirement that the department run fingerprint checks on teachers every time they renew their license.

In other business, the board will:

• Hear a report from DeBacker that will include information about a new educational program called Jobs for America's Graduates and a briefing on the 2013 ACT scores.

• Receive an update on plans for the 2014 state assessments.

• Consider appointing Amy Compton, an elementary teacher in Independence, to an unexpired term on the Professional Standards Board.

• Receive information about the recent merger of the Charter School Advisory Council and the Virtual Education Advisory Council.

• Hear an update on the state's waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

• Discuss a project with the Kansas Department of Transportation to develop more economical and efficient processes for school districts to bid school buses and purchase fuel.

• And discuss communications strategies concerning the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards, also known as Common Core standards.