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Kobach proposes fingerprinting, background checks of all Kansas public school employees

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TOPEKA — Attorney General Kris Kobach recommended Wednesday passage of a law requiring all Kansas public school district employees undergo fingerprint-based criminal background investigation on a five-year cycle and proposed comparable checks be mandated for contractors delivering Medicaid services to students.

The state’s Medicaid inspector general, who has been assigned to the attorney general’s office since 2017, submitted a letter to Kobach proposing reform of laws or regulations applicable to people working in or for the state’s 287 public school districts.

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The letter from inspector general Steven Anderson didn’t propose the same fingerprint standard be applied to private school employees or contractors in Kansas.

“It is logical that Kansans would want to ensure individuals who work directly with children are properly cleared,” Anderson said. “It would be inexcusable to allow someone convicted of a serious crime to have unsupervised access to children when a simple criminal history check could have prevented a potential problem.”

The Kansas State Department of Education has required educators receiving their first certificate or license as well for educators renewing an expired certificate or license to submit a complete set of fingerprints for a criminal history check. Otherwise, educators didn’t have to complete a follow-up check.

Kansas law does not require janitors, therapists, coaches, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, cooks and contractors on school payrolls to undergo fingerprint screening.

Anderson’s report speculated Kansas districts employed teachers who hadn’t had a background check in 10 years to 20 years.

The inspector general’s report said the portion of the audit related to Medicaid providers involved a randomly selected batch of 17 public school districts from among the state’s 287. Auditors estimated there were 3,731 Medicaid providers working directly with children in the state’s public schools. The audit suggested 31% or 1,150 of those people couldn’t be tied to records proving they underwent a background check.

The interim report said there were 231 providers of Medicaid services in the audit sample, but lack of evidence about background checks applied to only 72 of the providers.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has responsiblity for managing the school-based, fee-for-service Medicaid reimbursement program. The interim report was submitted to KDHE, the Department of Education and the Legislature’s Medicaid oversight committee.

The inspector general’s audit focus was on services provided Medicaid-enrolled students in school-based programs from Jan. 1, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2023. The audit said $23.5 million in Medicaid funds was allocated during the period to reimburse school districts for services to students.

Types of Medicaid assistance extended to students included audiology services, language and psychology therapy, nursing care, attendant care, social work services, as well as speech, physical and occupational therapy.

Anderson, appointed by then-Attorney General Derek Schmidt and confirmed by the Kansas Senate, said the Legislature acted to require fingerprint background checks for people working or volunteering in licensed child care facilities. State law mandated fingerprint criminal history assessments of people hired at adult care homes, including a nursing facility or care facility for people with intellectual disabilities.

The fingerprint check has been required in Kansas statute for applicants to a health center, facility, hospital or provider of services, including independent contractors.

Under policies of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, home and community based service providers providing direct support to Medicaid beneficiaries must have a background check every two years.

Anderson said auditing work continued on questions relating to whether KDHE had an effective system for processing and tracking Medicaid reimbursements.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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