January 22, 2016

Kansas Capitol Connection: A weekly summary of education-related developments before the Legislature

This week, a special committee approved an interim report that may be the precursor of further discussions on a new school finance formula.

In addition, the second week of the 2016 legislative session was highlighted by an informational hearing on teacher merit pay before the House Education Committee and the filing of several controversial bills, including one that would significantly reduce the number of school districts.

The interim report was approved by the Special Committee on K-12 Student Success. Only Republicans voted for it, while Democrats on the committee wrote a minority report. Here is a link to the report and minority report.

The proposal recommends overhauling the way funding is calculated for at-risk students, requiring legislative approval of proposed local school bond issues, providing funds for each student to take the ACT, setting up a test that is aligned with the Rose capacities and is independent of the state and federal education departments, and requiring annual audits of school districts.

During the merit pay hearing, supporters said it would help retain quality teachers, while opponents said it would reduce collaboration between teachers and that the state shouldn’t dictate that local officials implement merit pay. Gov. Sam Brownback said merit pay should part of a new school finance plan, but his policy director said the governor had no specific plan in mind.

State Rep. John Bradford, R-Lansing, filed House Bill 2504, which would reduce the number of school districts to 132 from 286 and leave 99 of the state's 105 counties with only one district each.

And Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach introduced a bill that would prevent local governmental entities, including school districts, from using of public funds to help provide information about bond elections.