Numerous school issues under study; KASB seeks input from education advocates

While the biggest issue that could develop this fall for the 2018 Legislature is the Kansas Supreme Court decision on the Gannon school finance case, there are a number of other issues being studied by legislative committees, the State Board of Education and other groups that could have a major impact on school district operations, programs and governance. 

KASB has prepared a document —Tracking Major K-12 Education Issues — listing these issues that will be updated regularly with new developments. KASB has also prepared a Legislative Issues Feedback Survey for members to provide input on these efforts. A webinar by KASB Associate Executive Director Mark Tallman that highlights these issues can be seen here.  

Some of the studies were required by SB 19, the school finance bill passed by the 2017 Legislature and under review by the state Supreme Court. A ruling on whether the bill sufficiently addressed the adequacy issues found by the court last Spring could be released at any time. 

Other issues have been assigned by the Kansas Legislative Coordinating Council. A list of all Legislative interim committees, with assigned topics, members and staff, is available here.  A calendar of meeting dates for all committees is available here. (Many meeting dates have not yet been scheduled.) 

Here are the major issues under study prior to the 2018 Legislature: 

The Legislative Post Audit Division is conducting a study of K-12 transportation services, as required by SB 19, due to be completed in December. Two other topics approved for study by the LPA committee have been placed on hold: evaluating the use of assessed valuation per pupil to determine state equalization aid, and reviewing the accuracy of free lunch student counts. 

The State Department of Education is conducting a study of funding career technical education, as directed by the SB 19, with expected consideration of “tiered” funding that would pay for CTE programs based on different costs, rather than a single CTE weighting. KSDE is also reviewing virtual education funding. 

The board has also appointed a Mental Health Advisory Committee to study school mental health needs and collaborative efforts to address social and emotional needs of students. Finally, the department is studying funding for virtual education. 

The State Department of Administration is continuing its study of two items proposed in the 2016 Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study: joint procurement of certain goods and services by school districts and the state, and creating a statewide school district health benefits plan. A committee of school districts, service centers and others will meet next Monday on these topics, as well as exploring other efficiencies. This study was directed by the 2017 Legislature in HB 2002. 

Although it won’t take place until the 2018 session, SB 19 directs the House and Senate Education Committees to review low and high enrollment weightings, including a possible shift from weightings based on size to one based on pupil density. It is also expected that the House committee will review the issue of autism services, including a requirement for Applied Behavioral Analysis services. 

Legislative leaders have also appointed several special committees or assigned topics to standing joint committees. 

The Child Welfare System Task Force has been assigned to study the state’s system for dealing with protective services, family preservation, reintegration, foster care and permanency placement. These children often have special needs and create challenges for the school system. 

A Special Committee on Health has also been appointed to study telemedicine issues, which could have an impact on available services for students in schools or community. 

The Joint Committee on Pensions, Benefits and Investments has been charged with reviewing implementation of recent changes in working after retirement, as well as other issues in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. 

The Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice has been assigned to review implementation of the 2016 juvenile justice reform law, which imposed new training requirements on school personnel and agreements between schools and local law enforcement; as well as other topics. 

The Special Committee on Utilities has been assigned to study rural broadband development, which could impact school and student access to the internet. 

A Special Committee on Elections has been appointed to the implementation of a ranked voting system, where the winner of the election must get a majority (not just a plurality) of the votes. School leaders will also be experiencing the new November election cycle for school board members and other local officials for the first time this year. 

Two legislative committees have been appointed to study topics that could impact state and local tax policy and revenues. The Special Committee on Assessment and Taxation is to review major state revenue sources and changes in state tax policy in recent years, including the increase in state income tax rates this year; as well local tax issues including the tax lid on cities and counties. 

The Special Committee on Commerce is to study the effectiveness of STAR bond and other incentive programs and make recommendations for future economic growth. 

School leaders will also be following certain issues at the federal level, such as the impact of potential changes in the Affordable Care Act and Medicare on school district special education funding and student health; funding levels for major federal education aid programs; and efforts at the federal level to expand funding for private schools through direct aid or tax incentives. 

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