Bills Ready for House, Senate Debate Next Week

Bills Ready for House, Senate Debate Next Week

The last scheduled day for most committees to act on bills
was today (Friday).  The House and Senate
will spend Monday through Wednesday debating bills on the floor.  There are now only two weeks left in the
regular session.  This Capital Update
reports on bills scheduled or available for debate this week, so you can
contact your Legislators before they vote. 
A report on other action this week will be sent later this weekend.
Two bills are scheduled for debate Monday, March 24, on
House General Orders.

SB 22 – Corporate
Tax Credits for Scholarships to Private Schools
.  This is a substitute bill introduced and
recommended by the House Education Committee this week, based on HB 2400.  It creates a state income tax credit for
contributions made to organizations that provide scholarship for certain low
income or special education students to attend private schools.  The committee attached a two year sunset to
bill, which means the program will expire on June 30, 2015, unless Legislature votes
again to reauthorize this program.  Here
is a brief description of the bill.
  • Scholarships
    are available to low income (185% of poverty) and special education
    students.
  • To
    first qualify, students must reside in Kansas and have been enrolled in
    public school in the prior year unless under age six.  Students currently attending private
    schools are not eligible.
  • Corporations
    (not individuals) receive a tax credit equal to 70% of contributions.  If the tax credit exceeds their tax liability,
    the unused portion of the credit could carry over.
  • The state
    total of tax credits authorized could not exceed $10 million per year.
  • Contributions
    go to “scholarship granting organizations” which must be 501(c)(3)
    charitable organizations.  They must
    distribute at least 90% of contributions (Up to 10% could be used for
    administrative expenses of the organization.)
  • The maximum
    scholarship that would be awarded is $8,000, which means the state would
    subsidize 1,250 students at the maximum award if all $10 million is
    awarded in a year.
  • The
    SGO could not make scholarships funded by a student’s relative, or accept
    contribution directed to specific student. (No other apparent limits.)
  • Qualified
    school: any nonpublic school providing education to elementary and secondary
    students. (No accreditation, testing or other accountability requirements.)
  • The committee added a declining
    enrollment provision to cushion the budget reduction for school districts
    losing students under the program.
KASB is strongly opposed to this bill, and urges school leaders to
contact their House members immediately about this proposal, which is scheduled
for action Monday.  Here are some concerns:
  • The
    bill would indirectly fund private schools by diverting state tax dollars
    through a tax credit.  The effect
    is no different from directly writing a check to the private school.  Taxpayers should not fund schools that do
    not have to serve all children or follow public accountability.
  • There
    are no standards for eligible schools, such as accreditation by the state or
    independent accrediting organizations; students are not required to be
    tested so there is no measure of results; schools are not required to
    report outcomes such as graduation rates or college preparation.
  • Home
    schools would apparently be eligible, meaning schools could receive
    scholarship support even if they do not charge tuition or have expenses
    similar to public or other private schools.
  • SGO’s are apparently free to set
    other additional restrictions on students receiving scholarships, so funds
    could be limited to gifted students, athletes, specific ethnic or
    religious groups.

HB 2391 – Ancillary weighting.  Extends the weighting phase out from three to
nine years.  Ancillary weighting is a
special weighting for rapidly growing districts that must approved by the state
court of tax appeals, and is financed entirely by local property tax.  KASB is neutral.
There are
seven additional bills concerns school districts that are available for debate
this week, but are not scheduled for general orders on Monday.

SB 64 – School Board Elections.  Recommended Friday as a House substitute bill
based on HB 2227.  It moves local municipal elections, including
those for school board members, from April to November of odd-numbered years.  Elections would remain non-partisan.  Possible amendments could move the local election
date to even-numbered years and require partisan ballots.  KASB opposes all of these changes, and urges
school leaders contact their Representatives about this issue.  Key points:
  • KASB adopted
    a resolution in December that reaffirms a long-standing position supporting
    the current system of electing board members in April of odd-numbered
    years.
  • Currently,
    board members take office with the new budget and school year.  This bill would have board members take
    office the second Monday in January, in the middle of school year and
    budget year; and when superintendent evaluations and teacher negotiations
    are beginning.
  • School
    governance should not be a partisan issue.
  • Partisan
    ballots would prohibit many federal employees, including military
    personnel, from running in local elections.
  • Moving
    the election to November of even-numbered
    years with other elections would over-crowd the general election ballot
    and reduce attention to school board candidates and issues.
  • Moving the election to
    even-numbered Novembers could also eliminate the option of board
    representation by election districts.

SB 23 – Statewide
Mill Levy and Mandatory LOB
.  As
passed the Senate, renews the 20 mill statewide school district levy for the
maximum two years.  KASB strongly supports:
if the statewide levy is not renewed, $575 million will be cut from district
general fund budgets.  However, the House
Education Budget Committee amended to include a mandatory 10 percent local
option budget as provided in HB 2003,
also on H General Orders, which KASB opposes. 
The mandatory LOB does not change any funding levels; but is designed to
help in school finance court case by inflating the base budget per pupil.  KASB believes attempting to count 10 percent
of LOB as state funding when LOB aid is not fully equalized probably weakened the
court case.  It also makes the school
finance system even more complex.
HB 2285 –
Definition of machinery and equipment for taxation
.  Changes to definition of taxable property to
reduce taxes on certain “fixed” equipment. 
The bill would reclassify this property as machinery and equipment,
rather than real property, and be taxed at a lower rate.  New machinery and equipment is exempt from
property tax.  KASB opposes for the following
reasons:
  • It reduced
    total valuation for ad valorum
    taxation; resulting in less revenue or higher mill levies on other
    property, with a disproportionate impact on certain areas of the state.
  • Estimated
    to result $8 million reduction in revenue from the 20 mill levy, or $17
    base state aid if not made up by the state.
  • Because
    the change will cause some districts to have much lower wealth per pupil,
    it will re-allocate local option budget state aid among districts.  Many districts may have to reduce their local
    option budgets or raise the LOB mill levy to offset the loss.
  • It will also reduce revenues to district
    capital outlay funds in certain districts, with no compensating state aid.

SB 171 – Budget
reporting
.  Requires reporting additional
budget information on the district website. 
KASB opposed the original bill, but the Senate Education Committee removed
requirements for new reporting of student activities information.  KASB is neutral on the bill.
SB 104 – Children’s
Internet Protection Act
.  Requires
schools and libraries to adopt a process or use technology to block access to
inappropriate material.  KASB believe
this already essentially required by the federal e-rate program, and does not
object to the bill.
HB 2003 – Mandatory
10 percent local option budget

KASB opposes (see above, SB 23).
HB 2197 – High School Activities Association
Governing Boards
.  Recommended Friday
by the Federal and State Affairs with amendments not yet available.  KASB was neutral on the original bill.  We will report on the amended version when
available.
Three bills are scheduled for debate Monday, March 24, on
Senate General Orders.

HB 2158 – School Finance.  Would repeal an obsolete statute regarding
the area vocational school fund in the unified school district budget document.  KASB is neutral on this non-controversial
bill, but it could be used for various school finance amendments.  School leaders are encouraged to review your
school finance formula concerns with Senators and urge them contact you if new
amendments are offered.
HB 2261 – Use
of Cash Reserves and Contingency Fund

Makes permanent a district’s authority to transfer certain unexpended
balances in restricted funds, and removes the current 10 percent limit on the contingency
fund.  KASB supports.
HB 2221 –
Equal access for teacher organizations

Requires districts to provide access to teacher mailboxes and programs
for professional organizations other than the exclusive bargain unit, such as
Kansas National Education Association. 
KASB is neutral.
Here are
the other bills available for Senate debate but not scheduled for Monday, March
24:

HB 2140 Read to Succeed.  Substitute bill recommended by the Senate
Education Committee after the Governor’s original proposal failed.  KASB opposes in part; believing a new state
requirement should not be imposed unless schools are not demonstrating
improvement.  Here are the key provisions
as we understand them, although the final language of the bill is not
available:
  • Applies
    only to districts with a percentage of students scoring at the lowest
    reading level that is greater than the state average.
  • Beginning
    2017, certain students may not be promoted from third to fourth grade if
    scoring at lowest level on state reading test or alternative test.
  • Exceptions
    are provided for ELL and special education students; and a child may be retained
    for one year only.
  • A
    student is allowed to take a second test. 
    If that test is failed, the student may still promoted at the
    request of the parents following a conference.
  • Schools
    must provide early screening, interventions.
  • Grants
    for reading assistance programs will be made through Children’s Cabinet to
    non-profits organizations that “may” collaborate with school districts.
  • Creates a task force composed of
    teachers and reading specialists to study and make recommendations on interventions
    and strategies to improve reading in grades K-3; and report to the Kansas
    Legislature by January 13, 2014.
KASB believes that if the reading retention is part of the bill, it
should only apply to districts which fail to demonstrate improvement on state
reading tests, rather than those districts above the state average.  School leaders are encouraged to contact your
Senators about the impact of this bill on your district.
HB 2141 – School
Board Advocacy
.  Require public entities,
including school boards, to report to the state money spent to employ or
contract for the services of a lobbyist, for an association that employs a
lobbyist; or for an association that has an affiliated organization that lobbies.  The bill was recommended this week by the
Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee as an alternative to
legislation prohibiting lobbying by public entities.  KASB supports efforts to develop an alternative
that allows public bodies to continue to communicate legislative positions and
concerns, but is concerned about some aspects of this bill.  It places the reporting requirement on local
units of government that may not know if organizations or their affiliates
engage in lobbying.  Under current ethics
laws, it is the responsibility of the lobbyists to make reports.
HB 2052 – Concealed carry in public buildings.  This substitute bill was recommended by the
Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee on Friday.  Although the new language is not yet
available, it appears to be based on SB
186:
  • Requires
    most public building to allow concealed carry of handguns unless the
    building has specific security measures; DOES apply to school
    districts.  It allows a four-year
    exception for all building, including schools, if the governing body files
    a security plan with state and local officials.
  • Authorizes any local school to
    permit any employee, who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun, to
    carry a concealed gun in any school building if the employee meets such
    institution’s own policy requirements regardless of whether the building
    is posted to prohibit concealed handguns.
KASB testified against SB 186
because we prefer the version of this bill passed by House in HB 2055.  The House version exempted schools entirely
from the public building security requirements. 
KASB believes the provisions concerning school district employees, which
are in both the Senate and House version of these bills, does not substantially
change current law.  Superintendents now
have authority to allow anyone to have a weapon in a school, and may do at the
direction of school board policy.