Legislature Heads to Conference Committee Week

Legislature Heads to Conference Committee Week

The House and Senate worked late into Tuesday night to
finish floor debate on a long list of bills. 
The House took emergency final action on its bills last night and
adjourned until next Monday.  
The next major step in the process for most bills will be conference
committee meetings between House and Senate committee leaders to resolve
differences between the versions of the bills passed by the two chambers.  When and if agreements are reached, the
conference committee report goes to the House and Senate for up or down votes
without amendment.  Adjournment for the
regular session is expected one week from Friday, on April 5.  The final wrap-up session will begin May 8.
Bills Passed by the Senate 

HB 2140 – Read to Succeed Program.  The Senate heavily amended the Governor’s
reading proposal and passed on final action Wednesday.  KASB believes the amendments substantially
improve the bill.  The full text of the
amended version of the bill is not yet available, but here is our understanding
of the key provisions:
Mandatory Retention in
Low-Performing School Districts; Exceptions. 
The bill continues to require certain school boards to adopt
mandatory retention policies for certain students, effective beginning in
school year 2016-2017.  However the bill was
amended on a motion by Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, to deal with first grade
students, rather than third grade students. 
Because the state does not currently provide a state reading assessment
in third grade, the “trigger” for possible mandatory retention would be an alternative
standardized assessment.  At this point,
the bill does not specific how this assessment would be determined.
This requirement continues to be applicable only to school
districts that have a higher-than-statewide average percentage of pupils scoring
at the lowest achievement standard on the most recent reading state assessment.  These districts must adopt policies to
prohibit the promotion of a pupil from grade one to grade two if the pupil
scores at the lowest achievement standard on the most recent reading state
assessment or an alternative standardized reading assessment.  The policy must provide for a second
alternative standardized reading assessment approved by the local school board
prior to retaining the pupil.
The board policy may make exceptions to mandatory retention
if the district provides additional instruction until the pupil has achieved
appropriate grade-level reading skills. 
The original exceptions were limited to (1) bilingual students with less
than two years’ instruction in the district; (2) special education students whose
individualized education plan (IEP) indicates participation in the assessment
program is not appropriate; (3) a pupil previously retained for at least one
year, and (4) a pupil whose parent requested a meeting to review the decision
to retain the pupil and, after the review, the parent determines the pupil
should be promoted to fourth grade.
The bill now includes two additional exceptions proposed by
Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka: (1) a pupil who has demonstrated through a
teacher-developed portfolio that such pupil has achieved the appropriate
reading skills for the pupil’s grade level, and (2) a pupil who is recommended
to be promoted by a teacher and such recommendation is approved by both the
principal and the superintendent when a parents fails to request a meeting.
Kansas Reads to
Succeed Grant Program. 
The bill was
also successfully amended by Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, to include school
districts, as well as a nonprofit organizations alone or working in collaboration
with a school district, to apply for a grant to develop research-based
interventions and strategies to assist with acquiring reading skills at the
named grade levels and to prevent grade retention; provide training and
education on the interventions and strategies to teachers in rural communities;
and provide after-school, summer school, and parent education programs using
these interventions and strategies.
Kansas Reads to
Succeed Task Force. 
The amended bill
would establish the Kansas Reads to Succeed Task Force to study and recommend
interventions and strategies to assist pupils in kindergarten and grades one
through three with acquiring reading skills; conduct hearings, receive
information and consider recommendations regarding interventions and
strategies; and report its work to the Legislature by January 13, 2014.
Kansas Reads to
Succeed Incentive Program. 
The bill continues
to require the Kansas Children’s Cabinet to make a monetary award of $10,000
each to those districts which have at least one elementary school identified as
being among the top 100 public elementary schools, based on the demonstration
of improvement in reading proficiency.
Because the Reads to Succeed program was placed in a House
bill, it will likely be sent to a conference committee next week, although the
House had not had any hearings or debate on the issue.  The House could also vote to simply concur in
the Senate version of the bill.
HB 2052 – Weapons in
Public Building. 
The Senate gave final action approval to its version of legislation on concealed carry in public
buildings, including schools.  It
requires most public building to allow concealed carry of handguns unless the
building has specific security measures, such as metal detectors, at all public
entrances.  However, also allows a
four-year exception for all building, including schools, if the governing body
files a security plan with state and local law enforcement.
The Senate rejected an amendment that would have exempted
school districts from the public buildings requirement.  That exception is contained the version
passed by House in HB 2055.  KASB prefers the House version.  The difference will likely be resolved in a
conference committee.
Both House bill and the Senate bill authorize any local
school to permit any employee, who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun, to
carry a concealed handgun in any school building if the employee meets such
institution’s own policy requirements regardless of whether such building is
conspicuously posted to prohibit concealed handguns.
Other Bills Passed by
the Senate
.  The Senate passed three
bills on final action Tuesday: HB 2156,
which repeals an obsolete school finance statute (KASB is neutral), HB 2261, which makes permanent the
ability of school districts to transfer certain funds from restricted funds to
general educational uses (KASB supports), and HB 2221, which requires “equal access” for different teacher
organizations (KASB is neutral).
Bills Passed by the House
HB 2391 – Ancillary Weighting.  The House approved a bill to lengthen the
phase-out of funding certain rapidly growing districts are entitled to receive
from ancillary weighting, which is financed from a special local property tax.  The current phase-out period is three
years.  The original bill provided for a
nine-year phase-out; an amendment by Rep. Steve Hubert, R-Valley Center,
reduced the length to six years.  KASB
was neutral.  This bill has not yet
passed the Senate, which has not had hearings on this issue, but it could be
added to another bill in a conference committee report.
SB 23 – Statewide levy; Mandatory LOB; Capital
Outlay
.  The House also approved this
bill, which now contains three parts. 
The first part, which passed the Senate, extends the statewide 20 mill
levy for the maximum two years (KASB supports).  The second part, added in the House Education
Budget Committee, amends the state school finance law to require that districts
adopt a minimum 10 percent local option budget, which is calculated to finance
a higher base budget per pupil.  The
mandatory LOB provision does not change any funding levels for districts, but
is designed to help the state defend itself in the school finance court case by
attempting to count the first 10 percent of the LOB as state funding for a
higher base budget per pupil.  KASB opposes
this provision, and testified that counting 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.
The House approved a third provision by adopting an
amendment by Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Leawood, to broaden the allowable uses of
school district capital outlay funds.  However,
the new authority would not take effect until the state is funding the capital
outlay state aid equalization program that was suspended in 2010.  It is estimated that restoring the capital
outlay aid program would require over $25 million.  KASB supports with this provision with the state
aid “trigger” included.  The Senate Education
Committee considered, but did not pass, a bill to broaden the capital outlay
definition without the state aid trigger. 
KASB opposed that measure.
SB 171 – School Budget Reporting.  The House approved on emergency final action a
bill requiring districts to report additional school budget information on
district website.  KASB opposed the
original bill, but Senate committee amendments removed requirements for new
reporting of student activities information. 
KASB is now neutral.
HB 2197 – School Activities Association.  Finally, the House approved this bill making
changes to the Kansas State High School Activities Association Governing
Boards.  It would establish a board of
directors for each league that is a part of the association.  Each school in the league would have two
directors appointed by the local board; one district employee, one
non-employee.  It also adds four members
of the executive board of the KSHSAA appointed by the Governor, one from each
of the state’s Congressional districts. 
KASB is neutral.  This change is
in a House and the Senate has not held hearings or voted on this issue.
What Did NOT Pass
Tuesday

HB 2141 – Local
Advocacy Reporting. 
The Senate
adjourned before debating a bill requiring public entities, including school
boards, to report money spent to employ or contract for the services of a
lobbyist, for an association that employs a lobbyist; or an association that
has an affiliated organization that employees a lobbyist.  KASB supports an alternative to legislation
prohibiting lobbying by public entities, but is concerned about the reporting
requirements.  The current language of
the bill makes local units of government (not the lobbyists) responsible for filing
reports when they may not know if associations or affiliates engage in
lobbying.
SB 22 – Corporate tax credits for private school
scholarships
.  After failing to be
advanced to final action Monday, this bill was not brought up for debate
Tuesday and was sent back to the House Education Committee.
In addition, after a day for rumors regarding possible
attempts to amend the prohibition on Common Core academic standards, contained
in HB 2289, into a bill on the
floor, no effort was made.
The House also did not bring up SB 64, concerning changes in school board and other local
elections, for floor debate, although it remains on House general orders.
Bills in Conference

At this point, the only measure bills concerning school
districts actually in conference committee are the House and Senate budget
plans and the competing revenue bills. 
Although both budgets contain the Governor’s recommendations for school
funding, the House tax bill is projected to result in a very low state general
fund ending balance in Fiscal Year 2015. 
The Senate tax plan results in a healthier ending balance in FY 2015
because it continues the state sales tax at the current rate.  However, it also includes deeper cuts in
state income tax rates in the future.