Tuesday action on education bills; today’s agenda

Tuesday action on education bills; today’s agenda

Gun Bill Appears to
Exempt Schools

The conference committee on HB 2052 reached a tentative agreement Tuesday night on language
that would exempt school districts from new requirements for public building
security, the position passed by the House of Representatives and supported by
KASB.
The agreement would include provisions passed by both the
House and Senate allowing school boards to permit employees licensed for
concealed carry of handguns to bring such weapons into schools, even if the
building is posted to prohibit concealed carry by the general public.  KASB believes schools already have similar
authority, and was neutral on this provision.
Also Tuesday, the conference committee also agreed on
language for HB 2033, concerning the
regulation of knives.  This agreement
includes a Senate provision specifically allowing school districts, juvenile
detention centers and jails to regulate the carrying of knives.  The Senate agreed to drop another provision
that would have removed a prohibition on “throwing stars.”  Senate concerns were based on a reported
incident where a student was expelled for bringing an artifact with sharpened
edges to school, which caused some Legislators to believe the school district
had overreacted.  The conference
committee directed that a letter of concern be sent to the State Board of
Education to be communicated to local boards.
Final agreement on weapons legislation, which includes a
number of other provisions, will have to be approved by both the House and
Senate.
Education Conference
Committees Begins

A conference committee made up leaders from the Senate
Education Committee and House Education Committee met twice Tuesday, but spent
relatively little time on the bills actually passed by both chambers, with
relatively technical differences to be resolved in conference.  Instead, the committee spent more time discussing
two bill passed by the House that did not receive action in the Senate.  (Under legislative rules, a conference
committee can include provisions from other bills that have passed at least one
house.)
House Education Committee Chair Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas
City, asked Senators to considering including HB 2222, which would require school districts to add staff and
parents to school bullying policies; and HB
2280
, which would establish an annual “Celebrate Freedom Week” in September
for providing instruction in topics of U.S. government and history.
Although no hearings were held in the Senate Education
Committee, KASB supported the original HB
2222
, but is concerned that adding parents to bullying policies would be
extremely difficult to enforce, because school districts have almost no
authority over parents.  KASB was neutral
on HB 2280, because the areas of
instruction are already contained in state history and government standards and
the bill allows local boards to determine a different time for instruction.
Discussion on these bills will continue today.  Also today, a second conference committee on
education bills, this one composed of leaders from the Senate Education
Committee and House Education Budget Committee, will meet to
address a different set of bills:
SB 23 – Extends
20 mill statewide school levy. (KASB supports.) 
However, the House committee added an amendment requiring a mandatory 10
percent local option budget to finance higher base state aid per pupil for school
finance lawsuit defense, which KASB opposes. 
New information from the Kansas State Department of Education indicates
the bill as amended would actually reduce funding for schools by about $50
million, which was not the intended effect.
In addition, a House floor amendment broadens allowable uses for
capital outlay revenues, but does not take effect until state capital outlay
aid is restored.  KASB supports this
provision
.
SB 171 – Requires
reporting additional school budget information on district website.  KASB opposed in committee; amendments removed
requirements for new reporting of student activities information.
HB 2140 – Substitute
bill by Senate Education, containing an amended version of the Governor’s Read
to Succeed program; now including first grade retention in some cases and
literacy assistance programs.  KASB
opposes requirements for mandatory retention if schools are demonstrating
improvement; believes amendments have substantially improved the bill.  Here are additional details on the bill,
which was not considered by the House.
  • Beginning
    2017, certain students may not be promoted from first to second grade if
    scoring at lowest level on state reading test or alternative test;
    exceptions for ELL, special education; one year only.
  • Applies
    only to districts with a percentage of students scoring at the lowest
    reading level greater than the state average; allows student to take a
    second test; allows promotion based on proficiency demonstrated through
    teacher-developed portfolio; parents can require the student be promoted after
    conference, or upon recommendation of teacher, principal and
    superintendent if parent fails to respond.
  • Schools
    must provide early screening, interventions.
  • Grants
    to school districts or non-profits for reading assistance programs through
    Children’s Cabinet – “may” collaborate with school districts.
  • Creates
    a task force to study interventions to improve reading.
Offer on Tax Policy
Expected
House members of a conference committee say they will make
an offer on a major tax bill today.  The
Senate and Governor Brownback want to continue the state sales tax rate at its
current level to finance the state budget and allow for future income tax rate
cuts.  The House voted to allow the rate
to drop by 0.6 percent as scheduled on June 30, creating a projected budget
crunch by Fiscal Year 2015.  Reaching an
agreement on tax policy is seen as a prerequisite to an agreement on a two-year
budget deal.
Many legislators are concerned about an unexpected drop in
state general fund revenues in March, and want to wait on a new official state
revenue projection due in April before finalizing tax and budget policies.