Vouchers, Audits, Capital Outlay Hearings Today; Innovative Districts and Board Elections Ahead

Vouchers, Audits, Capital Outlay Hearings Today; Innovative Districts and Board Elections Ahead

Bills to provide publicly funded scholarships to private
schools for special education students and to broaden the use of capital outlay
funds receive hearings today, with other major bills scheduled for hearings
later this week.

The House Education
Committee
holds a hearing today on HB
2263
, which would create a system for dissatisfied parents of special education students to take funds
provided to their school district to pay for private school education.  The amount of the special needs scholarship
under the bill would be based on the cost of providing the child’s
individualized education plan in the public school, but the private school
would not be required to provide the IEP. 
KASB and the Kansas Association of Special Education Administrators are
opposing the bill because it violates provisions of federal special education
law, allows public funds to be used in schools that discrimination on the basis
of disability, and would violate the Kansas Constitution if public education funds
go to religious schools.

The committee also is scheduled to hear HB 2349, which would place in state law an annual requirement for
the Legislative Post Audit Division to conduct efficiency audits on three
districts.  KASB will support the measure
as long as districts are chosen on a voluntary basis and local boards are not
required to implement audit recommendations they believe are not in the best
interest of the district.

A third bill scheduled for a hearing, HB 2232, would require the state to provide liability insurance for
teachers.  Teachers are already protected
from liability under state law, but many teachers want to purchase insurance coverage.  KASB has not taken a position on this bill.

The Senate Education
Committee
holds a hearing on SB 131,
which would change the definition of acceptable uses for school district
capital outlay funds.  The three-judge
panel in the Gannon case has ruled the capital outlay system is unconstitutional
unless the capital outlay state aid program, which was suspended from funding
in 2010, is restored.  KASB will testify
as neutral on the bill, and explain KASB can support the bill if equalization aid
included, but would oppose it state aid is not provided.

The committee also holds a hearing on SB 128, which would allow districts to receive career technical
education incentives payments for students who complete an approved CTE
certification by the December following their graduation.  Finally, the committee may take action on SB 44, which would impose new
requirements on school districts to provide services to students identified
with dyslexia.  KASB opposes that bill as exceeding federal requirements for students with disabilities.

The Senate Ways and
Means Subcommittee on Education
is finalizing its
recommendations for the Department of Education budget, including K-12 state
aid programs, this morning.  Also this
morning, the House Appropriations
Committee
is scheduled to take up the K-12 budget.  That committee has been looking for budget
cuts in light of concerns over passing the Governor’s tax plan.

Tomorrow, KASB is scheduled to testify before the House
Education Committee in support of HB
2319
, which would allow up to 10 school districts to exempt themselves from
most state school laws in exchange for stronger standards for student
graduation.  A similar bill, SB 176, has a hearing Wednesday in Senate Education.  Also tomorrow, KASB will support SB 137, which requires districts to
include input from site councils in adapting bullying prevention plans, and
post such plans on their website and file with the State Department of
Education.

On Wednesday, the House Elections Committee holds a hearing
on HB 2271, which would move all
municipal elections, including school boards, to the November general elections
in even-numbered years.  It would also
make all elections partisan, and it would require that all school board members
be elected on an at-large basis, rather than having the option to runs in two,
three or six board member districts, as provided by current law.  KASB will oppose the measure.  Local board members are urged to consider testimony
on this bill, or contact members of the House Elections Committee with your
comments.