Vouchers, Budget, Innovation, Elections and More – Tuesday Update

Vouchers, Budget, Innovation, Elections and More – Tuesday Update

Special needs scholarship bill heard in House
Education
                The House Education Committee received testimony Monday
on HB 2263, which would allow
students with Individual Education Plans to be withdrawn from their public
school, enroll in other public schools or private schools, and take an undetermined
amount of money from their sending school with them.  Although the bill laid out two methods to
determine the amount, no conferees or staff members attempted to assign a price
tag.  KASB testified an opponent based on
the position of the KASB Delegate Assembly that public money should not go to
private schools and only schools accountable to locally elected school boards
should be classified as a public school. 
                Special education administrators also either
testified or submitted written testimony. 
They included Deb Meyers, Shawnee Mission USD 512 Special Education
Director, and Terry Collins, the Kansas Association of Special Education
Administrators Legislative Liaison, among others.  United School Administrators and the Kansas National
Education Association also testified against the bill. 
                The major proponent of the bill was Rep. Lance
Kinzer, R-Olathe.  Much of his testimony
was based on the success of the scholarship program that operates in
Florida.  Much of the KASB oral testimony
centered on the fact the nine states that have such laws, including Florida, have
lower education outcomes than Kansas and the other top performing states that
don’t have such laws.
Senate Education Hears Capital Outlay, Career Tech
Bills; Passed Internet Policy
                The Senate Education Committee received testimony Monday
on SB 131, which would make relatively
minor changes in the authorized use of capital outlay funds.  It was supported by representatives of Blue
Valley USD 229 and Shawnee Mission USD 512 who said the bill would provide flexibility
that could free up general fund expenditures. 
Wichita USD 259 testified against the bill, saying it would create an
unfair advance for higher-wealth districts that can raise more revenue per
pupil, especially since the state has stopped funding state equalization aid
for capital outlay.
                KASB testified as neutral, indicating the association
would support the bill if equalization aid was restored but would oppose the
bill without state aid.  KASB noted the
three-judge panel is the Gannon school finance case has ruled the capital
outlay levy unconstitutional without state aid, which means the capital outlay
system is in jeopardy for all districts.
                The committee also received testimony from Wichita
and the Governor’s office on SB 128,
which would allow students to complete a recognized industry credential in high
demand areas by December 31 of the year they graduate and provide the $1,000
incentive payment to the school districts. 
Under current, the student must complete the program by the time they
graduate.
                Finally, the committee voted to recommend SB 104, the Children’s Internet
Protection Act, after amending the bill to remove specific reference to using
technology measures to limit Internet access in schools and libraries.  The change would allow libraries to use other
methods to block inappropriate content, and was offered as a way to reduce the
potential cost of implementation.
Governor’s K-12 Budget Advances
                The House Appropriations Committee approved a budget
committee report on the Department of Education that leaves intact Governor
Brownback’s major recommendations on school funding for current year and the
next two fiscal years, FY 2014 and 2015. 
That action would add over $20 million in the current year to keep the
base budget per pupil at $3,838, and would remain at that level next year.  In FY 2015, a slight increase is projected
due to anticipated growth in the statewide mill levy.  Special education and local option budget
state aid remain at current levels over all three years, while state
contributions for school district employee retirement and state aid for capital
improvement bonds will increase according to law.
                The budget also accepts the Governor’s plan to use
over $100 million from the state highway fund to help finance school district
transportation weighting and special education transportation costs.  The administration has indicated the State
Department of Transportation could also help district find more efficient ways
to operate bus systems.
                The Appropriations Committee rejected a
recommendation from the House Education Budget Committee to use money from the
Kansas Universal Service Fund for a position in the Department of Education to
assist districts with e-rate applications. 
However, it accepted a recommendation to eliminate an income-test
requirement for the Parent Education Program that was proposed by the Governor.
                Also Monday, the Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee
on Education approved a report that maintained most aspects of the Governor’s
budget.  The Senate subcommittee also
removed the parent education provision, but approved funding for the KSDE
technology position for e-rate.  The
committee also added $100,000 from the state general fund to support the state
Communities in Schools program, and $35,000 for Agriculture in the Classroom.  Both programs had been recommended by the
State Board of Education, but not approved by the Governor.  KASB specifically endorsed the Communities in
Schools program for drop-out prevention.
                The Senate subcommittee also requested a study
whether school districts could save money on transportation fuel costs through
bulk-purchasing with the Kansas Department of Transportation and regional
service centers.
More Issues Scheduled This Week
                Innovative
Districts
.  The House Education
Committee today hears testimony on HB
2319
, which would allow up to 10 school districts to exempt themselves from
most state laws in exchange for higher student completion standards.  An identical bill, SB 176, has a hearing in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.  KASB supports the bill.
                Bullying
Policies
.  Senate Education holds a
hearing on SB 137, requiring
district bullying prevention plans to include input from site councils; and
posting the plan on the district website and file with the Department of
Education.  KASB supports the bill.
                Activities
Reporting
.  Late yesterday, the
Senate Education Committee also announced a hearing today on SB 171, which makes changes to the
school district budget reporting law, most specifically requiring additional
reports of spending on student activities and student class time lost to activities
be posted on district website.
                School Board
Elections
.  The House Elections
Committee holds a hearing Wednesday on HB
2271
, which would move all municipal elections, including school boards, to
the November general election in even-numbered years; make all elections on a
partisan basis, and require all school board members to have at-large
positions, rather than the option to have two, three or six board
districts.  KASB opposes each of these
changes.
                District
Efficiency Audits
.  The House
Education Committee Wednesday has a hearing on HB 2349, which would put in state law a requirement that the Legislative
Post Audit Division conduct three efficiency audits of districts of different
sizes each year.  KASB supports the bill
as long as the final decisions on implementing the recommendations of the audit
are left at the local level.
                Read to
Succeed
.  The Senate Education
Committee on Thursday hears testimony on SB
169
, the Governor’s “Read to Succeed” bill which generally prohibits
promotion third-graders to fourth grade if they cannot read at a minimum level
on the state reading test of an alternative approved by the State Board,
beginning in 2017.  It also authorizes
grants to non-profit organizations to provide early literacy support.  KASB will oppose the provision of the bill
creating a mandatory state policy on reading retention.
                Public Charter
Schools
.  Senate Education will also
hear testimony on SB 196 on
Thursday, a bill allowing the state board, board of regents, board of any
public or private post-secondary institution, city or county or local board of
education to authorize  a public charter
school.  KASB will oppose the bill.