Kansas Legislature

COVID-19 testing, remote learning capabilities to receive boost

Gov. Laura Kelly and legislative leaders Thursday approved about $290 million in COVID-related spending, including $40 million for child supervision and remote learning. The unanimous decision by the State Finance Council represented the final installment of approximately $1 billion in federal CARES Act funding. In two earlier rounds, $400 million went to counties for COVID-19 expenses and $314 toward statewide priorities, including broadband connectivity and early childhood support. The biggest ticket item in Thursday’s action was $50 million to expand COVID-19 testing. Kelly and others said the expansion is needed to protect the public health and provide a truer assessment of...

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Governor’s Education Council forming recommendations to align education and economy

Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday praised the work of the Governor’s Council on Education that continues to put together proposals aimed at better aligning education and workforce needs. After hearing some of the council’s ideas, Kelly said the panel was forming “a really robust plan.” She told council members that some of the recommendations will probably require shifts in resources because additional revenues will be difficult to come up with because of the economic downtown from the COVID-19 pandemic. “If these things are higher priority … we’re going to have to make some very tough decisions, but I think in the long...

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Starting Anew: Wabaunsee USD 329 reopening promotes safe onsite learning but ready to pivot if necessary

The Wabaunsee USD 329 school district is situated in the Flint Hills just west of Topeka.   The rural district of about 450 students has been relatively lightly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and its five schools were able to open as planned in mid-August with nearly all children attending in person. Look beyond the pastoral setting and the smiles of students on the playground, though, and you’ll find USD 329’s reopening was the result of months of intense planning by Board of Education members, administrators, teachers and staff to respond to the continuing uncertainties presented by the pandemic while...

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KASB Legislative Committee approves draft of state policy positions

KASB’s Legislative Committee has approved a first draft of proposed state legislative policy positions for 2021. KASB members will discuss the positions and provide feedback at Regional Roundtables on September 30, October 7 and October 14. The final document, which will guide KASB advocacy efforts in the 2021 Kansas legislative session, will be approved by the KASB Delegate Assembly in January 2021.  The proposed state policy positions primarily focus on how to support K-12 public schools as they continue to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Positions include supporting safe operations in schools in all learning modes; increasing...

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KSDE eliminates daily signed learning logs

The Kansas State Department of Education on Monday eliminated the requirement that students and parents fill out daily activity logs for students who are learning remotely because of the pandemic. KSDE officials said they heard a lot of complaints that because of closed schools and the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was too difficult to keep track of students’ time on lessons to fill out the logs, which had to be signed by the student and parent. Under KSDE’s Navigating Change document, which has helped guide districts for the start of the 2020-21 school year, state funding for remote...

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`Lifeline’ program provides discounts on phone, internet service

As the problems of lack of internet connectivity become more apparent during remote learning, state officials are promoting “Lifeline Awareness Week,” to draw attention to a program that provides low-income Kansans with discounts on internet and phone service. Federal and state discounts of up to $17.02 per month are available through the Lifeline program, which serves 35,000 people in Kansas and 10 million nationwide. Subscribers living on tribal lands qualify for additional discounts. As part of National Lifeline Awareness Week, Sept. 14-18, the Kansas Corporation Commission wants to make Kansans aware of this valuable resource. This year, a new National Verifier program...

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State Board rejects delay in recommendations on dyslexia

The State Board of Education on Tuesday rejected a request by the Kansas State Department of Education to delay implementing some recommendations aimed at improving dyslexia services for students in public schools. KSDE officials sought the delay, saying that the Legislature, during the COVID-19 shortened session, failed to provide funding for a statewide dyslexia coordinator. In addition, they said, implementation of recommendations from a task force on dyslexia were further complicated when Kansas school buildings were shut down in March because of the coronavirus, and schools are currently swamped in trying to start school during the pandemic. But a motion to accept...

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Starting Anew: Maize USD 266 starts school with T4T hybrid plan

When Maize USD 266 students returned to school this week, they found a hybrid system of in-person and remote learning that was put together by more than 120 people to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, support staff and others brainstormed over the summer, surveyed parents and overhauled school operations to keep everyone as safe as possible in this Sedgwick County district of more than 7,800 students. Then more staff were recruited to critically review those plans, which produced further tweaks. The product approved by the school board after numerous meetings and input from hundreds will have pre-K through...

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SPARK Task Force prioritizing immediate needs

The Kansas SPARK (Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas) Task Force met Wednesday to summarize recent spending and discuss priorities for roughly $300 million in Kansas CARES Act funding.  The task force is charged with overseeing expenditures of just over $1 billion in federal CARES Act stimulus funding provided by Congress to help states compensate for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless Congress takes action, CARES Act money must be spent by the end of December. Round 1 of the Task Force’s work committed $400 million to Kansas counties; Round 2 directed just over $300 million to connectivity, economic development,...

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School leaders encouraged to check HVAC systems to reduce COVID-19 spread

As Kansas schools reopen, district officials can take steps with their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases, officials said Wednesday during KASB’s weekly “Lunch and Learn” Board Leadership Forum. “There are no silver bullets,” in lessening the spread of viruses, said Devin Malone, business development manager at Willdan Group Inc. “But there are silver BBs,” he said. The presentation by Willdan and P1 Group Inc., both preferred partners of KASB, aimed to help education leaders as they reopen school buildings that have been closed for five months due to the pandemic. KASB...

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