Kansas Legislature

Remote learning dollars being shifted to other purposes

State officials are moving around federal COVID-19 funds, including millions of dollars that were initially earmarked to assist in remote learning for Kansas students, to help other functions, such as distributing the expected COVID-19 vaccine. Julie Lorenz, executive director of the Office of Recovery, told the Joint Legislative Budget Committee earlier this week that $23.5 million of $40 million that had been set aside for supervised sites for online learning for school-age children will be moved to assist health care and businesses affected by the pandemic. Lorenz said the $40 million could not be disbursed by the Dec. 30 deadline attached...

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KPERS report: Pension system in good financial shape; teacher retirements increase

The Kansas Legislature’s Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments and Benefits heard Wednesday that the state employee retirement fund is in good financial shape. Not surprisingly, officials said the number of school district retirees increased 28 percent, from 846 in September and October of 2019 to 1,087 in the same months in 2020. The retirements were attributed anecdotally to safety concerns about teaching during a pandemic, early retirement incentives, and lack of some positions. KPERS Executive Director Alan Conroy said it’s too early to gauge the impact on the system of a one-year increase in retirements but he’ll know more...

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Teachers not in first round of COVID-19 vaccine distribution under preliminary plan

Teachers and other school personnel aren’t among those mentioned to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in the first round of distribution, which could start happening within weeks. Phil Griffin, director of disease control and prevention for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, unveiled Kansas’ preliminary vaccine distribution plan on Tuesday to the Legislative Budget Committee. Griffin noted that information changes almost hourly on vaccine developments and proposals on how and when people can receive the vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering authorization of several proposed vaccines. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to vote soon...

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No recommendations from legislative audit on district cash balances

A study of school district cash balances by the Legislative Division of Post Audit noted that balances have increased over the past 10 years after adjusting for inflation, but due to many factors did not reach a conclusion of whether balances are too high or too low, and made no recommendations.  Here is a link to the full audit.  The district balances audit was ordered by the Kansas Legislature in a school finance bill during the 2019 session. For years, some legislators and organizations have suggested cash balances are too high.   However, as the audit noted, state law does not set requirements...

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State Budget Director says Gannon funding will be there

Gov. Laura Kelly’s budget chief on Thursday stated the governor would push for the increased public school funding called for under the Gannon settlement. State Budget Director Larry Campbell’s comments came during a meeting of the Governor’s Council on Tax Reform in response to concerns about school funding needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shannon Kimball, a member of the Lawrence USD 497 board and former KASB president, said many districts are having to spend more to combat the coronavirus while also suffering decreased enrollment. Campbell said Kelly is committed to pushing for the approximately $100 million increase for K-12 in the...

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KASB Advocacy Update at noon Friday (Nov. 20) will focus on upcoming legislative session

Come join us for the KASB Advocacy Update at noon Friday (Nov. 20) to discuss key education issues that will likely arise during the upcoming legislative session. To register for this online meeting, go to this link. Mark Tallman, KASB executive director for advocacy, will review his recent series of articles on questions that legislators will likely want answered for the 2021 session, which starts in January. (Those can be read here). G.A. Buie, executive director of United School Administrators-Kansas, will join the discussion. The meeting will be held via Zoom. There is no registration fee, but pre-registration is required. After...

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Gov. Kelly issues new mask mandate; wants schools, businesses open

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Kansas explodes, Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday announced a new mask order and said she is determined to keep schools and businesses open. Under the order, which takes effect Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, counties that do not require mask wearing, would have one week to adopt a mandate or fall under the state order. Even so, Kelly acknowledged that current state law would allow any county to opt out of a mask requirement. Kelly said her proposal would allow counties to tailor their mandates to local conditions. In a news conference, Kelly urged...

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Kansas elected leaders approve funding for COVID PSAs; state disaster declaration extended; Kelly says no shutdown

With COVID-19 at record levels, state elected leaders Friday agreed to fund public service announcements urging Kansans to follow what health officials have been saying for months to fight the pandemic — wear face masks, don’t gather in large crowds, observe good hygiene and socially distance. Meeting as the State Finance Council, the leaders also approved Gov. Laura Kelly’s request to extend the state disaster declaration through Dec. 15, which will allow the state through its various emergency agencies to help in the COVID response and gain assistance from the federal government. Under state law, statewide disaster declarations are limited...

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State Board of Education voices concerns about school year, looking at options

Stressed-out schools and parents and the realization that the COVID-19 spread is getting worse prompted a wide-ranging discussion by the State Board of Education on ways to help districts.  Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said consideration of waiving the requirement that schools have a 1,116-hour year is premature at this point. He also said the question about whether there will be State Assessments this spring is up in the air because the tests must be taken in person, which would be a problem if districts were forced into a remote/online instruction phase because of the pandemic.  Meanwhile, State Board members expressed...

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KASB Legislative Committee recommends priorities for school districts

The Kansas Association of School Boards Legislative Committee has proposed a set of state and local priorities for 2021. The proposals will be finalized by the KASB Delegate Assembly, which is scheduled to meet virtually on Jan. 21.  School leaders are encouraged to review these proposals with their local boards of education. Each KASB member school board has a voting delegate at the assembly, which will discuss and consider any amendments before approving the documents.  Local boards may also use these recommendations as a guide for determining their own priorities for the upcoming legislative session and input to state and federal...

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