KASB Education Daily Roundup for Mon. Feb. 4

Pensions, concurrent enrollment and mental health were before the Legislature on Monday.

The Kansas Senate advanced a bill to make a $115 million payment to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. A final Senate vote is expected Tuesday.

State Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, urged passage of SB 9, saying the state had promised to make the payment and had enough revenue now. Some Democrats said it would be better to wait for legislators to make decisions on state spending before committing the funds to KPERS.

If approved, the measure, which would go toward the public school group of KPERS, would then be considered by the House.

Meanwhile, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson and Board of Regents President Blake Flanders told the Senate Education Committee on Monday that offering free access to college courses in high school through concurrent enrollment will help boost college completion in the state.

Flanders suggested the Legislature fund a pilot program that would allow all Kansas high school students to take a college-level Composition class at no charge in high school, which would count toward both high school graduation and a postsecondary credential. If 50 percent of eligible students took the class, it would cost the state $3.6 million.

Last year, Gov. Jeff Colyer proposed funding for five free courses for high school students, but Flanders says with many unknowns about the programs, a more limited pilot makes sense.

Postsecondary institutions, primarily community colleges, would receive $71 per credit hour or $213 per three-hour course to offer the programs through concurrent enrollment partnerships, meaning high school students could take the courses from high school teachers approved by the college during the normal high school day.

Colleges would be required to offer such courses at the state-level of funding, but if an institution chose not to participate, it could not block others from doing so in its service area.

Flanders and Watson said the program would be especially helpful for first generation college students, who often struggle with the cost of tuition and fees and the lack of familiarity withe postsecondary system if their parents did not attend.

Studies indicate between 70 percent and 75 percent of future jobs in Kansas will require a credential beyond a high school diploma. Current education levels of Kansas adults fall short of that level, and education officials say the only way to reach that goal will be get more students from families who have not attended college into the system.

Meanwhile, more testimony was given to House Children and Seniors Committee on mental health needs

Monica Kurz, with the Kansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center, said Kansas suicide deaths have increased 45 percent from 1999 to 2016. In 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Kansans 15-24 years old and the third leading cause of death for the 5-14 age group.

Kurz said more funding is needed to increase capacities for Kansas suicide hotlines and broader education strategies are needed to provide counseling and detection.

To see a video summary of the day’s events go to KASB’s Facebook page.

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