KASB Daily Education Roundup for Thur. Feb. 7

Senate Republicans on Thursday approved mostly corporate tax cuts, but the 26-14 margin fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a gubernatorial veto. Also on Thursday, were meetings on issues related to transition services for students with disabilities, early childhood learning and at-risk funding.

On the tax cuts, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has criticized SB 22 as irresponsible because of pressing revenue needs, including school funding.

“It is time to put the priorities of Kansas families first and fund our schools. With a Supreme Court deadline fast approaching, the legislature should be focusing on education, not another irresponsible tax plan,” Kelly said.

Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, who is considering a run for U.S. Senate, pushed for approval of the tax cuts. After Senate action, Wagle tweeted, “This is a first step in protecting Kansas taxpayers and businesses from an unintended tax increase, allowing them to fully benefit from the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017.”

The measure now goes to the House for consideration. All those voting for the bill were Republicans, while the 14 votes against the measure included all 11 Democrats, two Republicans and one unaffiliated senator. Here is a link to the vote.

The measure would reduce revenue to the state general fund by approximately $190 million in the next fiscal year and more than $400 million over three years. Most of the benefits would go to corporations. Here is a link to a state fiscal note on the bill. KASB has serious concerns with the measure.

Also on Thursday, Kelly announced the appointment of former state Rep. Melissa Rooker as the new executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Kim Moore, former president of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, as chair of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund.

Kelly said Rooker and Moore will lead efforts to expand early childhood programming. While in the Legislature, Rooker, a Republican from Johnson County, advocated for increased school funding and early childhood education.

In other developments Thursday, education committees were briefed on the Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas program, which helps students, who face obstacles, graduate high school and succeed. JAG-K has 81 programs in 38 schools and serves approximately 3,800 students. It is primarily funded through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant that the state receives. It receives nearly $5.8 million through this grant.

JAG-K is pushing for passage of SB 16, which would authorize school districts to expend at-risk education funds for specific targeted programs, including JAG-K. Chuck Knapp, president and chief executive officer for JAG-K, said the Kansas Department for Children and Families is reassessing how TANF funds are expended and cannot guarantee that JAG-K will receive TANF funds next year. KASB testified as neutral on the bill.

The House Children and Seniors Committee conducted an informational briefing on the Transition Workgroup, which is researching ways to improve transition services for special education students as they get closer to graduating from high school. The workgroup is headed by Jim Porter, a member of the State Board of Education, and Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas.

The workgroup has surveyed students and parents and found many areas that need improvement.

Porter said he expected the 45-member workgroup, which has divided into subgroups, to work for two years and then make recommendations to the Legislature. “We want to make sure we are meeting the needs of students,” he said.

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