Education bills with hearings Week of Feb. 11

Here is a list of bills coming up, beginning Feb. 11. School leaders and advocates are urged to provide oral or written testimony on issues where they have concerns or information for the committee. Follow KASB communications as more hearings may be added at any time. 

School safety drills. Senate Education Committee hearing Monday, Feb. 11, 1:30 p.m. on SB 128 – Requiring at least nine safety drills to be conducted by schools each year. 

The bill would require public and private elementary and secondary schools to provide at least four fire drills, two tornado drills (September and April) and three “crisis drills” as approved by the Safe and Secure Schools Unit of the Kansas State Department of Education each school year. 

The bill would replace both the law prior to the current year requiring monthly fire drills and three tornado drills, and a one-year requirement adopted last year adding safety drills. The new bill was developed in consultation with school leaders and the state fire marshal. KASB supports. 

To testify, contact Committee Assistant Amy Robinson, 785-296-7368 

Personal Financial Literacy. House Education Committee hearing Tuesday, Feb. 12, 1:30 p.m. on HB 2166 – Requiring personal financial literacy courses. The bill would require school districts to offer a course of instruction for grade 11 or 12 concerning personal financial literacy, of at least one semester, which students must take to graduate. 

KASB has supported efforts to encourage and assist school districts in providing financial education, but opposes uniform requirements for specific courses, either for school districts or students. Such requirements have differing impact on districts and students. KASB supports local flexibility in determining the most appropriate way to meet student needs in this area. 

To testify, contact Committee Assistant Deborah Bremer, 785-296-1754. 

KPERS Payment. Hearing in House Appropriations Committee Tuesday, Feb. 12, 9 a.m. on SB 9 — Authorizing the transfer of $115 million from the state general fund to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System during fiscal year 2019. 

To testify, contact: Kathy Holscher, Committee Assistant, at 785-291-3446 

KPERS Re-amortization. Hearings in House Financial Institutions and Pensions Committee Tuesday, Feb. 12, 9 a.m. on HB 2197 – Amortizing the state and school KPERS actuarial accrued liability over a 30-year period and eliminating certain level-dollar employer contribution payments. 

Gov. Laura Kelly has proposed “re-amortizing” the current KPERS debt, which is due to be paid off in 2034, for a 30-year period. The benefits would be to reduce annual costs to the system, allowing more funding for current funding of state programs, including K-12 state aid, higher education, social services and public safety. The disadvantage is that the total cost over time would be much higher. 

KPERS staff has indicated that is re-amortization is a common strategy for public pension plans, but would ordinarily be considered several years from now, when the system is closer to being fully funded. 

KASB does not have a specific position on KPERS re-amortization, but has a priority goal of fully implementing the school finance plan adopted by last year’s Legislature over the next four years and adding an “inflation factor” as proposed by the State Board of Education and the Governor, which the plaintiffs in the Gannon case have indicated could end the litigation. 

School board and municipal vacancies. Hearing in House Local Government Committee Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 9 a.m. on HB 2136 – Municipalities; related to resignations for the purpose of filling vacancies on governing bodies. 

The states that “No member of the governing body of a municipality shall resign from the member’s position on the governing body for the purpose of being appointed to another position on the same governing body if this would result in lengthening the member’s term of office on that governing body.” Apparently based on concerns that board members and city official may be thwarting the will of voters by resigning to receive an appointment to another position on the body, but on several incidents. 

If you have experience or concerns to share about these situations, please provide information to the committee.  

To testify, contact Committee Assistant Gary Deeter, 785-296-7451 

At-Risk Funding and Jobs for American’s Graduates. Hearing in House K-12 Education Budget Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 3:30 p.m. on HB 2108 – At-risk, evidence-based programs, JAG-K, (same as SB 16, hearing held Thursday). 

JAG-K has been funded primarily with federal TANF (Transitional Aid to Needy Families) funding. There are concerns this funding be reduced or eliminated by the Kelly administration to use for other purposes. 

However, at-risk funding can already be used for JAG-K. KASB testified as neutral. No objections to the program, which has a very positive record. Only concern is whether specific programs should be listed. 

There are many other programs that show how additional funding helps students succeed, also with limited funding. The question is whether some programs should be cited in statute and others should not. The concern is that the listing becomes a limitation. 

Private school scholarship for students reporting bullying. Hearing Thursday, Feb. 14 in House K-12 Education Budget Committee at 3:30 p.m. on HB 2150 — Enacting the Kansas hope scholarship act. 

The bill would provide that any public-school student who has reported an incident of bullying (whether or not they are the victim) is eligible transfer to another public-school district or an accredited private school and receive a scholarship to attend that other school, with the amount based on a percentage of the base state aid per pupil, plus funding for transportation. 

If the student wanted to attend another public school district, the scholarship money would go to that district’s general fund, but it would be less than base state aid, and the bill does not appear to give the districts any additional spending authority. The student would continue to be counted for enrollment in the “home” district, which apparently keeps the difference between the base and the scholarship amount. 

The bill does not appear to require either another district or a private school to accept any such students. 

Key concerns: 

KASB opposes vouchers/scholarships for schools not subject to the same accountability as public schools. 

Bullying is a serious issue and needs attention. However, taking dollars from a school if students transfer will not help, especially for those students who cannot or do not want to transfer. 

Students with certain behaviors/attributes that may have subjected them to bullying may not be accepted by private schools. Access may be limited in sparsely-populated areas of the state. 

A scholarship to attend a different school does not guarantee the student won’t be bullied at the receiving school. Nor does it apply to students in private schools who experience in bullying. 

Any student alleging any act of bullying, whether to him or herself, becomes eligible. School administrators are required to investigate, but the investigation does not have any impact on eligibility.

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