KASB Daily Education Roundup, Thur. Feb. 13

Vaping, vouchers and vaccines were the subject of much discussion Thursday in the Kansas Legislature.

Meanwhile, the Senate Assessment and Tax Committee removed school districts from SB 294 before sending the property tax-related bill to the full Senate. In its original form, the legislation would have saddled school districts and other taxing entities with expensive reporting requirements on property tax levies. KASB testified against the bill, noting that school district taxes already are subject to budget limits and public notice and tax protest requirements. The committee agreed. The bill was also amended to remove the tax lid for city and county governments.

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee held a public hearing on HB 2552, which would set up a voucher program for students who score at the lowest level on the state reading test to use state funds to go to a private school or have state funds directed to evidence-based reading programs approved by the student’s parent. KASB opposes the bill and also spoke on behalf of USA-Kansas, KNEA and the Wichita and Topeka school districts. Here is a link to KASB’s testimony. Several other education advocacy groups also testified against the bill. Proponents of the bill include Committee Chair Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, Committee member Rene Erickson, R-Wichita, the Kansas Policy Institute and the Fundamental Learning Center in Wichita, which provides services for children with dyslexia.

Earlier Thursday, a bill aimed at curbing vaping, which has exploded among Kansas youth, drew opposition from convenience store owners and even some health groups that said the legislation didn’t go far enough.

At the conclusion of the hearing, House Federal and State Committee Chairman John Barker, R-Abilene, said the committee won’t work the bill “in the near future; maybe ever.” But he did encourage interests to continue talking with their legislative representatives.

HB 2563 would increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21; prohibit vaping in indoor public places; ban certain vaping flavors, but not menthol, and increase licensing fees to sell cigarettes.

KASB testified as neutral on the bill, saying it supported efforts to ban vaping indoors in public places and prohibiting use of e-cigs at school activities, but didn’t take a stand on raising the purchasing age to 21.

Several health groups — the American Cancer Society, Lung Association and Heart Association — opposed the bill because it did not ban menthol flavor e-cigarette juice.

Convenience store and vape store owners said the bill would result in the loss of jobs and that some people need vaping to quit cigarette smoking.

In other news Thursday:

— A Senate Ways and Means subcommittee began reviewing the state education budget and heard testimony urging more resources for special education. Here is a link to KASB’s testimony.

— The House Education Committee, before a packed crowed, considered HB 2601, which would give the Legislature authority to approve vaccinations required to attend schools and day care facilities instead of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

A Facebook Live recap of the day’s events is here.

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