House introduces two-year school finance bill with extensive policy changes; informational briefing today

The House K-12 Budget Committee will hold an informational briefing on a new school finance bill, HB 2395, at 3:30 p.m. today. A public hearing on the measure has been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday and Monday before the committee and then the committee has scheduled Tuesday through Thursday for final action.  Testimony is requested to be filed by 10 a.m. Thursday (March 14). Here is a link to a KASB summary of the bill.

Based on KASB’s review, it contains the following provisions. KASB is continuing to study the bill. 

School Finance – Response to Gannon 

The Kansas Legislature has been directed by the Kansas Supreme Court to add an “inflation adjustment” to the five-year phase-in of additional school funding approved by the 2018 Legislature. The goal of that plan was to restore state foundation aid to 2009 levels when adjusted for inflation. The State Board of Education proposed an adjustment that would add approximately $90 million each year to the base funding increases approved last session in the Legislature’s response to the Gannon school finance case. 

HB 2395 bill provides slightly more state foundation aid than recommended by the State Board and Gov. Laura Kelly in Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 ($4 million and $13 million, respectively), but with a lower base aid per pupil. This appears to be because the bill creates a new Behavioral Health Intervention weighting and increases the at-risk weighting. 

However, the bill does not continue the additional base increases recommended by the State Board and governor in FY 2022 and 2023 and repeals the scheduled base increases approved last session for those years. As the result, the bill would fall short of the 2009 goal proposed last session. 

The bill also repeals an automatic base state aid adjustment indexed to the Midwest consumer price index that was to take effect beginning in 2024 and repeals a CPI adjustment to the artificial base used to calculate the local option budget for districts. 

Weightings and Special Education Aid 

HB 2395 creates a new weighting of 0.5 based on the number of students attending schools served by a behavioral mental health liaison under a program piloted last year in several school districts. 

It increases the at-risk weighting factor from 0.484 to 0.51 and adds new provisions on how at-risk funds are to be spent on evidence-based programs. It limits participation of students qualifying for bilingual aid to four years. It also removes the statutory target of funding special education state aid at 95 percent of the excess cost formula. 

Accountability and Reporting 

The State Department of Education is directed to prepare a performance accountability report and a longitudinal achievement report for all students enrolled in public school in the state, each school district and each school operated by a school district to the governor and the Legislature, based on information required in federal reports and the State Board’s college and career readiness measures. 

The bill removes reference the State Board’s Kansans Can outcomes but does not appear to limit the Board’s ability to use them. It also adds new performance and financial information that must be provided on the websites of the State Department of Education and local school districts. 

Cash Balance Limits 

School districts would be required to spend the amount of cash reserves that exceed 15 percent of operating expenditures, based on the monthly average of the prior year. Bond and capital outlay funds are excluded. 

ACT tests; State Education Studies and Task Forces 

The State Board is required to provide at no charge to all students one administration of the ACT test and ACT workkeys tests, which began this year. 

The State Board is also directed to study high school graduation requirements, including possible addition of computer science and financial literacy courses as requirements or to satisfy math requirements. It also is required to create an IT education standards advisory commission to make recommendations to the State Board and State Board of Regents. These provisions were the subject of bills introduced earlier this session. In addition, the bill extends the state dyslexia task force until 2022. The task force, created last session, recommended that it be continued to oversee implementation of a series of recommendations. 

Bullying Task Force and Policies 

A 17-member task force is created to study and make recommendations to prevent bullying. The same day the bill was introduced, the Commissioner of Education announced the appointment of a State Board of Education task force on bullying, creating the possibility of two bullying task forces working on the issue this year. 

The bill also amends current law to require the following be added to school district anti-bullying plans: consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person who commits an act of bullying, harassment or cyberbullying; a procedure for reporting an act of bullying, harassment or cyberbullying; a procedure for prompt investigation of reports of bullying, harassment and cyberbullying; and a list of appropriate responses to an incident of bullying, harassment or cyberbullying. 

Bullying Scholarships to Private schools; Required Public School Transfers 

The bill also creates new program that would allow students who are determined to be victims of bullying after investigation to receive a scholarship to attend a private school. The scholarship amount would be a percentage of the base state aid per pupil: 88 percent for elementary students; 92 percent for middle school and 96 percent for high school. 

The bill would not require private schools to accept victims of bullying, but public school districts would be required to accept transfer of students who are victims of bullying from other districts. 

Roofing Bids 

Based on legislation introduced earlier this session in both the House and Senate, the bill would limit the ability of school boards to require in roofing bids a proprietary product, material or installation method or approval by an architect or engineering consultant, school district employee or the board that a proposed product, material or installation method constitutes the equivalent of a proprietary product, material or installation method. 

The bill also requires that any school district in a metropolitan area of at least 50,000 must receive at least three bids if a particular roofing product, material or installation method is specified in a request for proposal. 

In addition, the state bid law is amended to allow the school board to award the bid for a roofing project to a bidder other than the low bidder if the board determines that the quality, suitability and usability of the product, material or installation method is superior to the product, material or installation method proposed by any bidder submitting a lower bid. 

Tax Credits for Private School Scholarships 

HB 2395 amends the tax credit for low income students scholarship program act by changing the definition of public schools whose students are eligible for scholarships to elementary schools only, identified by the state board as one of the lowest 100 performing elementary schools with respect to student achievement among all elementary schools operated by school districts for the current school year. It appears this would limit participation to elementary students. 

State Bond Cap and Bond and Interest Aid 

The state construction bond cap  is amended to exclude the maintenance or repair of any facility, including, but not limited to, roofs, heating and air conditioning systems, school safety equipment and measures, technology updates or to comply with the Americans with disabilities act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., or an order issued by the state fire marshal. 

Transportation of students under 2.5 miles 

School districts are required to provide transportation to students who live closer than 2.5 miles from school if there is no safe pedestrian route, as defined in the bill, from the residence of the student to the school building attended by such student; and providing such transportation does not increase the district’s transportation costs. (Districts do not receive transportation aid for students living within 2.5 miles of their school even if they provide transportation.) 

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