Legislature approves school funding, much business unfinished

The Kansas Legislature approved a budget that keeps in place base state aid and special education aid increases approved last year and maintains most other programs at current levels before adjourning. 

The Legislature ended the regular session two weeks early. The House and Senate are expected to return for the wrap-up session on Monday, April 27, but that is subject to change in light of the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, a long list of bills passed by each chamber remains unfinished business. 

Details of school funding in the budget 

The budget bill, SB 66, generally adopted the Governor’s budget proposal that adds $137.3 million, including $117.5 million from the State General Fund, for the State’s new estimates of expenditures for state aid to K-12 schools. The increase is primarily due to the Base Aid for Student Excellence (BASE) increasing from $4,436 to $4,569 for FY 2021, as approved last year by the Legislature and Kansas Supreme Court to settle the Gannon school finance case. The budget also increased special education state aid by $7.5 million. 

The increase is slightly lower than expected last session because school district enrollment was slightly lower than expected. The State Board of Education recommended using that “savings” to increase special education state aid. The approved budget does not make that change, but the budget committees agreed to review the issue during the final wrap-up session. 

The budget bill added $5 million not recommended by the Governor to continue school safety and security grants. It keeps $12.7 million recommended by the Governor for school-based Mental Health Intervention Teams, but deletes language proposed by the Governor to expand entities that could partner with districts to provide these services. 

The final budget agreement did not include adding $1.2 million to fully fund Career and Technical Education Transportation and $97,000 for a statewide dyslexia coordinator in the Department of Education. 

The budget bill also maintains the highdensity at-risk weighting factor for two years. That weighting was scheduled to “sunset” at the of this year unless the Legislature extends it. Although both the House and Senate have passed bills to extend the weighting from three to five years, a final agreement was not reached. 

The bill also includes language directing the State Board of Education to require school districts to submit continuous learning plans to receive a waiver from school attendance requirements in FY 2020. That directive was included the Governor’s executive order closing most school functions until May 29. 

Finally, the bill includes language increasing the cap on municipal bond interest rates at the daily yield of the 10-year treasury bonds for FY 2021, plus 6.0 percent on bonds excluded from federal gross income and 7.0 percent on bonds included in federal gross income. Without this step, financial experts say it would be difficult to sell municipal bonds at current rates. 

School Term Waiver Authority 

The Legislature passed SB 142 on Tuesday and the Governor received and signed it on Thursday. The bill amends current law regarding the minimum number of school hours required each school year. State law requires students in kindergarten attend at least 465 school hours, students in grades 1 through 11 attend at least 1,116 school hours, and students in grade 12 attend at least 1,086 school hours per school year unless a waiver is received from the State Board of Education. 

The bill expands the circumstances in which a local board of education may apply for a waiver to the State Board to include conditions restricting the operation of public schools. It also amends the definition of “disaster” to include any declaration of a state of disaster emergency issued by the Governor or the closure of schools by order of the county or joint board of health, a local health officer, or the Secretary of Health and Environment. 

The bill would also include a statement of legislative intent that school districts shall continue to pay hourly employees, including, but not limited to, paraprofessionals and custodial employees, during any school shutdown due to a disaster. 

Unresolved issues 

At-Risk Funding. The House passed HB 2540 on vote of 111-14. It would extend the high-density at-risk weighting for five years. The Legislature had placed a “sunset” on the weighting which would end the program this year unless the Legislature acts. The budget bill keeps the weighting in place for two years. The House bill requires spending at-risk funding on programs approved and listed by the State Board of Education or one-year provisional programs and adds reporting requirements. Passed House 111-14. The Senate Education Committee amended the weighting extension for three years; allows provisional programs for three years; and allows use of at-risk funds for professional development. The bill is on Senate General Orders but was not considered by the full Senate. 

Capital Improvement Aid. The Senate voted 40-0 to pass SB 382, which would amend the state capital improvement aid schedule by excluding Fort Leavenworth. The effect would be to increase the state aid rate for most districts and increase the number of districts eligible for state aid. The Senate version would apply to all bonds passed after July 2015. It also removes virtual students from valuation per pupil calculation. KASB supported the bill. The House K-12 Education Budget Committee amended to bill to apply only to bonds issued after July 1, 2020, and added provisions of another bill, HB 2465, expansion of tax credits for low income private school students, KASB opposes. The full House has not voted on the bill. 

Other bills passed by House and Senate. These following bills have passed one house but not the other. In most cases, the subject has been “bundled” into other bills passed so they could be considered in a conference committee during the wrap-up session. However, none of these bills have passed the second chamber so are not in conference committee. 

House bills: 

HB 2506Expanding the military spouse and service-member’s expedited licensure law to certain other license, certificate or registration applicants. Passed House 123-2. 

HB 2507Providing liability protection for businesses that participate in high school work-based learning programs. Passed House 97-27. 

HB 2346 Relating to standards for school-administered vision screenings.  Passed House 113-11. 

HB 2487Including emotional disability rather than emotional disturbance in the definitions of “children with disabilities” and “individuals with disabilities.”  Passed House 118-7. 

HB 2515Creating the Kansas promise scholarship program for postsecondary technical certificate and associate degree students. Passed House 116-6.  

HB 2618Establishing a state broadband grant program under the department of commerce to encourage the deployment of broadband in the state. Passed House 120-5. 

Senate bills: 

SB 337 Allowing accredited private school students to participate in free ACT testing.  Passed Senate 39-0. 

SB 384Requiring annual report on educational outcomes for foster care students. Passed Senate 40-0. 

SB 335Authorizing school districts to pay all or a portion of student costs for dual or concurrent enrollment.  Passed Senate 37-2. 

SB 284 Authorizing disability placards for school vehicles. Passed Senate 40-0. 

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