KASB Legislative Roundup, Wed. June 3

On the first day of the special legislative session, the House approved the COVID-19 emergency response bill and the Senate Education Committee recommended legislation that includes most of the provisions that were contained in a bill vetoed earlier by Gov. Laura Kelly. 

On the new education bill — SB 5 — KASB issued a statement in support of the measure.  

The bill would:  

— Provide free ACT and ACT WorkKeys assessments at no charge to anyone enrolled in private school. This would be in addition to current policy of providing the tests free to public school students. 

— Allow school districts to pay tuition, fees, books, materials and equipment for any high school student who is concurrently enrolled at a postsecondary institution. 

— Expand the tuition waiver for foster care students in concurrent enrollment. 

— Require the Kansas State Department of Education and Kansas Department for Children and Families to prepare an annual academic report card on foster care students. The foster student report would include information on the graduation rate, promotion rate, suspensions, state test scores, and other data regarding foster students. 

— Establish the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act, which would provide scholarships for students to attend a community or technical college, the Washburn Institute of Technology, or any two-year associate degree program or technical certificate program offered by a private postsecondary educational institution that has its primary location in Kansas.  

Unlike the bill vetoed by Kelly, SB 5 defers the maximum $10 million annual financial cost of the scholarship program until fiscal year 2022. When Kelly issued her veto, she said she couldn’t sign legislation that included new discretionary spending because of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Later Wednesday, the House approved 107-12 the emergency COVID response bill, HB 2016. 

The vote came after lengthy debate and a failed attempt to amend the bill to include Medicaid expansion.  

Action now moves to the Senate where the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to conduct meetings this morning on a proposed COVID bill, SB 7. 

Kelly called the special session to deal with the state government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, Republicans pushed through a measure restricting Kelly, a Democrat, in using emergency powers during the pandemic. Kelly vetoed the bill, which was crafted during a 24-hour marathon on the final day of the regular session, and then called legislators back into session.   

Earlier in the day, Kelly announced her support for the new COVID measure. “To be clear, there are parts of the bill I do not support. However, my priority is and will always be the interests of Kansans first. I believe that the majority of this legislation accomplishes that and upholds my commitment to work across the aisle to move our state forward,” she said.  

One major provision in the bill affecting public schools is that it would require Kelly to first get the approval of the State Board of Education if she wanted to close schools again to curb the spread of COVID-19.  

Also under the bill, after Sept. 15, Kelly would need consent of five of the eight legislative members of the State Finance Council to shut down businesses during the pandemic and allocate federal funds directed to Kansas for coronavirus relief. The legislative makeup of the council includes six Republican legislative leaders and two Democratic legislative leaders.  

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