Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Today: Suitable Finance Debate, Board Elections, Much More

Suitable Finance Senate Debate Today
The Kansas Senate is scheduled to debate SCR 1608 this afternoon.  It would add the following sentence to Kansas Constitution: “The financing of the educational interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power under article 2 of the constitution of the state of Kansas and as such shall be established solely by the legislature.”  KASB opposes the amendment, and testified that the courts should be able to review action of a Legislative majority on school finance to safeguard minority interests.

School leaders are encouraged to contact members of the Senate today.  Normally, the measure would be debated one day and received final action tomorrow, but the calendar indicates the Senate will take emergency final action today.  The constitutional amendment must receive a two-thirds majority of both the Senate and House, and approval by a majority of voters in a statewide election.  The resolution currently specifies the amendment would be submitted to voters in August of 2014, but a special election could be called earlier.

Hearing Friday on Carnegie Units Ban
The Senate Education Committee has scheduled a hearing Friday morning at 10:30 on SB 172.  The bill would prohibit school districts from using Carnegie units, or any other form of measurement based on the number of hours spent with an instructor, in determining whether a pupil has met the requirements for graduation from high school.”

KASB is preparing testimony on the bill and welcomes comments from school leaders.

School Board Election Change Hearing Today
A packed room is expected in the House Elections Committee today for a hearing on HB 2271, which would change school board and other local elections from April of odd-numbered year to November of even-numbered year, along with other state, federal and county elections.  The bill would also require school board elections to be on a partisan basis, and require all board members to run in at-large seats, which would eliminate the option of local board districts.  KASB opposes the bill.

Two Education Bills on Senate Final Action
The Senate is scheduled to take final action today on two measures debated yesterday.  SB 23 would extend the 20 mill statewide mill levy for two years, the maximum period allowed.  KASB supports the bill.  SB 104 would require schools and libraries to put in place “technology protection measures to ensure that no minor has access to visual depictions that are child pornography, harmful to minors or obscene.”  KASB testified as neutral on the bill, indicating that districts are already required to take these steps to receive federal e-rate support.  The bill was amended in committee to give more flexibility to the measures libraries could take to comply.

House to Debate Fund Balances Bill
The House is scheduled debate on general orders HB 2261 this morning.  The bill would allow school districts to continue to transfer unencumbered cash balances from certain funds for general operating expenses.  The maximum amount allowed to be transferred from these funds would not exceed $250 multiplied by the adjusted enrollment of the district each year.  It states the public policy goal is that at least 65 percent of these funds be expended in the classroom or for instruction.  It also would remove any cap on the amount of moneys that could be maintained in the contingency reserve fund. (Current law allows a district to keep up to 10 percent of the district's general fund budget in the contingency fund.)  Finally, the bill would require the superintendent of a school district to report the unencumbered balances in these funds to the local board in June.  KASB supports the bill.

Other Action This Week
KASB will testify in the Senate Education Committee today in support of SB 176, which allows up to 10 districts to be approved by the State Board of Education as “innovative districts” and be exempted from most state laws and regulations; but would have to adopt higher standards of student completion.  It also creates a formal structure for these districts.  KASB supported a similar bill, HB 2319, yesterday in the Senate Education Committee.  Other proponents were representatives of the McPherson and Kansas City school districts, both of which have received waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act.  The Kansas National Education Association opposed the bill because it would remove the application of statutory teacher rights to these districts if the local boards so decided.  The United School Administrators and Kansas Parent Teacher Association were neutral.

KASB will testify in opposition to HB 2320 in House Education today.  This bill would allow the State Board of Education, the State Board of Regents, any public or private postsecondary institution, the governing board of a city or county, or local school board to “authorize” what are defined as public charter schools, which would be exempt from most state school laws.  KASB’s testimony notes that under the Kansas Constitution, only the State Board of Education is allowed to have “general supervision” of public schools, and only local school boards are allowed to “maintain, develop and operate” public schools.  KASB will oppose a similar bill, SB 196, in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow.

Also in the House Education Committee today, KASB will support HB 2349, which would place in statute a requirement that the Legislative Division of Post Audit conduct efficiency audits of three school districts each year, chosen first on a voluntary basis.  KASB supports the measure as long as the final decision on implementing recommendations is left with the local school board.

Tomorrow, KASB will testify on SB 169, the Governor’s “Read to Succeed” program, which requires that, beginning in 2017, most third-graders who fail to receive a minimum score on the state reading assessment or an alternative assessment approved by the State Board be retained at grade level.  The bill also creates a funding system to provide grants to non-profit organizations providing early literacy services.  KASB will recommend that the provision not be imposed statewide, but considered as a state intervention for districts that fail to make improvement targets under the new state accountability system.

Also tomorrow, the House Education Budget Committee holds a hearing on HB 2248, which would allow certain districts to create an extra-curricular activities budget, funded by a local mill levy.  KASB will oppose the bill because it does not provide state equalization aid, but KASB will support increased local option budget authority for districts if tied to increases in the base budget per pupil and local option budget state aid.

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