Monday, February 18, 2013

Vouchers, Audits, Capital Outlay Hearings Today; Innovative Districts and Board Elections Ahead

Bills to provide publicly funded scholarships to private schools for special education students and to broaden the use of capital outlay funds receive hearings today, with other major bills scheduled for hearings later this week.

The House Education Committee holds a hearing today on HB 2263, which would create a system for dissatisfied parents of special education students to take funds provided to their school district to pay for private school education.  The amount of the special needs scholarship under the bill would be based on the cost of providing the child’s individualized education plan in the public school, but the private school would not be required to provide the IEP.  KASB and the Kansas Association of Special Education Administrators are opposing the bill because it violates provisions of federal special education law, allows public funds to be used in schools that discrimination on the basis of disability, and would violate the Kansas Constitution if public education funds go to religious schools.

The committee also is scheduled to hear HB 2349, which would place in state law an annual requirement for the Legislative Post Audit Division to conduct efficiency audits on three districts.  KASB will support the measure as long as districts are chosen on a voluntary basis and local boards are not required to implement audit recommendations they believe are not in the best interest of the district.

A third bill scheduled for a hearing, HB 2232, would require the state to provide liability insurance for teachers.  Teachers are already protected from liability under state law, but many teachers want to purchase insurance coverage.  KASB has not taken a position on this bill.

The Senate Education Committee holds a hearing on SB 131, which would change the definition of acceptable uses for school district capital outlay funds.  The three-judge panel in the Gannon case has ruled the capital outlay system is unconstitutional unless the capital outlay state aid program, which was suspended from funding in 2010, is restored.  KASB will testify as neutral on the bill, and explain KASB can support the bill if equalization aid included, but would oppose it state aid is not provided.

The committee also holds a hearing on SB 128, which would allow districts to receive career technical education incentives payments for students who complete an approved CTE certification by the December following their graduation.  Finally, the committee may take action on SB 44, which would impose new requirements on school districts to provide services to students identified with dyslexia.  KASB opposes that bill as exceeding federal requirements for students with disabilities.

The Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education is finalizing its recommendations for the Department of Education budget, including K-12 state aid programs, this morning.  Also this morning, the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the K-12 budget.  That committee has been looking for budget cuts in light of concerns over passing the Governor’s tax plan.

Tomorrow, KASB is scheduled to testify before the House Education Committee in support of HB 2319, which would allow up to 10 school districts to exempt themselves from most state school laws in exchange for stronger standards for student graduation.  A similar bill, SB 176, has a hearing Wednesday in Senate Education.  Also tomorrow, KASB will support SB 137, which requires districts to include input from site councils in adapting bullying prevention plans, and post such plans on their website and file with the State Department of Education.

On Wednesday, the House Elections Committee holds a hearing on HB 2271, which would move all municipal elections, including school boards, to the November general elections in even-numbered years.  It would also make all elections partisan, and it would require that all school board members be elected on an at-large basis, rather than having the option to runs in two, three or six board member districts, as provided by current law.  KASB will oppose the measure.  Local board members are urged to consider testimony on this bill, or contact members of the House Elections Committee with your comments.

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