Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Vouchers, Budget, Innovation, Elections and More - Tuesday Update

Special needs scholarship bill heard in House Education

                The House Education Committee received testimony Monday on HB 2263, which would allow students with Individual Education Plans to be withdrawn from their public school, enroll in other public schools or private schools, and take an undetermined amount of money from their sending school with them.  Although the bill laid out two methods to determine the amount, no conferees or staff members attempted to assign a price tag.  KASB testified an opponent based on the position of the KASB Delegate Assembly that public money should not go to private schools and only schools accountable to locally elected school boards should be classified as a public school. 

                Special education administrators also either testified or submitted written testimony.  They included Deb Meyers, Shawnee Mission USD 512 Special Education Director, and Terry Collins, the Kansas Association of Special Education Administrators Legislative Liaison, among others.  United School Administrators and the Kansas National Education Association also testified against the bill. 

                The major proponent of the bill was Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe.  Much of his testimony was based on the success of the scholarship program that operates in Florida.  Much of the KASB oral testimony centered on the fact the nine states that have such laws, including Florida, have lower education outcomes than Kansas and the other top performing states that don’t have such laws.

Senate Education Hears Capital Outlay, Career Tech Bills; Passed Internet Policy

                The Senate Education Committee received testimony Monday on SB 131, which would make relatively minor changes in the authorized use of capital outlay funds.  It was supported by representatives of Blue Valley USD 229 and Shawnee Mission USD 512 who said the bill would provide flexibility that could free up general fund expenditures.  Wichita USD 259 testified against the bill, saying it would create an unfair advance for higher-wealth districts that can raise more revenue per pupil, especially since the state has stopped funding state equalization aid for capital outlay.

                KASB testified as neutral, indicating the association would support the bill if equalization aid was restored but would oppose the bill without state aid.  KASB noted the three-judge panel is the Gannon school finance case has ruled the capital outlay levy unconstitutional without state aid, which means the capital outlay system is in jeopardy for all districts.

                The committee also received testimony from Wichita and the Governor’s office on SB 128, which would allow students to complete a recognized industry credential in high demand areas by December 31 of the year they graduate and provide the $1,000 incentive payment to the school districts.  Under current, the student must complete the program by the time they graduate.

                Finally, the committee voted to recommend SB 104, the Children’s Internet Protection Act, after amending the bill to remove specific reference to using technology measures to limit Internet access in schools and libraries.  The change would allow libraries to use other methods to block inappropriate content, and was offered as a way to reduce the potential cost of implementation.

Governor’s K-12 Budget Advances

                The House Appropriations Committee approved a budget committee report on the Department of Education that leaves intact Governor Brownback’s major recommendations on school funding for current year and the next two fiscal years, FY 2014 and 2015.  That action would add over $20 million in the current year to keep the base budget per pupil at $3,838, and would remain at that level next year.  In FY 2015, a slight increase is projected due to anticipated growth in the statewide mill levy.  Special education and local option budget state aid remain at current levels over all three years, while state contributions for school district employee retirement and state aid for capital improvement bonds will increase according to law.

                The budget also accepts the Governor’s plan to use over $100 million from the state highway fund to help finance school district transportation weighting and special education transportation costs.  The administration has indicated the State Department of Transportation could also help district find more efficient ways to operate bus systems.

                The Appropriations Committee rejected a recommendation from the House Education Budget Committee to use money from the Kansas Universal Service Fund for a position in the Department of Education to assist districts with e-rate applications.  However, it accepted a recommendation to eliminate an income-test requirement for the Parent Education Program that was proposed by the Governor.

                Also Monday, the Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education approved a report that maintained most aspects of the Governor’s budget.  The Senate subcommittee also removed the parent education provision, but approved funding for the KSDE technology position for e-rate.  The committee also added $100,000 from the state general fund to support the state Communities in Schools program, and $35,000 for Agriculture in the Classroom.  Both programs had been recommended by the State Board of Education, but not approved by the Governor.  KASB specifically endorsed the Communities in Schools program for drop-out prevention.

                The Senate subcommittee also requested a study whether school districts could save money on transportation fuel costs through bulk-purchasing with the Kansas Department of Transportation and regional service centers.

More Issues Scheduled This Week

                Innovative Districts.  The House Education Committee today hears testimony on HB 2319, which would allow up to 10 school districts to exempt themselves from most state laws in exchange for higher student completion standards.  An identical bill, SB 176, has a hearing in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.  KASB supports the bill.

                Bullying Policies.  Senate Education holds a hearing on SB 137, requiring district bullying prevention plans to include input from site councils; and posting the plan on the district website and file with the Department of Education.  KASB supports the bill.

                Activities Reporting.  Late yesterday, the Senate Education Committee also announced a hearing today on SB 171, which makes changes to the school district budget reporting law, most specifically requiring additional reports of spending on student activities and student class time lost to activities be posted on district website.

                School Board Elections.  The House Elections Committee holds a hearing Wednesday on HB 2271, which would move all municipal elections, including school boards, to the November general election in even-numbered years; make all elections on a partisan basis, and require all school board members to have at-large positions, rather than the option to have two, three or six board districts.  KASB opposes each of these changes.

                District Efficiency Audits.  The House Education Committee Wednesday has a hearing on HB 2349, which would put in state law a requirement that the Legislative Post Audit Division conduct three efficiency audits of districts of different sizes each year.  KASB supports the bill as long as the final decisions on implementing the recommendations of the audit are left at the local level.

                Read to Succeed.  The Senate Education Committee on Thursday hears testimony on SB 169, the Governor’s “Read to Succeed” bill which generally prohibits promotion third-graders to fourth grade if they cannot read at a minimum level on the state reading test of an alternative approved by the State Board, beginning in 2017.  It also authorizes grants to non-profit organizations to provide early literacy support.  KASB will oppose the provision of the bill creating a mandatory state policy on reading retention.

                Public Charter Schools.  Senate Education will also hear testimony on SB 196 on Thursday, a bill allowing the state board, board of regents, board of any public or private post-secondary institution, city or county or local board of education to authorize  a public charter school.  KASB will oppose the bill.

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