The main part of the 2013 Legislative Session ended late Friday night with action on several education bills. However, the critical issues of the state budget and revenues to finance it will have to wait until legislators return to the statehouse May 8 for the final wrap-up session. Here is a summary of educational issues addressed this year. Remember, bills that did not pass can still be considered during the final session, and all bills not sent to the Governor or actually killed will carry over to next year.
School Finance: Formula
One of the final bills passed by the House and Senate Friday night was a conference committee report on SB 23, which contained three school finance formula issues and two provisions described in other sections below.
First, it extends the 20 mill statewide school district levy for the maximum period of two years allowed under the state constitution. (KASB testified in support.)
Second, it extends the second count date for military students scheduled to expire this year until 2017, as originally by passed by both the House and Senate in different versions of HB 2109. (KASB was neutral.)
Third, it amends the current ancillary weighting factor to provide for six year phase-out, rather than the current three year phase out. Ancillary weighting is used by a small number of rapidly growing school districts and funded entirely by a local property tax. (KASB was neutral.)
Bills receiving a hearing in the Senate Education Committee but not passed were proposals to change the formula, including SB 103, which would have changed the basis of at-risk funding for students in fourth grade and above from free-lunch eligibility to non-proficient test scores, and SB 224, which would have eliminated virtual, non-proficient, bilingual and vocational weightings and prorated the at-risk weighting. (KASB testified in opposition to both.) The Senate also considered floor amendments to the budget that would have eliminated virtual and new facilities weightings to finance a higher level of local option budget state aid. (KASB opposed these proposals which would have simply shifted among districts.)
School Finance: Local Revenues
The House rejected a floor amendment to create authorize a Local Activities Budget for certain districts, funded local property taxes. This concept was proposed in several bills, SB 133, HB 2248. (KASB testified in opposition because state equalization aid was not provided.)
School Finance: Capital Costs
SB 23 also authorizes districts to use capital outlay funds for school district property maintenance, equipment for academic uses, computer software, and performance uniforms. However, prior to such authorization, the state must certify that capital outlay state aid is fully funded at the amount a district is entitled to receive. Funding for capital outlay state aid is not included in the budget passed by the House and Senate. The Gannon school finance decision ruled that the current capital outlay system is unconstitutional if state aid is not provided. (KASB supported the expansion of capital outlay because it is contingent on state aid funding.)
For the first time in several years, neither chamber passed or even held a hearing on bills to reduce or eliminate state capital improvement aid for bond and interest payments. (KASB opposes reducing state aid for capital improvement.)
School Finance: Use of Funds
Also passed Friday was HB 2261. One part of that bill makes permanent the authority of school districts to transfer unexpended balances from certain restricted funds to general education purposes. It also removes any limit on the amount districts may place in the contingency fund. (KASB testified in support.)
The bill does not contain an earlier provision that would have required 65 percent of transfers be spent on instruction. No hearings were held on bills to require that specific funds be spent on instruction, or to amend or define the 65 percent “policy goal.” (KASB supports repealing or redefining the “65 percent to the classroom” goal.)
School Finance: Appropriations
School districts will not know exactly what they have spent next year until after May 8 because the Legislature did not reach agreement on the state budget or appropriations bill. However, both the House and Senate have passed budgets based on the Governor’s recommendations as follows: add funding in the current year to maintain base state aid at $3,838 this year; fund base aid at $3,838 in FY 2014; and $3,852 in FY 2015; provide no change in funding for Local Option Budget and special education state aid; use state highway fund transfers for partial funding of transportation weighting and special education aid; provide formula increase for capital improvement aid and KPERS payments. (KASB testified against further cuts in education funding, which this budget avoids; but also supported increased funding for base state aid, local option budget aid, capital outlay aid and certain targeted funds, which this budget does not provide.)
The Governor proposed and both chambers have passed a two year budget for Fiscal Years 2013-14 and 2014-15. (KASB testified in support of a two-year budget.)
State Revenue and Tax
The House and Senate have passed significantly different tax bills, both of which provide less revenue than the Governor’s original proposal to fund his budget.
The Senate plan, in HB 2059, maintains the state sales tax at the current rate and phases out most state income tax deductions; then begins a further reduction in state income tax rates over four years; and provides an automatic income tax rate reduction when state revenues grow more than 4 percent per year. It is estimated to raise $316.2 million in FY 2014 and $276.5 million in FY 2015; which would provide an estimated five percent state general fund ending balance in FY 2015 under the Senate budget plan. It would also reduce state revenues by $381.0 million in FY 2018 due to further income tax rate reductions.
The House plan, in SB 84, allows the state sales tax rate to drop from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent on June 30 as scheduled under current law; provides a gradual reduction in itemized deductions; and enacts a formula to use a portion of state general fund revenues when growth exceeds 2 percent per year to further reduce income taxes. It is estimated to raise $108.3 million in FY 2014 and $87.8 million in FY 2015, which provides almost no ending balance in FY 2015 under the House budget plan.
These revenue and ending balance projections may change later this month when new Consensus Revenue Estimates are released. If revenue projections are lowered, there will be increased pressure to either raise more revenue or cut spending. If projections are raised, some will argue that economic growth can cover the budget without higher tax rates.
Local Property Taxes
The House passed HB 2047 earlier in the session. It requires local governments, including school boards, to have a separate vote to use increased property tax revenue from valuation growth, and publish the vote in the official county newspaper. The Senate has not held hearings, but the bill could still be adopted through a tax bill conference committee report. (KASB testified in opposition because of the additional cost of publication for budget information that is already available and because school boards are already limited in spending and taxes; but believes the bill would have little practical effect.)
The House has never brought up for debate HB 2285, which amends the definition of machinery and equipment for taxation. The bill would make certain property which has been classified as real property reclassified as commercial machinery and equipment, reducing the tax rate and therefore total statewide valuation by an estimated $584 million. This would reduce revenues from the 20 mill levy by about $12 million per year. However, it is also anticipated to have very different impacts on various school districts due the characteristics of their property base. This would result in changes in the calculation of school district wealth per pupil, which would shift funding for local option budget state aid. (KASB testified in opposition.)
School Budgets and Auditing
Another provision of SB 23 passed on Friday requires reporting additional school budget information on the school district and Kansas State Department of Education websites, as passed by the Senate originally in SB 171. (KASB testified in opposition to the bill in committee but amendments removed requirements for new reporting of student activities information. The new requirements concern information that is readily available and KASB became neutral.)
Also on Friday, the House passed and sent to the Governor HB 2349, which directs three school district efficiency audits annually by the Legislative Post Audit division. Senate amendments placed a sunset on the requirement and specified that districts would not have more than one audit from LPA or other entities every five years. (KASB testified in support.)
School Programs and Requirements
On Friday, the House and Senate passed HB 2140, a substantially amended version of the Governor’s Read to Succeed program. The bill provides that beginning in 2016-17 school year, districts that have a higher percentage of students scoring in the lowest achievement level on state reading assessments will have to adopt a policy for possible retention of certain students in first grade, rather than third grade as proposed by the Governor and adopted in some other states. The bill provides numerous exceptions to the mandatory retention policy. It also creates a new grant program to assist struggling readers in the early grades, a task force to study reading interventions, and a recognition program for schools demonstrating the most improvement in fourth grade reading results. (KASB testified in opposition to the original bill, SB 169, and recommended it be limited to districts not showing reading improvement; believes the bill was substantially improved.)
On Friday, the House and Senate passed the conference committee report on HB 2109, which requires technology protection measures be implemented and enforced at both the school district and public library levels. “Technology protection measure” is defined as any computer technology or other process that blocks or filters online access to visual depictions tied to the definition of the same term contained in the Kansas statute dealing with the crime of sexual exploitation of a child. The provision originally passed the Senate SB 104 – Children’s Internet Protection Act. (KASB was neutral because the same requirements are generally included in federal e-rate policies.)
Also on Friday, the conference committee report adopted for HB 2261 contained two provisions regarding school district requirements.
First, the bill requires school district policies to broaden the definition of bullying to mean any threat by a student, staff member, or parent toward a student or by any student, staff member, or parent toward a staff member, and that this definition be reflected in the school districts’ policies and plans to address bullying. This passed the House in HB 2222. (KASB was neutral on the original bill, which did not include students; and is concerned about the legal implications of adding parents.)
Second, the bill designates the week containing September 17 (or any other full school week as determined by the local school board) as “Celebrate Freedom Week,” during which public schools would be required to teach to grades kindergarten through eight the history of the country’s founding, with particular emphasis on the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, without censorship of religious references in the writings of the founding fathers when presented as part of the instruction. The Kansas State Board of Education shall adopt rules and regulations to require history and government curriculum for grades kindergarten through eight that includes this instruction. The requirement passed the House in HB 2280, and was modified by the conference committee to be limited to grades K-8. (KASB was neutral because this instruction is already largely contained in history/government standards.
The Senate Education Committee did not pass SB 44, which would requires specific services for student with dyslexia in excess of the federal special education law (KASB testified in opposition), or SB 137, which would require school boards adopt bullying plans with site council input; post on their website and file with state (KASB testified in support). A hearing was scheduled but cancelled on SB 172, which would prohibit use of Carnegie units for graduation. (KASB supports the concept, but opposes if effective immediately.)
After extensive hearings and discussion, the House Education Committee voted down a motion to recommend HB 2289, which would prohibit implementation of common core academic standards in Kansas public schools. (KASB testified in opposition.)
On Friday, the Senate and House adopted a conference committee report on HB 2319, authorizing up to 10 percent of the state’s school districts to be exempted from most state school laws in exchange for higher outcomes standards. The bill creates a coalition board of such districts, with the first two chosen by the Governor and chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees. The concept is to allow a limited number of districts to experiment with strategies to improve student completion rates, with the ability to waive student requirements that are perceived as barriers. (KASB testified in support.)
Two bills dealing with teacher associations or unions were passed. HB 2022 contains the provisions passed by the House in HB 2023 which prohibit teacher paycheck deductions from being used for candidate campaign contributions. The bill has been signed by the Governor. The second bill is HB 2221, which directs school boards to provide equal access to teacher mailboxes and certain activities for organizations involved in teacher negotiations, professional development or insurance. (KASB was neutral on both bills).
The House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee made a number of amendments to HB 2027 concerning teacher negotiations recommended by KASB and the Kansas School Superintendents Association. It would substantially reduce the number of items mandatorily negotiable by boards and teachers, and make most current items permissible to negotiate. Current contract language in these areas would have to be renegotiated. It also requires bargaining units to periodically demonstrate majority representation. The committee leadership decided to delay consideration of the bill until next session, and will sponsor discussions between KASB, KSSA, the United School Administrators and the Kansas National Education Association to seek a negotiated agreement on negotiations changes.
(KASB testified in support of changes in the current negotiations law, but in opposition to provisions in several bills that would eliminate the requirement for collective bargaining with teachers by school boards.)
HB 2232, which would have required the Department of Education to provide liability insurance for teachers, was stricken from the House calendar and killed. (KASB was neutral.)
School Board Advocacy
The Senate has not brought for debate HB 2141, which requires public entities, including school boards, to report money spent to employ or contract for the services of a lobbyist, for an association that employs a lobbyist; or an association that has an affiliated organization that employees a lobbyist. (KASB supports an alternative to legislation prohibiting lobbying by public entities, but is concerned about reporting requirements for local boards that may not know if organizations or affiliates engage in lobbying.)
The bill was recommended by the Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee as an alternative to SB 109, which would prohibit the use of public funds for lobbying. (KASB testified in opposition; stating that boards should have the same ability as the Legislature and executive branch to communicate positions and advocate for constituencies.)
School Board Elections
A number of bills that would have changed the timing and structure of local school board and other local elections were introduced and received hearings this session. The only one to make it out of committee, SB 64, which would have moved local municipal elections to November of odd-numbered years and remained non-partisan, was stricken from calendar without debate.
Other bills receiving consideration were SB 145, making local elections partisan, changing to November of odd-numbered years, SB 211, making local elections partisan, changing to November of even-numbered years, and HB 2271, making local elections partisan, changing to November of even-numbered years, and requiring all local election to be for at-large positions, rather than allowing local districts. (KASB testified in opposition to all bills changing local elections.)
Constitutional Amendments and School Finance Litigation
Earlier in the session, the Senate passed two constitutional amendments by the required two-third majority, but neither has received debate or a vote in the House.
SCR 1601 would eliminate the current nominating commission for Supreme Court judges and allow the Governor to appoint judges subject to Senate confirms. (KASB joined in opposition testimony from the Kansas Bar Association.)
SCR 1608 would amend Article Six of the Kansas Constitution to specify that the Legislature determines suitable finance. (KASB testified in opposition, believing that educational funding should be provided a higher standard of protection in the constitution, to provide protection for children and communities not in majority.)
On Friday, the Senate rejected a conference committee report on SB 171 with a provision originally proposed in HB 2003 and passed by the House in its version of SB 23. It would require all districts to adopt a minimum local option budget of 10 percent, and to transfer that amount to the general fund to finance a higher base state per aid pupil. This concept, which passed the House in previous years, does not change any funding levels but has been promoted as a way to help the state defend education funding levels in the current school finance litigation, and to recognize a higher level of funding than the current base.
The bill remains in a House-Senate Conference Committee. (KASB testified as neutral on the original bill, which appeared to potentially increase the base budget per pupil, but testified in opposition to the mandatory LOB provisions alone, and suggested counting 10 percent of LOB as state funding when LOB aid is not fully equalized probably weakens the state’s position.)
The House defeated a motion to advance to final action SB 22, creating a corporate education tax credit program for contributions to scholarships for low income or special education students transferring to or starting in private schools. (KASB testified in opposition to the original bill, HB 2400.)
The House and Senate Education Committees both rejected bills (SB 196, HB 2320) that would allow the State Board, Kansas Board of Regents, public and private postsecondary education institution, cities and counties, and school districts to “authorize” charter schools that would be exempt from most state school laws and regulations. (KASB testified in opposition to both; believing they violate the Kansas Constitutional requirement that only the State Board has general supervision of public schools and only local elected boards can manage public schools; furthermore, there is no evidence increasing charter schools improves educational performance.)
The House Education Committee voted against recommending HB 2263, which would provide state-funded scholarship for special education students to attend private schools. The bill would allow public funding for private schools not required to serve all students; or to follow same accountability and operating rules; and allowed to discriminate based on disability. The funding would be based on special education services required in public schools, but private schools are not required to provide those services. (KASB testified in opposition.)
The House Education Budget Committee held a hearing but took no action on HB 2215, which would restore the 2.5 mile non-resident bus rule to 10 miles. (KASB testified in support.)
On Friday, the House and Senate adopted a conference committee report on HB 2052, concerning concealed carry in public buildings. As passed by the House, the bill exempts school districts from new requirements that most public buildings allow concealed carry of handguns unless the building has specific security measures. (KASB testified against including school districts under new security requirements in the original Senate bill, SB 186.) The bill also authorizes local school boards to permit any employee, who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun, to carry a concealed handgun in any school building if the employee meets such institution's own policy requirements regardless of whether such building is conspicuously posted to prohibit such weapons. (KASB is neutral on the employee provision because current law already allows this option for superintendents.)
The Senate this week agreed to House amendments and sent to the Governor SB 128, which gives students until December of their senior year to complete industry recognized credentials that qualify for technical education incentive payments. The bill also extends the life of the Kansas Postsecondary Education Technical Authority to 2017. (KASB supports.)
The House passed HB 2197, which would amend the Kansas State High School Activities Association governing structure. It would establish a board of directors for each league that is a part of the activities association. Each school in the league would have two directors appointed by the local board; one district employee, one non-employee. The bill also adds four members of the executive board of the KSHSAA appointed by the Governor, one from each of the state’s Congressional districts. The bill was referred to the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, which took no action. (KASB is neutral.)
First the first time in several sessions, there were no hearings or votes on bills to significantly change state policies regarding illegal immigration, such as requiring e-verify to check citizenship or to deny public benefits. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee did hold a hearing on HB 2192, repealing the instate tuition benefit for undocumented aliens, but took no action. (KASB supports the benefit for Kansas high school graduates working to achieve citizenship, and testified in opposition to the repeal.)
The House passed HB 2037, establishing statutory guidelines for display of historical and religious materials. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee took no action. (KASB testified in support.)
The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee held hearings but took no action on SB 10, which limits fees that can be charged for copies of public records and prohibits charging for staff time; also required minutes be kept of open meetings. (KASB testified in opposition.)
The Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee held a hearing on SB 150, which would prohibit certain standards from public bidding specifications. (KASB testified in opposition.)
The House Pensions and Benefits Committee will hold an informational hearing on HB 2308, ending current working after retirement provisions, on May 8, but is not expected to take action on the bill.