Friday, April 26, 2013

Governor Signs Innovative Districts Bill

On Monday, April 22, Governor Sam Brownback signed HB 2319, the Coalition of Innovative Districts Act, which will allow up to ten percent of the state’s school districts (currently 28) to opt out of most state laws and rules and regulations in exchange for setting higher student achievement goals. After the first two districts are approved by state officials, it creates a Board of Innovative Districts to approve additional districts, up to the maximum number allowed.

Background and legislative history

The bill has become very controversial within the public education community, as well as the Legislature. It was drafted at the request of Senate Education Committee Chair Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City. Sen. Abrams, a former member and chair of the Kansas State Board of Education, sought input from education leaders, including KASB.

KASB supported the bill because it included several key aspects of KASB’s First in Education plan. First, it requires innovative districts focus on improving college and career readiness, measured by student completion rates for college, technical programs and the military. Second, it gives school boards more flexibility to pursue higher achievement by allowing them to opt out of most state operating mandates, both laws and regulations, if they so choose. Third, it is focused on innovation and deregulation within the public school system, under the authority of elected local school boards, rather than outside the system through vouchers, tax credits or charter schools not accountable to voters or performance standards.

Testifying in support of the bill along with KASB in hearings before the House and Senate Education Committees were the McPherson and Kansas City school districts, which have received waivers from the Kansas State Board of Education and U.S. Department of Education allowing them to use more college- and career-focused tests instead of state assessments. Also supporting it was the Kansas Policy Institute, which is often critical of public school performance in Kansas and supports public funding for a wider range of educational options for students, such as private schools and independent charter schools.

However, the Kansas National Education Association strongly opposed the bill, in part because it would allow boards of innovative districts to operate exempt from state laws governing relations with teachers, such as professional negotiations, tenure or due process, and licensure.

The United School Administrators of Kansas testified as neutral on the bill, and the Kansas Parent Teachers Association was neutral before the House committee and opposed the bill in the Senate committee. Commissioner of Education Diane DeBacker provided informational testimony in the House Committee. No members of the State Board testified in either committee. Subsequently, some members of the State Board have expressed opposition to the bill to KASB.

The House passed the final version of the bill 71-47. The Senate passed the bill 29-11. In the House, an amendment to require innovative districts to follow state laws on teacher negotiations, due process and licensure, was defeated on a vote of 50-70.

Opponents of the bill, including all legislative Democrats and many moderate Republicans, generally focused on the possible exemptions for teacher laws, especially the ability to hire unlicensed teachers; and warned that student outcomes would decline in such districts as a result. A Democratic leader, Rep. Jim Ward, R-Wichita, tweeted this week “HB 2319 is not education reform nor is it innovative, it creates no accountability school districts. Bad policy.”

KASB advance the following points in support of the bill.

·         Innovative districts will continue to follow state laws and regulations until and unless the local board of education, accountable to local voters, parents, staff and community interests, decides otherwise.

·         The exemption authority provided to innovative districts will be a maximum of five years unless renewed. If the district does not demonstrate improvement – if the district plan doesn't work – it will lose the exemption authority. If the district fails to meet improvement targets for two consecutive years, the district can lose its innovative status.

·         If a district decides it would be helpful to operate outside of traditional laws and regulations to achieve higher educational outcomes, it will have to demonstrate its decision was successful, or lose that ability at the end of the five year authorization.

·         If districts are able to demonstrate success while operating without certain state requirements, the state will be able to evaluate the desirability of continuing such requirements and regulations.

·         If districts are able to demonstrate higher achievement without using exemptions, or if districts with such exemptions fail to perform at a higher level, it will provide evidence state requirements are not significant impediments; or are in fact helpful in promoting student achievement.

Here are the detailed provisions of the bill from legislative staff, with some additional comments from KASB.

Establishment of Public Innovative Districts (Sections 3 and 5)

The act creates a process whereby a local board of education could apply for authority to operate as a “public innovative district.” The bill would limit the number of public innovative districts to no more than ten percent of the state’s school districts at any time. The application and approval requirements would differ as follows:

First two school districts.  A request for approval will go first to the Governor and the chairpersons of the Senate and House education committees. If a majority of these individuals approves the request, the district may submit an application to the State Board of Education (State Board), which will be required to review and approve the application within 90 days, if it includes the required contents (see below). Requirements regarding notification of both approval and denial are contained in the bill. If an application is denied, the district will have an opportunity to submit an amended application.

Remaining districts. The request for approval will go first to the Coalition Board (see below), which is made up of representatives of the approved innovative districts. The Coalition Board will have sole discretion to approve or deny the request and may make recommendations to the requesting school district to modify the request. Modifications could then be considered by the Coalition Board prior to making a final decision. If the request is approved, the district may submit the application to the State Board. The same review and notification requirements apply.

KASB comments: The act is designed to create a process of “peer review” for districts to operate under this authority. After the first two districts are chosen by the Governor and committee chairs, the approved districts are charged with evaluating the proposed programs and goals of innovative districts. In other words, the first two districts must approve the third, the first three must approve the fourth, etc., until all authorized slots are filled.

Application requirements.  The application must contain a description of the educational programs of the public innovative district, a description of parental and community interest and support, the specific goals and measurable pupil outcomes to be obtained, and an explanation of how pupil performance in achieving the specified outcomes will be measured, evaluated, and reported.

KASB comments: One of the key aspects of the act is the district's “completion percentage,” which is defined as “the percentage of high school graduates of a public innovative district that have enlisted in military service or completed a postsecondary educational certificate program or degree program as determined by the national student clearinghouse, or other postsecondary educational program completion database utilized by such public innovative district.” Increasing the district completion percentage is one of the factors in renewal of authority to operate as an innovative district.

Requirements and Exemptions for Public Innovative Districts (Section 3)

Requirements.  In addition to complying with its own stated goals, a public innovative district will be required to:

·         Participate in all applicable Kansas math and reading assessments or an alternative assessment determined by the local board of education;
·         Abide by all financial and auditing requirements applicable to school districts, except a public innovative district would be permitted to use generally accepted accounting principles;
·         Comply with all applicable health, safety and access laws; and
·         Be subject to the Special Education for Exceptional Children Act, the Virtual School Act, the School District Finance and Quality Performance Act, capital outlay requirements (KSA 72-8801 et seq.), all laws governing the issuance of general obligation bonds by districts, laws governing public employee retirement (KSA 74-4901 et seq.), laws governing school board elections, the Kansas Open Records Act, and the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

A public innovative district could not charge tuition for any pupils residing in the district’s boundaries.

Exemptions.  Unless otherwise required by the Act or decided by the board of education of the public innovative district, public innovative districts will be exempt from all laws and rules and regulations applicable to school districts.

KASB comments: Te act essentially requires districts to follow state finance laws and requirements, open meetings and records acts, and student assessments. Otherwise, districts appear to be exempt from most other state requirements.

Although innovative are exempt from these laws without having to go through any other process, the local board may continue to follow any or all of these laws if it wishes. For example, the districts would not be required to operate for the statutory minimum school terms, but the board could continue to do so.

Coalition of Innovative Districts; Coalition Board (Section 4, unless otherwise noted)

The act establishes the Coalition of Innovative Districts, with duties and functions to be carried out by a Coalition Board. The Coalition Board will consist of one representative of each public innovative district as designated by the board of education of the district.

Chairperson.  The chairperson of the Coalition Board will be appointed in a unanimous decision by the Governor and the chairpersons of the House and Senate Education Committees. The Coalition Board chairperson serves a five-year term, with any vacancy filled in the same method as a regular appointment.

Duties.  The Coalition Board will carry out the duties and functions of the coalition, including the following:

·         The Coalition Board will conduct the initial review of all but the first two prospective public innovative districts, and have the sole discretion to approve or deny a district’s request to become a public innovative district. (If the Coalition Board approves the request, the district’s petition to become a public innovative district may proceed to the State Board.)

·         As part of the initial review, the Coalition Board may make recommendations to modify the request and may subsequently consider the modifications prior to making a final decision. (Section 5)

·         If a public innovative district fails to meet any of the specified renewal criteria (see “Performance- Related Provisions,” below), the Coalition Board may petition the State Board to request the public innovative district’s authority be revoked. (Section 7)

Reports.  The Coalition Board must report annually to the Legislature regarding pupil performance in the public innovative districts, the laws and rules and regulations deemed problematic by the Coalition Board, and any other information regarding success or problems experienced by the public innovative districts during the previous year.

Meetings.  The Coalition Board may meet as often as, and wherever, deemed appropriate, and may form subcommittees.

Operational Time Limit; Performance-Related Provisions; Petition for Revocation of Authority (Sections 6-8)

Authority and renewal.  A public innovative district will be granted authority to operate as such for a period of five school years. At least 90 days prior to expiration of this period, a public innovative district may submit an application to renew its authority to the State Board, and if the application is complete, the State Board is required to approve the application within 60 days of submission, with related notification deadlines. The renewal application must contain:

·         Evidence the public innovative district has met the standards on the designated math and reading state or alternative assessments during the five-year period;
·         Evidence the public innovative district has shown improvement in its completion percentage (see above) during the same period;
·         Demonstrated progress the public innovative district is achieving the goals and outcomes described in its application; and
·         A description of compliance with the requirements of the act.

Early revocation of authority.  However, if a public innovative district fails to meet any of the renewal criteria for two or more consecutive years, either the public innovative district itself may petition the State Board for a release from its public innovative district status, or the Coalition Board may submit a petition to the State Board requesting the public innovative district’s authority to operate as such be revoked.

·         The State Board must honor any such petition request originating from the public innovative district itself, and release from the authority to operate under the act will be effective for the school year immediately following the grant of the petition.

·         In the case of a Coalition Board-initiated petition, the public innovative district will be provided the opportunity to have a hearing on the matter. A time frame for the hearing request and subsequent decision is provided. If the petition is granted, the authority to operate as a public innovative district will be revoked beginning with the school year immediately following the grant of the petition.

Monthly meetings.  The act requires the superintendents of the public innovative districts to meet at least monthly to discuss the success or failure of educational programs.

Additional Duties of the State Board (Sections 9 and 10)

The bill requires the State Board to provide technical advice and assistance in preparing an application for authority to operate as a public innovative district, upon the request of a prospective school district. Additionally, the State Board is to adopt rules and regulations as deemed necessary to implement the act.

Friday, April 19, 2013

State Revenue Estimate Essentially Unchanged

New state revenue estimates released today were almost unchanged from November projections the Governor and Legislature have been using to develop the state budget.  State general fund revenues were projected to be $29.9 million higher in the current year that the estimate released in November.  SGF projections for next year were projected to be $10 million lower than the November estimate. The net upward change of $19.9 million is just 0.3% of nearly $6.2 billion in total state general fund revenues this year.

Although revenue estimates are almost unchanged from November, state revenues are dropping significantly.  Total SGF revenues were over $6.4 billion in last year (Fiscal Year 2013), but are projected to drop to $6.2 billion this year (3.3%) and $5.5 billion next year (12.0%), due to the major income tax cuts adopted last session and the scheduled expiration of the special one cent sales tax on June 30 of this year.  The new revenue estimates indicate the loss of revenue will be slightly less than had been previously projected.  The consensus estimates are developed by staff from the Governor's Budget Division, Legislative Research Department, and state university economists.

Governor Sam Brownback, who championed last year's income tax cut and wants to phase-out the state income tax entirely, has called for keeping the sales tax at the current level to avoid funding cuts in "core" state services.  The Senate has passed the sales tax extension, but the House has rejected that proposal.  Both have reduced other proposals by the Governor to raise revenue by eliminating income tax deductions.  Without that revenue over the next two years, the House budget cuts state higher education funding by four percent.  The Senate plan cuts higher education by two percent.  Both keep K-12 funding mostly unchanged, with increased funding this year to maintain the base budget per pupil at $3,838 and funding increased bond and interest aid and retirement contributions over the next two years.

The budget and tax policy issues were not resolved during the regular session of the 2013 Legislature and will the key issues when lawmaker return May 8 for the final wrap-up session.

Also today, the Legislative Research Department and Division of the the Budget released new estimates for human services caseload costs in the current year and the next two fiscal years. Citing changes in state policy through the "KanCare" Medicaid program and the improving economy, a savings of almost $68 million in the state general fund is expected over the three years, with almost $130 million in all state funds.

Lt. Governor Dr. Jeff Coyer said the Governor will ask legislative leaders to use a part of what he called the "KanCare Dividend" to enhance funding in other health-related areas, such as reducing waiting lists and expanding the University of Kansas Medical Center. He said the administration remains to committed to its tax plan in order to maintain full funding of both K-12 and higher education, increase targeted health care spending, meet the statutory target of a 7.5% state general fund ending balance, and continue income tax cuts.

Although new budget profiles based on the updated revenues have not been released, that plan almost certainly requires keeping all or a significant part of the sales tax in place.  However, extending the sales tax is opposed by Democrats and some Republican moderates who see that sales tax as regressive on low income earners, especially as taxes have been cut for higher income taxpayers; and by some conservatives who support deeper cuts in state taxes and spending.

The new estimates project that state income tax receipts, although down sharply because of last year's rate cuts, will be $61 million more than projected in November for the current year, and $26 million more for next year.  That is different than the warning of some income tax cut critics who said many more small businesses would switch their tax status to avoid the state income tax completely.  On the other hand, sales and use tax receipts were reduced by $45 million this year and $40 million next year, compared to November.  Supporters of the income tax cut said it would stimulate the Kansas economy and lead to increased spending and sales tax revenues at the state and local levels.  The new projections do not indicate that income tax cuts are having a major positive impact on economic growth; but supporters will likely point to external factors like the state's severe drought and national economic factors like the federal budget sequestration to argue the economy would be worse if the tax cuts hadn't been implimented.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee will meet next Thursday and Friday, April 25 and 26, and the House Appropriations Committee will meet Monday and Tuesday, April 29 and 30, to consider revisions to their respective budget positions.  Meanwhile, Governor Brownback will visit seven public universities and community colleges April 22-26 and May 6 to campaign against higher education funding cuts.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gun Bill Prompts Questions on Schools

GovernorBrownback signed Senate Substitute for House Bill 2052 earlier this week. Thisbill makes a number of changes to the regulation of firearms under the KansasPersonal and Family Protection Act. A number of questions have been raisedregarding this bill’s impact on school districts. School leaders may have heardincomplete media accounts or from individuals affiliated with other publicbodies that are affected in different ways. 

Here is asummary from KASB legal and advocacy staff on the key points in this bill:

1.     School districts are exempt from thenew security requirements for buildings.

HB2052 restricts state agencies and municipalities from prohibiting carrying aconcealed handgun by a licensed individual into a state or municipal buildingunless the  building has “adequatesecurity measures,” as defined below.

However,school districts are specifically exempt from the definition of municipalityand are not required to have the “adequate security measures” defined in thelaw to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons in schools.

2.     Postsecondary institutions, cities,counties and other public buildings are included.

Schoolleaders may be hearing about requirements imposed on other publicbuildings.  In order to prohibit carryingconcealed weapons, public buildings other than school district buildings mustadopt ‘‘adequate security measures.’’ These are defined as the use ofelectronic equipment and personnel at public entrances to detect and restrictthe carrying of any weapons into the state or municipal building, including,but not limited to, metal detectors, metal detector wands or any otherequipment used for similar purposes to ensure that weapons are not permitted tobe carried into such building by members of the public.

3.     Colleges may adopt a four-yearexemption from the new requirements.

Despiteinclusion under the new requirements, postsecondary institutions and certainother public bodies may get an exemption from these requirements for a periodof four years by stating the reasons for the exemption and sending notice of theexemption to the Kansas attorney general. Therefore, postsecondary institutions will have a grace period of fouryears before they are required to put these measures into effect.

4.     School boards and colleges areauthorized, but not required, to allow employees to carry concealed weapons.

Schoolboards may permit any employee licensed to carry a concealed handgun asauthorized by state law to carry a concealed handgun in any building of theinstitution. The employee must meet the institution’s own policy requirementsregardless of whether or not notice of prohibited concealed carry isconspicuously posted in the building.

Pleasenote that KASB believes school boards already had the authority to authorizeconcealed carry, but the new law clarifies this authority.

Thisauthority also applies to the governing body or chief administrative officer(if no governing body exits) of a postsecondary educational institution; astate or municipal-owned medical care facility; a state or municipal-ownedadult care home, a community mental health center; or an indigent health careclinic.  (These institutions are alsoeligible for the four-year exemption from the building security requirements.)

5.     The new law is effective July 1,2013.

Schoolboards are encouraged to consult with their local insurance carrier beforeauthorizing or adopting new policies related to this law.  Some insurance companies have voiced concernsabout coverage for school districts that allow concealed carry in theirbuildings.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Governor Signs School Finance Changes

KASB will provide reports on major education bills signed by the Governor. Governor Sam Brownback signed SB 23 yesterday, April 16. The bill contains provisions from five different bills considered during the regular Legislative session that were bundled together by a conference committee.

Continuation of the 20-Mill Levy

The bill authorizes the 20 mill school district property tax levy for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years, and continues the $20,000 residential property tax exemption to the end of tax year 2014. The statewide levy raises an estimated $575 million each year, which equals about 22% of total statewide school district general fund budgets, and about 10% of total school district spending.

Capital Outlay; New Uses and When Authorized
The bill expands the authorized uses of district capital outlay funds to include property maintenance, various equipment for academic uses, computer software, and performance uniforms. However, expanded authorization will not take affect until the Director of the Budget and the Director of Legislative Research jointly certify to the Secretary of State that capital outlay state aid is fully funded at 100 percent of the amount a district is entitled to receive. Currently, no funding for capital outlay state aid has been appropriated by either the House or Senate in their budget bills for the next two years. As a result, capital outlay is currently funding entirely by capital outlay mill levies and transfers from other funds. The State Department of Education estimates that it would require over $25 million to fund the capital outlay state aid at 100%.

The three judge panel is the Gannon school finance case ruled in January that any use of school district capital outlay funds is unconstitutional unless the state aid program is fully funded. That decision has been stayed pending appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Changes to the Kansas Uniform Financial Accounting and Reporting Act

The bill requires each school district and the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) to report on their websites the budget summary for the current school year, as well as actual expenditures for the immediately preceding two school years showing total net transfers and amounts spent per pupil by specific functions, disaggregated to show the per-pupil revenue amounts from local, state, and federal sources.

The specific functions required to be reported are the following budget areas: (1) instruction, including classroom teachers, aides and paras; (2) student support, such as counselors and health services; (3) instructional staff support, as as libraries, technology support and professional development; (4) administration, including principals, superintendents, and board expenses; (5) operation and maintenance, such utilities, insurance, safety and security; (6) transportation; (7) food service; (8) other "current" spending; (9) capital outlay, including equipment, repair and remodeling; and (10) debt service on bonds. The bill also requires reporting the spending allocated to instruction, excluding capital outlay and debt service expenditures, as a percentage of total expenditures; and the same spending on instruction as a percentage of current spending, which is the sum of expenditures less capital outlay and debt service expenditures.

State law makes it a "public policy goal" for districts to spend at least 65% of state funding on instruction, but does not define how that percentage is calculated. According to state and federal reports, Kansas districts on average spend about 62% of current expenditures on instruction, which ranks 13th highest in the nation, but the percentage of spending on instruction is about 50% of total expenditures, which includes capital spending on building and equipment, and debt service. However, these percentages vary considerably among districts, partly because of different local circumstances and partly because of different spending choices by boards.

The bill does not require districts to spend a specific percentage on instruction, but may draw more attention to districts that spend below the state target.

Continuation of Military Student Second Count

The bill continues a second count date of military students on February 20 to determine the number of students enrolled in a school district through the 2017-2018 school year. The authorization is currently set to expire at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. This count was adopted to provide additional funding for districts serving military families that transfer during the school year.

Extension of Ancillary School Facilities Tax

The bill allows a local school board that has levied a property tax for ancillary school facilities for two years to continue to levy the tax for up to six years. The amount of the levy would be reduced to 90 percent in the first year of the six-year period; 75 percent in the second year; 60 percent in the third year; 45 percent in the fourth year; 30 percent in the fifth year; and 15 percent in the sixth year.

Current law allows local school boards that have levied an ad valorem tax for ancillary school facilities for two years to continue to levy the tax for up to an additional three years. Currently, four rapidly growing districts qualify and have adopted mill levies for this weighting.

School Board Members: Re-election and Turnover

KASB has begun a series of training workshops for local school board members elected April 2, starting in Garden City yesterday, Oakley today and Beloit tomorrow. We will be in Kansas City Saturday, Greenbush next Tuesday, Clearwater Wednesday and Topeka Thursday, with two final Saturday sessions in Hays May 4 and Hutchinson June 22. New board members, experienced board members and district administrators can register to attend here.

School district elections were a big issue this Legislative session, with a number of bills proposed that would change the date of elections. None passed, but the debate will continue next session. Our KASB research director, Jim Hays, has just compiled his biennial report on school board elections.

The 372 new board members elected this year are the smallest "freshman class" since KASB started keeping records 40 years ago. That's partly because in most districts, three of the seven board seats were on the ballot this year, rather than four seats; partly because there are fewer board seat available due to consolidation of districts; and party because 88.3% of board members who were seeking reelection won. That re-election percentage is the second-highest on record. The highest rate was 88.9% two years ago.

From 1973 to 1981, re-election rates averaged about 82%. Between 1983 and 1999, re-election rates averaged between 75% and 80%. Since 2001, over 84% of board members who sought reelection won.

However, school boards also experience significant turn-over. Since 1973, an average of 35% of board members decide not to run for reelection in each two-year cycle. About 1.5% are defeated in the primary and about 10.5% are defeated in the general election. In other words, about 45% of individual elected every two years are new.

This year is no exception. When the 372 new members elected this year take office on July 1 are combined with the 521 new members elected in 2011, it means 44.7% of school board members in Kansas will have served two years or less.

These results indicate that there is a high level of satisfaction with the performance of school boards at the local level, from the voters closest to local schools. That's a contrast to frequent criticism of school board financial management and educational outcomes heard at the state level. It also shows that there is a consistent blend of new and experienced board members undertaking the constitutional duty to "maintain, develop and operate" public schools.

The KASB research bulletin with this election data is available to members by going to and Research, then clicking on "Research Publications." If you are not yet logged into the website you will receive a prompt.)

For more information, contact KASB Research Director Jim Hays.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Regular Session Wrap-Up – April 7, 2013

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 2261One 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.)

School Innovation

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.)

Teacher Issues

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.)

School Choice

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.)

Technical Education

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.)

Activities Association

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.)

Immigration Issues

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.