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Gov. Kelly signs into law K-12 finance bill, policy provisions

Posted Date: 05/16/2022

Gov. Kelly signs into law K-12 finance bill, policy provisions

Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday signed into law the K-12 finance bill, which also includes numerous policy changes that will affect local school boards and districts.

HB 2567 provides full funding of the Gannon legal settlement in base aid amounts for fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1, and the first year of the Consumer Price Index adjustment for FY 2024.

The bill also includes two policy positions opposed by many education advocates. Those include:

— The so-called open enrollment provision that requires school districts to allow enrollment of non-resident students, subject to local board policies defining capacity and other criteria beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

— An increase of $7.5 million for special education; an amount that fails to keep up with the increasing costs of special education. The State Board of Education had sought a $155 million increase and Kelly had proposed adding $30 million. Both were rejected by Republican legislative leaders, but Kelly’s office on Monday said she is committed to restoring more special education funding when the Legislature returns Mon. May 23.

In a four-page release, Kelly Chief of Staff Will Lawrence said on behalf of the governor that the Legislature should review the open enrollment plan. “Before taking effect during the 2024-2025 school year, the Legislature must thoroughly review this policy and work with educators and administrators to make the necessary modifications to ensure that locally elected school boards maintain their authority to govern their districts,” Lawrence said.

On open enrollment, each school shall determine capacity at each school for the following year. For kindergarten through grade 8, capacity is determined by the classroom student-teacher ratio in each grade, and for grades 9 through 12, the student-teacher ratio for each building or program in each building. Before May 1 of each year, the school board shall determine for each grade level in each building, capacity, number of students expected to attend the district, and the number of open seats available to nonresident students. Then from June 1 through June 30, each school district shall accept applications from nonresident students.

On special education, school officials told legislators and Kelly that increasing special education costs were eating into non-special education funding and causing districts to fall further behind. They noted the state could afford to meet its statutory obligation that Kansas pays 92 percent of special education costs because of a record state budget surplus. Failing to provide the statutory level of special education funding means other resources are taken.

“Funding these services is the right thing to do,” the superintendents of Olathe, Shawnee Mission, De Soto, and Spring Hill wrote in a letter to Kelly. “At the same time, it takes away resources that we desperately need for other things. We make sure that our special education students have the resources they need but we do it at the expense of other students and programs.”

Although HB 2567 increases special education funding by $7.5 million, the percentage of excess cost being met by the state will decrease from 76 percent to 71 percent, well below the statutory requirement of 92 percent.

Other provisions in HB 2567 include:

— An additional $3 million for the mental health intervention health program;

— An optional virtual math education program funded by federal funds in the first year and state funds in the second year;

— Implementation of the Every Child Can Read Act, which requires further reporting on reading improvement;

— Additional requirements for boards to conduct assessments of the educational needs of each school;

— Increase in virtual state aid from $5,000 per student to $5,600 per student;

— On bond and interest, changes in the computation for each district by removing virtual students from full time equivalent and removes Fort Leavenworth USD 207 from the calculation;

— Requires parental permission for students to complete certain questionnaires or surveys;

— Twenty-three districts that receive federal impact aid payments may now keep those funds.

Lawrence also said some of the policies in HB 2567 will produce more burdens on teachers and urged legislators to stop making school funding contingent on policies that he said probably could not pass on their own merit.

In other education news, last week Kelly signed into law a bill that beginning in the 2023-24 school year, will require high schools to offer computer science courses or report to the State Board of Education on how and when it will provide the courses. The measure also provides funding to provide scholarships for teachers to complete courses to teach computer science,

Also signed into law was legislation that will provide $1.125 billion to make up for previous underfunding of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. Of that amount, $254 million will go toward the KPERS school employer contribution that had been withheld in 2017 and 2019, and the remaining amount will go to the KPERS school unfunded liability.

In addition, Kelly vetoed a bill that would have limited what governmental bodies, including school boards, could do to address outbreaks of infectious diseases.

SB 34 would have prohibited orders from the government to require face masks, banned the requirement of proof that a person received a COVID-19 vaccination and prohibited law authorities from enforcing rules regarding infectious diseases.

Kelly said she opposes mandating COVID-19 vaccinations and so-called vaccine passports, but that SB 34 went too far by limiting government’s ability to respond to any disease outbreaks, including measles or tuberculosis, and would prevent farmers from being able to respond to the avian flu.

“We need to be prepared for what’s down the road to best protect Kansans. This bill puts the safety of all Kansans and our economy at risk,” Kelly said.