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Explanation of HB 2119 Education Savings Accounts

Posted Date: 01/26/2021

Explanation of HB 2119 Education Savings Accounts

HB 2119 - creating the student empowerment act; providing education savings accounts for students who are academically at-risk 

Sec. 1-2 gives the bill the title of the student empowerment act; sets out five purposes of the act. 

Sec. 3 is definitions, including: 

Eligible students 

Eligible students must be residents of Kansas and have not graduated from high school or received a GED, and meet ONE of the following criteria: 

  1. Be eligible for free or reduced meals. 

  1. Have been identified by the resident school district as eligible to receive at-risk services because of (A) performing below grade level in English Language Arts or mathematics, (B) high absenteeism, or (C) for any other reasons specified by the district. 

  1. Have been required by the resident district to attend school either through (A) remote learning for either 120 consecutive school term hours in the current or preceding school year, or 180 hours within one calendar year, whichever comes first; or (B) through a hybrid model of instruction for a period of 240 school term hours during the current or immediately preceding school year or one calendar year, whichever comes first, or, 

  1. Have created an education savings account under this act, which presumably is meant so say once a student in eligible, student remains eligible regardless the first three criteria. 

Hybrid model of instruction 

“Means a method of providing education in which the student, although regularly enrolled in the student's resident school district, does not physically attend the attendance center such student would otherwise attend in person on a full-time basis but participates in remote learning for at least one day each week. For purposes of calculating total school term hours during a period of hybrid model of instruction, school term hours shall be counted for each day instruction is provided by the school district through remote learning to a portion of the students enrolled in the district.” 

This appears to mean a student would be considered in hybrid learning even if attending onsite four days a week.  

Qualified private school 

Any accredited private school or nonaccredited private school that meets the following requirements. First, is registered with the State Board of Education by providing the name and address of the school. 

Second, provides the following courses of instruction: (1) elementary school subjects required for accredited schools, (2) U.S. history and government courses and patriotism and duties of a citizen required for accredited elementary and secondary schools and required for graduation, and (3) Kansas history and government as required for graduation from an accredited high school. 

Third, is approved by the state treasurer. This appears to include home schools.  

Remote Leaning 

"Means a method of providing education in which the student, although regularly enrolled in the student's resident school district, does not physically attend the attendance center such student would otherwise attend in person, and curriculum and instruction are prepared, provided and supervised by teachers and staff of such resident school district so as to approximate the student learning experience that would take place in the attendance center classroom.” Does not include approved virtual school programs. 

Resident school district 

“Means the school district in which an eligible student is currently or would be enrolled based on such eligible student's residence.” 

Sec. 4 establishes the student empowerment program under the State Treasurer and provides various duties. 

Sec. 5 requires the resident school district to notify parents when their students become eligible and provide information about the student empowerment program. 

Sec. 6 requires parents to enter into annual agreement with treasurer to participate in the program, which may be renewed annually, or may be terminated if (1) funds have been used for other purposes than those allowed in the act, (2) the student is no longer participating in the program or (3) the student is no longer eligible. 

Sec. 7 establishes the student empowerment fund in the state treasury, with individual accounts for each participating student. If a student is enrolled in a private school, the treasurer will transfer an amount equal to BASE student aid for the preceding school year. If the student is enrolled part-time in a public school district, the treasurer will transfer an inversely proportional amount. Up to 5 percent of a student’s account in the first two years and up to 2.5 percent in later years may be used for administrative expenses. 

Sec. 8 provides that to participate, a student shall either enroll in a public school part-time and use funds to pay for additional education services or enroll in a private school. The parent must notify the treasurer on whether the student is enrolled in public school and the number of hours attending. 

Sec. 9 requires the treasurer to transfer annually to the student empowerment fund an amount equal to the BASE aid multiplied by the number of participating students in private schools plus the adjusted BASE amount for students attending public schools part-time. 

Sec. 10 allows funds in individual accounts to be used only for the following purposes: 

(1) Tuition and fees charged by a qualified private school; (2) textbooks and other supplies required by a qualified private school; (3) fees for transportation provided by a qualified private school that is required for the eligible student to travel to and from such qualified private school; (4) educational therapies or services provided by a licensed or accredited education provider; (5) tutoring services provided by a certified tutor; (6) curriculum materials; (7) tuition or fees charged by an accredited private online learning program; (8) fees for any nationally standardized norm-referenced achievement test, advanced placement examination or other examination related to admission to a postsecondary educational institution; (9) contracted services from a school district, including individual classes; (10) tuition and fees charged by a postsecondary educational institution; and (11) any other education expenses approved by the treasurer. 

Private schools may not share any portion of these funds with the parents or eligible students, and no personal deposits may be made into these accounts. 

Sec. 11 directs the treasurer to notify the State Board of Education by Aug. 1 each year of the names of participating students, the resident school district, and the private school they are attending, if any, for the current year. For students who have participated in the program for less than three years, the Board is to determine the amount of weighting funding these students would have generated for the district during the last year the student was enrolled full-time for low enrollment, high enrollment, bilingual, at-risk and career technical education weightings. The aggregate amount of these funds is the adjusted weightings funding amount. 

The effect of this section appears to allow districts to receive for up to three years the state aid equal to the weighting amounts of students attending private schools, based on the last year the student attended the public school. The bill does not change the provision in the school finance formula that allows the district to use the prior or second prior year enrollment for the regular count of student. 

Sec. 12 is procedures for private schools to apply to become qualified for the program; provides for an audit of one private school per year to insure it is compliant with the act; and reasons for revoking a private school’s participation. 

Sec. 13 provides that “Enrollment of an eligible student in a qualified private school shall be considered a parental placement of such student under the individuals with disabilities education act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.” 

Sec. 14 requires an annual report on the program regarding number of students, schools and audits and administrative costs. There are no required reports of academic or other student progress. 

Sec. 15-17 makes the treasurer’s actions subject to the Kansas administrative procedures act; directs the treasurer to adopt rules and regulations; and states that “Nothing in this act shall be deemed to limit the independence or autonomy of a qualified private school or to make the actions of a qualified private school the actions of the state government.” 

Sec. 18 amends the school finance act to direct the State Board to adjust each district’s state foundation aid by adjusted weightings funding in section 11. 

Sec. 19 makes amounts deposited in a student empowerment account a subtraction from federal adjusted gross income for state income tax. If the amount of funding for these accounts is found to be taxable by the federal income tax and added to adjusted gross income, this section would provide these accounts are not taxable by the state.