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Where We Stand, February 19

Posted Date: 02/19/2021

Where We Stand, February 19

Private School Aid:  

Last week (February 11), the Senate voted 23-14 to pass SB 61, which would amend the current Kansas program that gives tax credits for contributions that are used to pay for scholarships for certain students to attend private schools. An identical bill, HB 2068, has been approved by the House K12 Education Budget Committee. 

 The same House committee voted to recommend HB 2119, which would create a new private school aid plan called education savings accounts. It has also not been scheduled for debate. 

With the legislative “turnaround” deadline approaching, we’ll be watching closely for HB 2068 or HB 2119 to be scheduled for floor votes in the House. In the event one or both are scheduled, we’ll likely have very little time to react (possibly, only overnight), so please continue to follow our KASB communications efforts for the latest information.  

KASB and many other education groups are opposed to these bills. Here are some of the main reasons: 

Although various programs such as tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, or vouchers are promoted to give students and families more “choices,” private schools under the program can continue to be selective in the students they enroll and the programs that they offer. They can also have different academic, discipline, and other requirements than public schools. As a result, not all students – and taxpayers – can make this choice.  

As a result, expanding the programs is a step towards a two-tiered system, with publicly aided private schools able to serve students most likely to succeed and public schools serving all those not chosen.  

Because school funding is based on enrollment, if students move to private schools, public districts receive less funding. That is particularly a problem if public schools continue to be responsible for the highest cost students.  

Participating private schools are required to be accredited by the Kansas State Board of Education OR a national or regional accrediting body approved by the State Board for teacher licensing purposes. However, schools not accredited by the State Board do not have to give students state assessments or report those and other academic results to the state.  

Who to contact: 

You can contact all House members with your concerns. 

School Funding  

Budget and School Funding 

The Senate Education Committee is expected to vote Friday afternoon on the Kansas State Department of Education Budget. This budget contains funding for all major school district aid programs, as well as the operating budget of KSDE. The Governor’s recommended budget contains funding to continue to implement the Gannon school finance plan approved by the Legislature and Kansas Supreme Court. KASB testimony in support of the Gannon funding.  

Education Committee Chair Molly Baumgardner plans to offer an amendment to add $100,000 to the KSDE budget for a dyslexia coordinator position requested by the State Board of Education and recommended by a Legislative task force. She also is proposing additional funding to change how reading is taught in the state’s colleges of education. 

The KSDE budget is scheduled for consideration by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, February 23. 

The House K12 Education Budget Committee will hold its public hearing on the KSDE budget Monday, February 22, after receiving staff briefings on the budget, school enrollments, school mental health services, and federal COVID aid to school districts and several days of discussion on remote and hybrid learning and issues relating to the State Board of Education. The KSDE budget is scheduled to be considered by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, February 25. 

Who to contact: the budget must be passed by both the House and Senate, so you can share your concerns with every Legislator.  

At-Risk and High-Density At-Risk Weighting 

The Senate Education Committee held hearings this week on SB 173 that would extend the expiring high-density weighting factor until June 30, 2023, but also makes changes in the current at-risk weighting system. It was scheduled to  hold a hearing Friday afternoon on SB 144 would simply make the high-density at-risk weighting permanent with no other changes. 

SB 173 is based on legislation that passed the House last year and was modified by the Senate Education Committee before the Legislature shut down early. These changes reflect input from various education organizations, including KASB. Many of these changes were prompted by a Legislative Post Audit from 2019. 

First, section one directs the State Board of Education to require school districts to implement at-risk educational programs and services that provide additional educational opportunities, interventions, and evidence-based instruction using the at-risk best practices identified in state law (K.S.A. 72-5153).  It further includes criteria for students to receive at-risk services. These criteria are identical to current guidelines of the State Board for student eligibility , except dyslexia is added.  

Second, the bill extends the high-density at-risk weighting to June 30, 2023. (The current high-density weighting expired in 2020 but was extended for two years by a “proviso” in last year’s state budget bill.)  

Third, the bill states that “The purpose of the at-risk student weighting and the high-density at-risk student weighting is to provide students identified as eligible to receive at-risk programs and services with evidence-based educational services in addition to regular instructional services.” It also directs that the “portion of such state foundation aid that is directly attributed to such school district's at-risk student weighting and high-density at-risk student weighting, if any, shall be transferred to the district's at-risk education fund.”  These are current practices. 

Fourth, the bill amends the current law on how at-risk funds may be spent as follows:   

(A) It specifically allows at-risk funds to be used for “support for instructional classroom personnel designed to provide training for evidence-based best practices for at-risk educational programs.”  

(B) It requires the state board to provide a list of approved at-risk educational programs to each school district and publish the list on the department's website, and limits expenditures from a school district's at-risk education fund to any programs or services on the list of approved at-risk educational programs, unless such program is a provisional at-risk educational program. Under current law, the State Board must approve how at-risk funds are spent but may approve programs by reviewing expenditures as part of an annual audit, not in advance.  

(C) It establishes “provisional at-risk programs,” defined as “an evidence-based at-risk educational program or service identified or developed by a school district as producing or likely to produce measurable success that has been submitted to the state board for review,” and limited to a three-year period prior. Basically, it allows districts to “experiment” with programs for three-years, after which the State Board determines if it may be an approved program.  

Fifth, the bill adds a reporting requirement that districts “shall track and report the longitudinal performance of students that are continuously receiving at-risk programs and services in the district's approved at-risk program and, if applicable, may include data regarding state assessment scores, Kansas English language proficiency assessment results, four-year graduation rates, progress monitoring, norm-referenced test results, criterion-based test results, individualized education program goals, attendance, and average ACT composite scores.”  

Finally, the bill requires a performance audit of at-risk education to be conducted during 2022, and the final audit report shall be submitted to the legislature on or before January 15, 2023. 

Allocation of District Funds 

The Senate Education Committee also scheduled a hearing Friday on SB 93. The bill is identical to HB 2067, which was recommended to the full House by the House K12 Education Budget Committee. Both bills direct school boards to use a building-based needs assessment to prepare an annual budget that improves student achievement and allocates district resources to achieve the state education goals (the Rose capacities). KASB testified against the bill, not because of the requirement to use resources to achieve student success but over concerns it could be interpreted as requiring districts to spend funding in specific areas regardless of local needs. 

Who to contact: Senate Education Committee, all members of the Kansas House.   

Bond and Interest State Aid 

The Senate Education Committee has scheduled a hearing Wednesday, February 24, on SB 31, which would make two changes in the aid formula for capital improvement (bond and interest) state aid, for general obligation bonds approved for issuance at an election held on or after July 1, 2021. 

First, the bill removes USD 207 Ft. Leavenworth from the calculation of assessed valuation per pupil. Under current law, the state aid rate begins with the lowest assessed valuation per pupil, at which point the state pays 75 percent of the annual cost of payments. For each $1,000 increase in AVPP from the lowest point, the state aid amount decreases by 1 percent. USD 207Ft. Leavenworth, as a military base, has almost no valuation per pupil and does not increase in AVPP. In most other districts as property values rise over time. As a result, the aid ratio for all other districts is gradually dropping, which means the local property tax rate required is increasing. This creates a growing disparity between higher wealth and lower wealth districts. 

The effect of the first change would be to start the formula at 75 percent for the lowest district other than USD 207 and allow the formula to adjust to changes in valuation per pupil. 

Second, the bill would exclude students enrolled in a virtual school from the count of students used to determine assessed valuation per pupil. Including these students, who usually do not attend the physical facilities of the district, lowers the per-pupil valuation and makes the district “less wealthy” under the formula and thereby receive more state aid. The bill would reduce the state aid ratio for these districts. 

KASB will testify in favor of the first change removing USD 207 and is neutral on the virtual student change. 


Preparing students for postsecondary success  

The Senate Education Committee is expected to take final action Friday on SB 43, which creates the Kansas Promise Scholarship program for students to attend postsecondary technical and two-year degree programs in certain high-demand fields. As amended, this would include early childhood education and development. The committee has not completed work on the bill. KASB testified in support of the bill.  

The House Commerce, Labor, and Economic Development Committee held a hearing this week on HB 2287, which is similar to SB 43 but allows the State Board of Regents and Department of Labor to determine which programs quality and require hours of community service from students while in school. It has not taken action. KASB also testified in support of the House bill. 

The Senate previously passed SB 32, which would allow school districts to pay all or a portion of tuition and fees for high school students attending dual or concurrent college courses and provides a tuition waiver for students in foster care. KASB testified in support of the bill. Here is the vote. It was referred to the House Education Committee. 

Financial Literacy 

The House Education Committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday, Feb. 23, on HB 2301. 

The bill requires that by July 1, 2022, the State Board of Education and the board of education of each school district that offers a personal financial literacy course for any of the grades 9 through 12 shall allow a student to fulfill one-half of a required math credit for graduation by passing such personal financial literacy course. By the same date, the State Board of Regents and the governing body of each state educational institution, municipal university, community college, and technical college shall recognize a personal financial literacy course as one-half of a math credit required for admission to the institution. 

The bill also amends current law to direct the State Board to develop state curriculum standards for personal financial literacy for grades 11 and 12 for a course of at least one semester or two quarters to include, but not be limited to, the following topics: (1) saving and investing, including, but not limited to, understanding investments, wealth building and college savings; (2) credit and debt, including, but not limited to, topics concerning the dangers of excessive debt, consumer awareness, credit bureaus, payday, and car title loans and collection practices; (3) financial responsibility and money management, including, but not limited to, topics concerning budgeting and negotiating techniques; and (4) insurance, risk management and income, including, but not limited to, topics concerning insurance coverage, taxes, real estate rent or purchase options, mortgages and automobile and personal loans. 

The bill does not require local boards to provide such a course, but if it does provide a financial literacy course, it must allow it to count as one-half of a math credit toward graduation. 

KASB will oppose the bill because it infringes on the State Board of Education’s constitutional jurisdiction over standards and curricular offerings.  

Transgender Students 

The Senate Education Committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday, February 23, on SB 208, which would prohibit transgender female students from participating on girls' or women's teams.  

This bill requires that athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex and requires students to provide a health exam to verify the student’s biological sex or it may be verified by the health care provider. For school sports, the KSHSAA will adopt rules and resolve any disputes. The bill prohibits any governmental entity, accrediting agency, or athletic association from entertaining a complaint or opening an investigation against a school for maintaining separate sports teams and allows any student deprived of an athletic opportunity to have a private right of action against the school or post-secondary institution. 

KASB is preparing testimony on the bill. Although KASB members have not taken a position on the specific issue of transgender student participation in sports, there are legal, health, and governance issues raised by this bill. 

Remote and hybrid learning; vaccination  

Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on SB 234, which would require school districts to provide full-time, in-person attendance options for all students beginning on March 26, 2021.  

The bill directs that “Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, on and after March 26, 2021, for the school year 2020-2021 and each school year thereafter, every school district in this state shall provide a full-time, in-person attendance option for every student enrolled in kindergarten or grades one through 12 in such school district.”  

The bill does not provide any exceptions for any health, safety, or disaster concerns unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. It does not appear to have any enforcement mechanism. 

On Thursday, February 25, the Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing on SB 213, which would prohibit an employer from taking any adverse employment against an employee because of the employee's vaccination status. 

KASB is reviewing the implications of the bill. 

Vaccinating teachers  

Gov. Laura Kelly announced a plan to accelerate the vaccinations of teachers and school employees. Kelly said the state would earmark a recent boost in doses for school employees. The program will be coordinated between the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, school districts, and county health departments. Last week, Kansas received from the federal government 90,000 doses, which is double the weekly number from last month. Soon, Kansas will receive 115,000 doses per week, Kelly said. Free rapid testing supplies will also be distributed to schools. 

ESSER task force  

School board members, superintendents, teachers, elected officials, and other leaders are among the members of a task force that will provide guidance and oversight for the federal COVID-19 funds. Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson announced the formation of the Commissioner’s Task Force on Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools (EANS) Funding Oversight. The 19-member task force will provide oversight for $368 million in ESSER funds and $26 million in EANS funds that have been approved by Congress to help schools pay for pandemic-related expenses by September 2023. 

Group members and the positions they hold are: 

    Dr. Mike Argabright, superintendent, Southern Lyon County Unified School District 252. 

    Brad Bergsma, board member, Goodland USD 352. 

    Tracy Callard, gifted teacher, Wichita USD 259. 

    Dr. Nick Compagnone, superintendent, Catholic Diocese of Salina. 

    Sen. Brenda Dietrich, Kansas Legislature, District 20. 

    Janet Eaton, superintendent, Catholic Diocese of Wichita. 

    Dr. Frank Harwood, superintendent, De Soto USD 232. 

    Roberta Lewis, social science teacher, Fort Scott USD 234. 

    Lisa Peters, executive director of business, Salina USD 305. 

    Sen. Pat Pettey, Kansas Legislature, District 6. 

    Jim Porter, chair, Kansas State Board of Education. 

    Adam Proffitt, director of budget, State of Kansas. 

    Melissa Rooker, executive director, Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund. 

    Jamie Rumford, superintendent, Scott County USD 466. 

    Simeon Russell, executive director of business and operations, Dodge City USD 443. 

    Rep. Adam Thomas, Kansas Legislature, District 26. 

    Dr. Alicia Thompson, superintendent, Wichita USD 259. 

    Janet Waugh, vice-chair of the State Board of Education. 

    Jason Winbolt, school board member, Spring Hill USD 230. 


In addition to serving on their local school boards, Bergsma will become president of KASB in January 2022, and Winbolt was recently elected president-elect and is Region vice president on the KASB Board of Directors.