Posted Date: 04/02/2021
Back to school
House Sub. for SB 63 would require districts to provide a full-time, in-person option for all students by March 31 of this year, for this school year only. Presented to the Governor March 26. She has 10 days to sign it or veto (April 5), and has indicated she will sign.
School Board Operations
Kansas Emergency Management Act
SB 40, signed into law by the governor on Wednesday, says that during the state of disaster emergency related to the pandemic, which is now slated to expire on May 28, 2021, the local school board has authority and responsibility over any decision that closes any school, requires different learning options, or mandates any action by students and employees while on district property.
With the law now effective, boards must consider the new mandates when making decisions concerning masks and other requirements. It will require districts to employ the “least restrictive means possible” to achieve the objective of maintaining a safe educational environment during the pandemic.
Employees, students, or parents who are aggrieved by a board’s decisions concerning pandemic interventions may seek a hearing with the school board within 30 days of the action being taken. After receiving a complaint, the board must conduct a hearing on the matter within 72 hours, and it must issue a decision within 7 days of the hearing. If the complainant is unhappy with the outcome, a civil action may be filed in the district court. That petition must also be heard within 72 hours and decided within 7 days of the hearing. The court must side with the individual making the complaint unless the board’s action is “narrowly tailored” to respond to the pandemic and uses the “least restrictive means” to do so. If no decision is rendered after seven days, the relief requested by the complaining party shall be automatically granted.
School Finance and State Budget
This week, the House passed HB 2119, a multi-part bill that contains appropriations for K-12 education and various education policy changes. The House also passed HB 2397, which contains appropriations for all other state agencies and a 2% across the board cut in proposed spending, including education. Normally, policy bills would be considered by committees in the other chamber, but these issues may be considered in conference committees.
Here is how the House-passed provisions compare with Senate positions.
Appropriations for K-12 State Aid
HB 2119 contained the Governor’s recommendations for FY 2021 (current year), FY 2022 and FY 2023, which fully funded the final three years of the Gannon school finance plan, with one exception: the bill does not authorize high density at-risk weighting for 2023, reducing funding for districts with the highest percentages of free lunch eligible students by $54 million.
However, HB 2397 reduces the funding for FY 2022 by 2% for almost all state programs and agencies except for debt payments. This reduction would cut base state aid $48.8 million, local option budget state aid $10.5 million, special education state aid $10.3 million and capital outlay state aid $1.6 million.
SB 267, as passed by the Senate, removes increases in base aid and LOB state aid and all funding for high density at-risk for 2022 and 2023 ($570 million total). The Senate Ways and Means Committee plan is to review funding at the end of the session to determine if funds can be replaced by federal ESSER funding for schools.
High density at-risk weighting
High density weighting was sunset in state law and expired at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, but was extended for the 2021 and 2022 by proviso in last year’s budget bill. HB 2119 reestablishes the weighting in the school finance law for 2022 only.
SB 267, as passed by the Senate, does not provide for high density weighting in either 2022 or 2023. SB 173, as recommended by the Senate Education Committee, would restore the weighting to the school finance law permanently, as well as making changes to how districts must use and report on both regular and at-risk weightings. SB 173 has not been considered by the full Senate.
Statewide Mill Levy
HB 2119 extends the 20-mill statewide school levy for school years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, and continues the exemption of residential property up to $20,000 of appraised value from the 20-mill property tax levy for those years. The House Taxation Committee recommended the same provision in SB 49.
The Senate passed an identical extension in HB 2104, but the provision was removed in the conference committee (see below).
Private School Tax Credits
HB 2119 expands students who are eligible to receive scholarships to attend private schools to all students currently enrolled in public schools who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Current law limits scholarships to students eligible for free meals only and attending of the 100 elementary schools with the lowest test scores as determined by the State Board of Education. The bill does not raise the current $10 million cap on state tax credits provided for contributions to this program.
The Senate has already passed an identical provision in SB 61.
Education Savings Accounts
HB 2119 creates a new program that would allow students in public schools to establish an account managed by the State Treasurer equal to the previous year’s base state aid per pupil, which could be used for private school tuition or other specified educational costs.
To be eligible for these accounts, students must be identified by a school districts as qualifying to receive at-risk services, based on being below grade level in reading or math, absenteeism or other factors determined by the local district. Funds can only be used for accredited private schools, but the bill does not define which accredited schools qualify. There is not limit on the number of students that could open such accounts and transfer to private schools.
The Senate has not considered this proposal.
Allocation of Resources
HB 2119 contains a provision directing local school boards use information from currently required school needs assessment to improve student outcomes and to allocate resources to achieve state education goals (the Rose capacities identified by the Kansas Supreme Court).
The Senate Education Committee recommended an identical provision in SB 93, which has not been considered by the full Senate.
HB 2119 generally prohibits school districts from counting time for the minimum school term when students are required to attend school remotely unless approved by the State Board of Education based on a disaster declaration. The maximum time a district can be in remote learning is 40 days or 240 hours unless additional time is extended by the State Board.
HB 2119 further changes the school finance law so that, beginning in the 2021-22, if a full-time equivalent student attends school remotely for more than 240 hours when a disaster emergency has been declared, or 40 hours if no disaster emergency is declared, districts will receive a flat $5,000 in remote student aid for that student, rather than base state aid and weightings that would usually be applied.
No remote enrollment state aid shall be provided for any student who participates in remote learning on a part-time basis during the school day.
The bill also amends the school finance law so that “A student enrolled in a school district and attending school on a part-time basis through remote learning and also attending school in person on a part-time basis shall be counted as that proportion of one student, to the nearest 1 /10, that the student's in-person attendance bears to full-time attendance.”
As a result, a student attending school but receiving some education remotely would only be counted for base state aid purposes for the amount of in-person attendance. (The student could be counted for weightings based on current law.)
The Senate has not considered either of these provisions.
School Budgeting; Property Tax Notification and Budget Adoption
The Senate adopted a conference committee report on HB 2104. Among other tax provisions, the bill would modify several dates passed in SB 13, the property tax transparency bill passed earlier this session which was amended to include school districts. It would change from July 15 to July 20 the deadline for local units to notify the county clerk of its proposed intent to exceed the revenue neutral rate established under SB 13 and provide the date, time and location of the public hearing and its proposed tax rate.
The bill would change the earliest possible date for a taxing subdivision to consider exceeding the revenue-neutral rate from August 10 to August 20 and the latest possible date for such hearing from September 10 to September 20. The bill would change the date by which taxing subdivisions required to conduct a public hearing to exceed the revenue-neutral rate must certify the amount of property tax to be levied from September 20 to October 1.
The bill would allow school districts required to hold a hearing for exceeding the district’s revenue-neutral rate pursuant to the provisions of SB 13 to certify their budgets to the State Board of Education as late as September 20. Current law requires all school districts to certify their budgets to the State Board of Education by August 25, which would remain the applicable certification date for school districts not required to hold a hearing for exceeding the district’s revenue-neutral rate.
The conference committee removed provisions that would have re-authorize the 20-mill statewide school property tax levy.
Health, Safety and Other Student Issues
The Senate Public Health Committee recommended favorably SB 212, which would amend state law to provide that inoculations required for attending day care centers and schools shall be those listed in state statute, rather than as determined by the Secretary of Health and Environment.
The bill was further amended to include the provisions of SB 213, which would make it an unlawful employment practice to engage in any adverse employment action against a person because of such person's decision to either receive or not receive a particular vaccination. "Adverse employment action" means an ultimate employment decision involving hiring, firing, compensation, benefits or the failure to promote or grant leave.
Finally, the bill was amended to provide legal immunities for anyone without a vaccination in the workplace who might infect someone with a contagious disease. A number of health and business groups have expressed concerns with the bill.
The Senate has not taken action on the bill.
Vision Screening and School Emergency Medications
The House Education Committee recommended, SB 62, which would amend state standards for free school administered vision screenings to add new definitions and amend others; modify the frequency of the vision screenings to specify the grade levels and specific circumstances under which the screenings would occur; provide for vision screenings for students in accredited nonpublic schools; require screenings be performed by a vision screener who would follow the most recent state vision screening guidelines; and require vision screening results and any necessary referral for an examination by an ophthalmologist or optometrist be reported to the parents or guardians of the student.
The bill would also establish an eight-member Kansas Children’s Vision Health and School Readiness Commission (Commission) to ensure implementation of the provisions of the bill; provide for the appointment of the members, who would serve without reimbursement for meeting expenses; and establish the duties of the Commission.
The House Education Committee amended the bill provide that schools may maintain kits and provide emergency administration of albuterol on the same basis as epinephrine. The bill remains on general orders in the House.
Foster Child Education Report Card
The House Education Committee this week recommended SB 51, which would direct the State Department of Education (KSDE) and the Department for Children and Families (DCF) to collaboratively prepare the Kansas Foster Care Children Annual Academic Report Card (Report Card).
The Report Card would be produced annually and contain specific information from the previous school year for students in foster care regarding enrollment, demographics and academic performance.
The bill would require the Report Card be completed on or before January 15 each year and submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education.
The bill would define “school” as any school within a school district or nonpublic school accredited by the state and “student in foster care” as an individual within the custody of DCF while attending school at any point during a school year in which the Report Card is required to be completed.
The bill remains on general orders in the House.
Transgender Student Athletes
A hearing in the House Education Committee was scheduled, then cancelled, on SB 208, requiring only biological females be allowed on school and college girls and women’s sports teams. It is possible such legislation could also be proposed as an amendment on a related bill, if available. The bill remains in the House Education Committee.
Civics Test and Financial Literacy Combination
The Senate on Wednesday approved HB 2039, which would require students enrolled in grade 9-12 in an accredited public, private, or parochial high school beginning July 1, 2021, to pass an American civics exam 60 questions substantially similar to those of the naturalization test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Students could take the test beginning in grade 7 and as many times as necessary to pass it. A passing score would be required for graduation from high school.
The bill also requires accommodations for or possible exemptions to the civics exam requirement for students with an IEP.
During the Senate debate Sen. David Haley of Wyandotte County introduced an amendment to amend state curriculum standards for financial literacy. Current law requires the State Board to develop financial literacy curriculum, materials, guidelines, and standards for all grades within existing mathematics curricula or other appropriate subject matter curricula. The amendment kept the existing guidance for kindergarten through grade 10 but provides amended guidance for grades 11 and 12.
The amendment, which was adopted and included in HB 2039, would require, for grades 11 and 12, a personal financial literacy course to be at least one semester or two quarters in length. The bill would require the course offered to include, but not be limited to, the following topics: saving and investing; credit and debt; financial responsibility and money management; and insurance, risk management, and income. The amendment is substantially similar to HB 2301, which was narrowly approved by the House Education Committee last week but unlike HB 2031 it does NOT make financial literacy a graduation requirement.
Firearms Safety Education
Sub for HB 2089 was approved Monday by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee and sent to the full Senate for debate. The Senate passed over the bill on Wednesday without action.
The bill says that IF school districts wish to offer gun safety training the content must comply with guidelines established by the State Board of Education. The State Board must base its guidelines on the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program in grades K-5; Eddie Eagle and/or the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks hunter safety training in grades 6-8; and the KDWP program in the high school grades.
Postsecondary Education and Workforce Development
The House Education Committee recommend SB 32, which would allow school districts, at the discretion of the local board of education, to pay all or a portion of the costs of tuition, fees, books, materials, and equipment for any high school student who is concurrently or dually enrolled at a postsecondary educational institution (postsecondary institution). School districts would also be authorized to provide transportation for concurrently or dually enrolled students.
The bill would amend the definition of “student” in the Act to require a student to have an individualized plan of study or an individualized education program. In order to remain eligible for participation, the bill would require students to remain in good standing at the postsecondary institution in which they are enrolled or show satisfactory progress as determined by their school district.
The bill would also expand the Kansas Foster Child Educational Assistance program to provide a tuition waiver for foster care students who are concurrently or dually enrolled in a postsecondary institution. In addition, school districts would be authorized to pay for any costs that are not waived, including for fees, books, materials, and equipment.
The House Education Committee amended the bill to require that students participating in dual and concurrent courses receive information about whether such courses will transfer for credit within the public postsecondary system.
The bill remains on House general orders.
Kansas Promise Scholarship Act
The Senate Education Committee recommended an amended version of HB 2287, which would establish the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act (Act), which would provide scholarships for students to attend certain two-year associate degree programs or technical certificate programs. The Senate committee amended the bill to include the provisions of SB 43, which creates a similar program and was passed by the committee earlier this session but not considered by the full Senate.
The major difference between the bills is that the Senate bill identifies a specific list of eligible programs which would quality for scholarships. In the House version of the bill, the Kansas Board of Regents would collaborate annually with the Department of Commerce and Kansas business and industry to identify up to ten job fields that have the highest need for skilled employees and designate scholarship-eligible career and technical programs and transfer education programs that correspond with the job fields and pathways.
The House version also would require participating students to annually complete 100 hours of community service or be verified by the eligible postsecondary educational institution to be employed part-time.
Work-based Learning Liability Insurance
House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee on Thursday passed out SB 91, which amended to substitute the provisions of HB 2442. The bill provides that if a school district has purchased certain applicable insurance coverage, a business that accepts a secondary student in a work-based learning program shall not be subject to civil liability for any claim arising from the student's negligent act or omission, or for any claim for bodily injury to the student or sickness or death by accident of the student arising from the business' negligent act or omission during the student's participation in the work-based learning program at the business or worksite. The does not provide immunity for the student or business for civil liability arising from gross negligence or willful misconduct.
The bill also broadens the authority of local school boards to purchase insurance for students participating in work-based learning programs.
The bill remains on House general orders.
The Senate approved HB 2238, which would remove a $500,000 limit on gifts school districts, governing bodies of cities, or both jointly are able to accept for the express purpose of the construction or furnishing of a library. The bill is now headed to Gov. Kelly for her signature.
The Senate passed and sent to conference committee Sub. for HB 2066, regarding occupational licensing. As amended, the bill would shorten the period in which regulatory bodies including the Kansas State Department of Education are required to issue occupational credentials to military service members or military spouses seeking to establish residency in Kansas and provide for expedited credentialing of non-military prospective residents. The bill would expand and clarify conditions on expedited occupational credentialing and permit temporary credentialing during states of emergency and the use of electronic credentials.
The bill would require licensing bodies to issue the appropriate credential to a military service member or spouse within 15 days from the date of the submission of a “complete application,” as defined by the bill, or within 45 days for all other applicants. Currently, credentials are to be issued to military service members and spouses within 60 days.