Some Finance Talk but What about Due Process & Bullying?

Mar 12, 2018 by

What About Bullying and Due Process?

The Due Process Bill (HB 2757) and Bullying Policy Bill (HB 2758) have both been passed by the House and are not sitting in the Senate Education Committee. There has been no word yet as to whether or not Committee Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) will schedule hearings on the bills.

KNEA supports both bills and has asked the Chair to consider holding hearings.

We urge our members to contact Committee Chair Baumgardner and Vice Chair Larry Alley (R-Winfield) and politely ask them to hold a hearing on these bills. They are both important to our teachers and our students.

CLICK HERE to send a message to Senate Ed Committee Chairpersons encouraging them to hear both bills.

Beginning to Talk About School Finance…Kind Of

The House K-12 Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance both held bill hearings today that are beginning to sound like addressing school funding issues.

In the House Committee, Chairman Fred Patton (R-Topeka) held a hearing on HB 2636, a bill repealing some provisions of a law passed in SB 19, last year’s school finance bill. These provisions had the State Board of Education reviewing bond proposals if those bonds would be in excess of 14% of the district’s assessed valuation. The bill put a number of restrictions on the SBOE in those reviews – most specifically that the applications for additional bond authority do not exceed the total principal amount of general obligation bonds retired in the immediately preceding school year. And if total applications exceed that amount, the SBOE must prioritize applications.

HB 2636 would repeal all of these restrictions.

Proponents of the bill including KASB, USA, KSSA, a number of school districts, two large construction groups, and two investment banking groups. The only opponent was Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute.

No action was taken on the bill today.

Later, in the Senate committee, Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) held a hearing on SB 423 which would repeal two provisions of SB 19 that the Supreme Court found to be violations of equity.

The first of those provisions was the 10% at-risk floor under which a district that had fewer than 10% of its students eligible for free lunch would receive at-risk funding as if they did have 10%. There are only two school districts in the state that would have qualified.

The discussion indicated that some Senators still cannot seem to understand that poverty is used as a proxy for at-risk because there is a significant correlation between living in poverty and the potential for not finishing school. The money, while generated by poverty, does not follow the child. It is used to provide at-risk program support for any student who meets factors for at-risk behaviors regardless of the student’s wealth.

The second issue being repealed in the bill is the expansion of uses of capital outlay funds. SB 19 allows school districts to use capital outlay funds for utilities and property and casualty insurance. Prior to this year, this was not allowed. The Supreme Court determined that this too violated equity.

Passage of the bill would address two of the four equity issues the Court flagged.

No action was taken today.

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Reports and Some Concerns About “Lunch Shaming”

Feb 28, 2018 by

Slowly getting back to the session!

The turn-around break has everyone back in Topeka but things were relatively quiet today.

The House K-12 Budget Committee met to receive reports on CTE programs and out of state students. We’ve heard these reports earlier this year in other committees.

At issue is an attempt by some legislators to have CTE programs funded based on the actual costs of such programs. Currently, they are funded with a .5 weighting factor. After much study, the Department of Education continues to recommend the current funding protocol.

Out of state students attend some Kansas schools along the borders because their parents might work in Kansas or the Kansas school is significantly closer to their homes than the school in Nebraska or Oklahoma. Some legislators are quite frustrated that these children receive state funding to attend our schools and yet sometimes come from families that don’t pay Kansas taxes.

School Lunch Issues Discussed

The Senate Education Committee met to discuss school lunch programs. Some parents in Senator Baumgardner’s district contacted her about a practice they called “lunch shaming.” Under this program students who have expended their lunch accounts can be provided an alternative lunch until the account is paid. These lunches might be a cheese or peanut butter sandwich and a piece of fruit.

The parents report that a child can get a lunch, take it to check out only to have it taken away and thrown in the trash with the child sent back to the alternative lunch line. Baumgardner had issues with the throwing away of this food as well as the disposal of food left over at the end of the day.

Staff from the KSDE and from the Kansas City, Kansas and Spring Hill School Districts led the committee through explanations of how food service is covered by the federal and state governments and the many rules that must be complied with in order to receive meal reimbursements. The two food service directors also noted that their districts do not use an alternative lunch – every child needing a lunch is given the regular meal and the district works to secure reimbursement from parents and guardians. Kansas City noted that at the end of the year, they have to transfer more than $50,000 from other programs to cover the costs of providing the lunches.

We’re not sure where the committee might be going with this information. It’s too late to introduce legislation in the Education Committee.

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With Dozens of Education Pros in Attendance, State Board Sends Clear Message

Jan 26, 2018 by

Today, the Kansas State Board of Education conducted an unscheduled meeting to respond to yesterday’s letter from House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Senate President Susan Wagle accusing Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis of distributing certain transportation funds without authority to do so.  The letter also directed the board to suspend Mr. Dennis from employment while an investigation is conducted.  CLICK HERE to read the complete details behind this accusation.

Over the last 24+ hours, the education community throughout Kansas has expressed rock-solid support for Mr. Dennis.  That support overflowed on social media but also within the boardroom at today’s hearing where dozens of education professionals gathered as a show of solidarity.

Upon convening the meeting, it was announced that there would be two closed executive sessions.  The first was for the purpose of consulting with board attorneys and the second was to discuss how to handle the employment issue relative to Mr. Dennis and in response to the Ryckman / Wagle letter.  After the second closed-door session, a motion was put forth by board member Sally Cauble.  In her motion, Cauble stated that the board’s duty was to advise Commissioner of Education Randy Watson when requested regarding employment matters.  Further, Commissioner Watson had requested guidance from the board.  Cauble’s motion recommended to “fully support continued employment for Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis and his staff.”  The motion passed 9-1 with board member John Bacon being the sole no-vote (according to media reports).

While today’s proceedings captured the attention of nearly everyone within the education profession, our soon-to-be Governor, Jeff Colyer, was conspicuously silent and thus far has not weighed-in on the issue.  However, four former Kansas Governors, as well as several state leaders, pledged support for Mr. Dennis prior to today’s hearings.

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