TAKE ACTION NOW! Use the form below to tell lawmakers in Topeka to protect school funding and OPPOSE a massive voucher push.
A Kansas House and Senate education budget conference committee has sent a report to both chambers which has been dubbed the “Frankenstein bill” for its’ resemblance to a monster created by sewing together a large collection of bills, policies, and proposals some of which are designed to destroy public education in Kansas.
Before the report can go to the floor for a vote, it is subject to a special procedure called “agree to disagree.” Normally, a conference committee report has to have the signatures of all six members. In this case, those members are Senators Molly Baumgardner, Renee Erickson, and Dinah Sykes and Representatives Kristey Williams, Kyle Hoffman, and Valdenia Winn. But since the Democrats (Sykes and Winn) found the bill to be an attack on our schools, they refused to sign the report. When this happens, both chambers must vote to “agree to disagree.” Then the report can be submitted with only four signatures.
The bill started with House Bill 2119, Rep. Kristey Williams’ new private school voucher program. That program remains as a key element of the conference committee report. Added to HB 2119 was House Bill 2068, the expansion of the current tuition tax credit/voucher program. After that, the K-12 budget was put into the bill. The budget includes Gov. Laura Kelly’s recommendations for school funding (honoring the Gannon decision) plus a few additional components that will be funded with COVID relief money if it is allowed. Still unknown is the impact of the House decision to cut every part of the state budget by 2%. This bill does not have the cut included but the cut remains spelled out in HB 2397 which is the House budget position in a conference committee of the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees.
Another provision in the bill was intended to stop school districts from using remote learning. This provision, which would cut funding for remote learning students after a certain number of hours or days to the same funding as virtual students, was amended so that in the case of emergency or disaster, a school district could apply to the Kansas State Board of Education for waiver and, if the waiver was granted, funding for these students would not be cut.
An amendment to the voucher program clarifies that private schools getting voucher students do not need to be accredited by the Kansas State Board of Education. This will allow schools to receive the state money that don’t give the state assessments or report student achievement data. This would also make both voucher programs the same with regard to accreditation. It was reported that of the 133 schools participating in the tuition tax credit/voucher program, 116 participate in the state accreditation system while 17 do not.
The conference committee also removed the provision extending the 20 mill property tax levy and $20,000 homestead exemption from the bill.
At the request of the Senators, they added in language from Senate Bill 173 spelling out in statute the criteria for student eligibility for an at-risk program. KNEA supported SB 173.
The new complete package will be put into Senate Bill 175 in a “gut and go” operation so we will be looking for action on the Conference Committee Report (CCR) for SB 175.
KNEA opposes this bill. We urge you to contact your Representative and Senator and ask him/her to vote NO on CCR SB 175.