Religion, Ed Bills, & Taxes

Feb 22, 2019 by

Religion, Ed Bills, & Taxes

House Education Hears Religion Bill

The Kansas House Education Committee met this week to hold a hearing on House Bill 2288, the Student and Educator Freedom of Religious Speech Act. This bill, brought by Rep. Renee Erickson (R-Wichita) and co-sponsored by 27 additional Republicans, would essentially allow religious proselytization by students and teachers in public schools.

The bill puts many restrictions and requirements on public schools so that religious speech and the distribution of religious materials could not be managed. If passed, the bill would open up our schools to lots of lawsuits from both advocates of religious speech and those who ardently defend the separation of church and state.

Currently, students are generally allowed to engage in religious speech at school although some limits can be placed on it. Under the federal Equal Access Act, high school students must be given access to facilities equally – so that if the high school has clubs using facilities, they cannot tell a religious club they can’t – they have equal access. Students can engage in student-initiated, student-led prayer. But students cannot be compelled to participate and teachers cannot be active participants.

One section of this bill grants very broad rights to teachers to engage in and even assist in religious activities at school. This includes everything from wearing religious clothing to decorating their desks with religious items.

Teachers do not shed their religious beliefs “at the school house doors,” however, they do agree to not promote their beliefs in the school. It has been noted in legal cases that children in elementary and middle schools are very impressionable and have a tendency to look at their teachers as role models. If a teacher were to decorate his or her desk with religious items that promote his or her own beliefs, it could lead to a student questioning the religious lessons taught at home. And Kansas law currently, in the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act (60-5301 through 60-5305), prohibits activities that would “(i)mpair the fundamental right of every parent to control the care and custody of such parent’s minor children, including, but not limited to, control over education, discipline, religious and moral instruction…

The bill was supported by Rep. Erickson, the Family Policy Alliance, a wrestling coach, and a broadcaster. Opponents were KASB, KNEA, the PTA, and the Mainstream Coalition.

The House Ed Committee also worked two bills.

HB 2144 by Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) originally put many restrictions on community colleges. The bill was opposed by the Association of Community College Boards of Trustees.

A large balloon amendment was brought on Thursday that stripped out everything except two sections dealing with reporting transparency. One section would require community colleges to post the courses for which credit is fully transferable to 4-year institutions. The other section requires the collection of data with lots of student demographic information.

The balloon amendment was adopted and the bill was passed out of committee. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

The second bill worked was HB 2166, the bill mandating a course in financial literacy for high school graduation. Again, a balloon amendment was offered that stripped out the mandatory course and instead said that if a school offered a course in financial literacy, they district needed to adopt a policy under which a student could take that course for 1/2 credit of mathematics.

The amendment would also require the Kansas State Board of Education to allow the course to be counted as 1/2 credit of mathematics and the Kansas Board of Regents to recognize the class for 1/2 credit of mathematics.

The amendment was adopted but a motion to pass the amended bill out of committee failed. The bill is now out of consideration. Of course it can come up as an amendment somewhere else so we will continue to watch for it.

House Tax Committee considers bill to ensure Kansas gets sales tax on internet sales

The House Tax Committee held a hearing on HB 2352 which would adjust tax policies to meet a new court decision that will allow states to better collect sales tax on internet purchases.

Currently, Kansas collects sales taxes on internet vendors who have a physical presence in the state. If one makes a purchase from a vendor that does not, it is quite possible that the vendor will not collect and remit Kansas sales tax. Kansas taxpayers have the opportunity to report such purchases on their income tax returns and pay the sales tax at that time but it is believed that very few people actually do that and there is no way to find out. Rep. Don Hineman (R-Dighton), in talking to a conferee who admitted to paying such taxes on his return, asked if he felt he was taxed for his purchases or for his honesty.

This bill sets a threshold for sales in Kansas by an internet vendor such that the vendor would be required to collect and remit Kansas sales tax after meeting the threshold ($100,000) in sales. Some states have also set a threshold of a number of transactions in the state – for example, the vendor had 200 purchases from the state – but this bill does not include such a provision.


The House considered two bills of interest this week.

Senate Bill 9 which would direct the state to pay $115 million to KPERS this year to pay back contributions that had been withheld was advanced to final action and will be voted on Friday. If it passes, it goes to the governor.

HB 2071, which would establish a “proud educator” license plate, was up for debate but was passed over apparently so that a legislator can get an amendment prepared to add a “Don’t Tread on Me” (Tea Party) license plate to it. We will see if it comes back on Friday.

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Funding and curriculum mandates

Feb 12, 2019 by

Senate Committee on Education Finance continues hearing on SB 44

The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance continued their hearing on Senate Bill 44, Governor Kelly’s school funding bill intended to end the Gannon school finance lawsuit by addressing the last Gannon ruling.

The Supreme Court last ruled that the actions taken by the legislature in 2017 and 2018 had effectively created a constitutional school finance formula but that they were off on adequacy of funding because of the phase-in of funding increases.

After addressing all equity issues in the formula, the legislature had decided to return to the funding level that resolved the earlier Montoy decision and was abandoned due to the Great Recession and the failure of the Brownback tax disaster. So they picked an adjusted dollar amount but then chose to phase that amount in over several years.

The result is that, while the Court thought the approach was right, the legislature would have to account for inflation – the legislature would need to increase funding such that inflation increases were met. SB 44 is based on the Kansas State Board of Education’s calculations and Schools for Fair Funding, the organization representing the lawsuit school districts, told the committee that if this bill passes with no other changes to the formula, they would stipulate that it meets the Gannon ruling.

School districts, KASB, KNEA and parent groups, like Game on for Kansas Schools and the PTA, and many other education advocacy groups, were united in support for the bill. The only opponent was the Kansas Policy Institute, the Koch-funded organization that supports corporate tax giveaways and seeks to block all school funding increases. KPI asserted in testimony that the Court has no right to rule they way they do and that money doesn’t influence student achievement.

Contact members of the Senate and ask them to support Senate Bill 44 without amendment. It’s time to fully fund our schools and get out of court!

You can email any Senator using this format: firstname.lastname@senate.ks.gov. Members of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance are Molly Baumgardner, Jim Denning, Anthony Hensley, Bud Estes, Dan Goddard, Dan Kerschen, Carolyn McGinn, Pat Pettey, and Eric Rucker.

House Ed Committee considers mandating more courses

The House Education Committee held a hearing on Tuesday on the first of two bills mandating new course requirements for Kansas high school students. The bill heard on Tuesday was one that seems to appear annually which mandates a financial literacy requirement. Brought to the committee by Rep. Renee Erickson, R-Wichita, the bill would require all Kansas high school students to take and pass a course on financial literacy in their junior or senior year.

While no one disputes the importance of financial literacy, school advocates opposed the mandate. As reported by the Kansas State Department of Education, 92% of Kansas schools offer financial literacy now with 28% putting the course in their graduation requirements.

Opposition to the bill focused on several concerns:

  • The mandate would be difficult to implement due to a lack of qualified instructors;
  • The mandate would deny students the opportunity to take other elective courses and possibly interfere with the ability to earn an industry certificate in a CTE program; and
  • The real problem with financial issues faced by adults has more to do with crippling student debt and the predatory practices of payday and title lenders and credit card companies.

Opponents to the mandate included KASB, the Kansas State Superintendents Association, KNEA, and Game on for Kansas Schools. Supporters were Rep. Erickson and Walt Chappell and the Kansas Realtors Association who indicated that student debt was hampering the ability of young people to buy homes. Sadly, passage of HB 2166 will not do anything about student debt.

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New Common Core Ban Bill; House Passes Budget

Feb 11, 2016 by

New House Bill Would Essentially Ban Education

Today’s bill releases includes HB 2676. This is a rehash of a Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) bill from last year that prohibits the use of any standards related to the Common Core or developed by any consortium or any other organization. As we reported on last year’s version, this bill would ban AP, IB, SAT and ACT, all of which are aligned to common core standards. It would also end participation in the Lexia reading program – a program singled out by conservatives in the legislature as a preferred reading intervention program. Lexia too is aligned with the common core standards.

This bill includes another proposal from last year dealing with a requirement for prior written consent from every parent before any data can be collected on a student.

“’Prior written consent’ means that a parent or legal guardian’s signature is required on a written document that notifies the parent or legal guardian what data will be collected, how the data will be collected, how the data will be used, what person or entity the data will be shared with and the dates over which the disclosed data will be used.”

Wow. You might want to read this one! Click here for a copy.

Sponsors of the bill, in addition to John Bradford, are Republicans Joe Scapa, Tony Barton, Blake Carpenter, JR Claeys, Pete DeGraaf, Willie Dove, Estes, Randy Garber, Mario Goico, Houser, Becky Hutchins, Dick Jones, Kevin Jones, Mike Kiegerl, Jerry Lunn, Macheers, Connie O’Brien, Jan Pauls, Virgil Peck, Randy Powell, Rahjes, Read, Marc Rhoades, Rubin, Seiwert, Sutton, Jene Vickrey, Weber, and Whitmer.


House Passes Budget Bill on Final Action

The House passed SB 161, the budget bill debated yesterday on a vote of 68 to 56. There was some thought that the Gannon decision handed down this morning might impact the vote since the ruling will require approximately $50 million in additional funding for K-12 schools.

A number of traditional Republicans and Democrats explained their NO votes, decrying the failure of the legislature to address the real issue – tax breaks that have eaten away at the state’s ability to fund services.

The bill also delays payments to KPERS. While an amendment offered by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Asaria) were adopted that would require KPERS to be paid within the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest, it does not ease the concerns of hard-working teachers and other public employees who have watched as the legislature drained funds from the highway fund. There is little faith outside of the statehouse that revenues will recover sufficiently to meet state needs.

The roll call vote is as follows:

YEA: Anthimides, Barker, Barton, Billinger, Boldra, Bradford, Campbell, B. Carpenter, W. Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, E. Davis, Dove, Esau, Estes, Ewy, Garber, Goico, Gonzalez, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Hemsley, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Hutchins, Hutton, Johnson, D. Jones, K. Jones, Kahrs, Kelly, Kiegerl, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mason, Mast, McPherson, Merrick, O’Brien, Osterman, Pauls, R. Powell, Prroehl, Rahjes, Read, Rhoades, Rubin, Ryckman, Ryckman Sr, Scapa, Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, C. Smith, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber, Whitmer, K. Williams.

NAY: Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Becker, Bollier, Bruchman, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Curtis, DeGraaf, Dierks, Doll, Edmonds, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Helgerson, Henderson, Henry, Hibbard, Highberger, Hill, Hineman, Houston, Jennings, Kelley, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Moxley, Ousley, F. Patton, Peck, Phillips, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Scott, Sloan, S. Swanson, Thompson, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, Wolfe Moore.

The Senate is debating a similar budget bill today. They began general orders debate at 3:00. The budget bill is third up and after a debate on a gun bill. We’re looking for a long night and so will report on the outcome tomorrow.


Education Committee Actions

The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2532, a bill putting financial literacy into the Rose Standards. The bill was supported by Committee Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego), KNEA, KASB, the Kansas Chamber, and State Treasurer Ron Estes. Walt Chappell was listed as a proponent but asked the committee to replace this bill with one that would mandate a course in financial literacy as a graduation requirement. No action was taken on the bill.

The Senate Education Committee worked Senate Bill 323, the Jason Flatt Act on suicide prevention. The bill would require training for teachers and principals on recognizing signs of potential suicide. KNEA support the bill while asking the Committee to ensure that teachers could not be held liable should a child actually commit suicide. The bill was amended so that the required training is one hour each year. They also added the liability protection and parental notification. The bill will now go to the full Senate.

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