Bathroom Use; CLEP Credit; Equity Bills; In-State Tuition

Mar 17, 2016 by

New Bill Introduction in Senate

Just up this afternoon is a Senate Bill – SB 513 – “creating the student physical privacy act.” Word under the dome is that this bill comes from Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee). It would prohibit a student from using a restroom for a gender other than that identified at the student’s birth.

The bill would prohibit policies allowing transgendered students from using the restroom facilities of the gender with which they identify. Alternative facilities may be made available to transgendered students. The bill would also give a private cause of action against the school if that student should encounter a student of the opposite gender in a facility provided for his/her gender if the school “gave such person of the opposite sex permission to use facilities designated for use by such student’s sex” or the school “failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit such person of the opposite sex from using facilities designated for use by such student’s sex.”

Currently, policy decisions on the use of such facilities are left to the wisdom of locally elected school boards in consultation with teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents.

House Ed Committee Advances CLEP Bill

The House Education Committee today held a hearing on SB 388, requiring the State Board of Regents to adopt a policy on awarding credit hours based on CLEP test results. The bill would standardize the granting of credit for performance on a CLEP examination such that the credits could easily transfer among Kansas higher education institutions.

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

Working the Equity Bills

The House Appropriations today worked HB 2731, the Ryckman bill dealing with school finance equity in response to the Supreme Court decision. It became clear very quickly that the bill did not have enough support in the Committee to move forward.

Most of the negative comments were directed more to the Court than to the provisions of the bill itself. One legislator even asserted that the Court had no understanding of either school finance or equity.

Reps. Jerry Henry (D-Cummings), Sidney Carlin (D-Manhattan), and Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) tried to impress upon their colleagues that the Court did not choose to weigh in, there was a lawsuit that they were required to hear, that the Court relied on a study commissioned, paid for, and adopted by the Legislature as the only evidence brought forth, and that the demands on schools have grown tremendously over the years and are more costly.

In the end, Ryckman chose not to put the bill to a vote.

In the Senate Ways and Means Committee, SB 512, the Masterson bill dealing with school finance equity was quickly passed out of committee and has been sent on to the full Senate for consideration.

Both bills return to the previous equity formula (before block grants) and sweep the $17 million out of the extraordinary needs fund. The balance of the needed money is new spending in the Ryckman bill and is redistributed from school districts in the Masterson bill.

On the Floors Today

House Bill 2700 was scheduled for debate on the House floor today but was pulled and returned to the Pensions committee. We suspect it will be placed in another bill and sent back for reconsideration. This is likely an effort to put the bill in a position that it can be quickly voted on by both chambers and sent to the Governor.

No other bills we are tracking were on the floor for debate today.

As we write this the Senate is still in deep debate on the second bill of nine on their debate calendar today. And the first bill was passed over after a long debate while they wait on another amendment to come forward.

We are waiting for the debate on the fifth bill, HB 2567 which deals with tuition rates for military personnel. It is rumored that there will be an attempt to pass an amendment that would repeal in-state tuition to the children of undocumented workers.

We will report on this tomorrow.


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Sex, Equity, Bonding, and Procurement…Lots Going On Under the Dome!

Mar 16, 2016 by

House Passes Over Sex Ed Bill for Today

HB 2199, the bill requiring that human sexuality education be offered only on an “opt-in” basis, was up for debate today on the House floor. After debating three other bills, a motion was made to rise and report meaning that the bill was not debated today. It remains on the calendar and is available for debate later.

Under current law, local school boards can make a determination whether to offer human sexuality education on an opt-in or opt-out basis depending on their own community. This bill would disallow the opt-out option.

There is general agreement that opt-in programs have lower participation than opt-out. Many worry that without human sexuality education, some students will not get age appropriate education. As a result, it is possible that there could be an increase in sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies.

The bill went further in that it would prohibit a school district from exposing any child who had not opted in to the program to any program materials. This provision stemmed from a parent complaint in the Shawnee Mission School District. One child photographed a controversial poster in a classroom that was part of the adopted human sexuality program.

If passed as is, the district would have to ensure that no child who is not in the program cannot see any program materials. The district would have to ensure that, if a classroom is used for both human sexuality and another subject, no materials from the human sexuality program could be seen. Additionally, the district would have to find a way to keep students in the program from sharing anything from the program with others. This would be impossible to enforce.

KNEA opposes this bill and believes school districts and boards will make the appropriate decisions for their own communities.

Ways and Means Takes Up Masterson Equity Bill

The Senate Ways and Means Committee today held a hearing on SB 512, Senator Masterson’s (R-Andover) bill intended to address the equity ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court.

While the bill shares some similarities to the Ryckman bill (HB 2731) heard in the House yesterday, it differs in one pretty significant way. Both bills return to the equity formula provisions in place before passage of the block grant bill (SB 7) and both bills repeal the extraordinary needs fund in order to find some money for fix. But while the House Bill looks to spend an additional $23 million, the Senate Bill simply rearranges some existing school funding to bridge the gap between the $17 million from the extraordinary needs fund and the actual cost of restoring equity.

Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute expressed some support for the Senate Bill because it provides no additional funding to schools.

Problems with both bills are that 1) they eliminated the extraordinary needs fund which is the only place districts can go in the event of large changes in property values or student demographics/enrollment and 2) they create winners and losers, something that is especially problematic at a time when schools have been flat funded.

And while the block grant would allegedly let schools know what they would get in funding for its duration, they would actually cut funding to some districts. One also wonders what impact the elimination of the extraordinary needs fund would have on the adequacy case still pending in the Courts.

No action has been taken as of yet on either bill.

Bond & Interest Review Panel Bill in Senate

The bill creating the Bond and Interest Review Panel was taken up once again in the Senate Education Committee today. Senate Bill 356 as introduced was very similar to House Bill 2456, worked in the House Education Committee yesterday.

While the bill was up to be worked today in Committee, no action was yet taken. Senator Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) has proposed an amendment to the bill changing the review panel structure which has been floating in committee since the bill was first debated. And today, Senator Vickie Schmidt (R-Topeka) has offered to amend the bill to match the changes made yesterday to HB 2456 with the Trimmer and Bradford amendments.

The Senate Committee will need to return to the bill later to determine which way to go.

Education Budget Committee Considers Procurement Restrictions for Schools

The House Education Budget Committee today is discussing HB 2729, a bill crafted based on a recommendation from the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Study.

The first section of the bill would require school districts to make purchases through the Department of Administration’s Procurement List. This list is agreements for bulk purchasing that saves the state money.

The bill provides a few exceptions the requirement:

  • Such items or services may be procured locally in an amount within 1% of total procurement cost of the amount the department is able to procure the same items or services;
  • such items or services may be procured through an education service center;
  • (such board of education determines in writing that such items have a material quality difference that would negatively impact student performance or outcomes as long as the secretary agrees with such determination in writing; or
  • prior to July 1, 2018, a contract for the procurement of such items or services in existence on July 1, 2016, is still in existence.

There is concern in school districts with a provision in section 2 that would make the above apply to the purchase of any services over $20,000. There are services that a district might purchase that cost over $20,000 such as attorney representation that, under current law, would be exempt from the standard bid procedure. Current law requires bidding and the selection of the lowest bid for “construction, reconstruction or remodeling or for the purchase of materials, goods or wares…” It specifically exempts services.

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Dissent is treason… and other tidbits.

Mar 15, 2016 by

House Committee Holds Hearing of First Equity Fix Bill

The House Appropriations Committee this morning held a hearing on HB 2731, a bill proposed by Rep. Ron Ryckman, Jr. (R-Olathe) intended to address the equity finding of the Supreme Court.

Under the bill, the state would return to the pre-block grant equity provisions for LOB, Bond & Interest, and Capital Outlay. It would require about $40 million in funding. The bill provides for $17 million by repealing the extraordinary needs fund and applying that appropriation to equity funding and then finding an additional $23 million. We don’t know where that money is to be found.

While Ryckman said there was no intent to create “winners and losers,” the bill does. Some school districts will lose funding while others gain. Some legislators have suggested that the Ryckman approach might be viable except that it would likely lose the support of his fellow Johnson County legislators due to the loss of funding some of them would experience.

Some legislators have suggested a “hold harmless” provision would be necessary but at least one member of the committee this morning wondered aloud if such a provision would simply continue the inequity that caused the problem to begin with.

There were only four conferees on the bill, all listed as neutral although one, Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute suggested there would be at least four “shades of neutral.” Others conferees were KASB, Shawnee Mission School District, and Blue Valley School District.

No action was taken on the bill today.

Tomorrow the Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on SB 512, the equity fix proposed by Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover). Under SB 512, equity is achieved by moving existing funds in the block grant around. There is no new money in this bill whatsoever. Most people wonder if passage of the Masterson bill wouldn’t seriously damage the state’s position in the yet-to-be-resolved adequacy decision.

House Education Committee Meeting Delayed

The House Education Committee was expected to meet today at 1:30 to continue work on HB 2456, the bond and interest review panel bill. Yesterday Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) offered an amendment that would provide for a measure of certainty in cost (the biggest complaint of the proponents) within the current system.

There was interest around the committee in the Trimmer amendment but not agreement on the details. We understand that Trimmer has worked with others including Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa), chair of the House Education Budget Committee to come up with a proposal that a majority of the committee could support. It was expected that this compromise would be considered today.

When they finally convened at 2:30, Rep. Trimmer offered a new amendment reflecting a compromise. The new amendment would use the current calculation for bond and interest state aid but for elections on or after July 1, 2016, the same system will be used except that the total amount spent cannot exceed the average of the past six years as determined by the State Board of Ed. The SBOE can prioritize districts or pro-rate amount should requests exceed the total allocated funds. The amendment would not have the project review board.

Veto Overrides Considered In Senate

The Senate today took action on two of Governor Brownback’s vetoes.

The first dealt with their razing of the Docking State Office Building. The Governor had made a secret deal to build a new capital complex power plant that required the razing of the building. Legislators were not happy when they learned of the deal and passed a bill stopping him from razing the building. Brownback has since said the contract for the plant was cancelled but he still fought the override. Recently he claimed that an override would jeopardize the state’s bond rating. The vote to override today fell one vote short after a call of the Senate. Senator Jeff Melcher was mysteriously absent.

The second veto dealt with an economic development program known as STAR bonds. STAR bonds deny sales tax revenue to the state from certain development projects. The Governor has proposed using STAR bonds to lure the American Royal across state lines. The Legislature given the current revenue crisis was loathe to give up so much revenue and passed legislation stopping the use of these bonds. The Governor vetoed the action and today, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to override his veto. If the House takes similar action, it will represent a significant loss for the Governor.

Palace Intrigue!


House Speaker, Ray Merrick

Representative John Rubin (R-Shawnee) was unceremoniously stripped of his chairmanship of the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee and Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene) was stripped of his position on the House Rules Committee by Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell).

It came as a shock to the those watching proceedings as Merrick made the announcement at the close of floor work this afternoon.

Rubin announced to the press that he would be resigning from the House as of midnight tonight.

Word under the dome is that the action was take because Rubin dared to challenge a ruling of the chair and perhaps Barker gave a ruling that was contrary to the chair. We’ll likely never know for sure but that’s the whispering going on over here.

We’ve been writing a lot the past few years of an increasing attitude of “dissent is treason” within Republican leadership. From the purging of moderate Republican senators in 2012 by Governor Brownback, to stripping pro-public education Republicans of seats on the education committee and taking pro-medicaid Republicans off the House and Human Services Committee, to multiple bills seeking to silence public employees, the hallmark of Republican leadership today is the demand for blind obedience to their ideology.

That’s why we would love to have you make a presence in the Capitol this week as part of our Celebrate Freedom Week. We can’t let our participatory democracy that values debate and compromise to be dismantled in favor of ideological purity. It’s spring break – come celebrate freedom under the dome!

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