1st Adjournment Report

The first adjournment report is a summary and status report of all the bills KNEA is tracking.  This report is up-to-date as of the date of this publication, but the status of any and all of the bills listed in the report will likely change once the legislature resumes its work.

22 Minutes of Special Education Funding

During the K-12 budget debate on Tuesday, Rep. Jarrod Ousley (D-Merriam, pictured above) offered an amendment to increase special ed funding by $68 million, as recommended by the Kansas State Department of Education. There was minimal debate on the amendment, and the House adopted the amendment on a vote of 58-54. Twenty minutes later, after House Republican leadership returned to the floor to learn what had just happened, arms were twisted and a motion to reconsider the amendment was made. The House then voted to reject the amendment on a vote of 50-70.

Statutorily, special ed funding levels should be at 92%. They are currently at 71%. Additionally, federal special ed funding is declining and will continue to decline for the next three years. School districts are left with no choice but to use their general fund dollars to make up the difference. While Ousley’s amendment is needed to keep districts from dipping deeper into their budgets, make no mistake that the inclusion of the amendment was not enough to make the underlying bill worthy of a ‘yes’ vote. In terms of a grading system, the amendment was like adding 10 points of extra credit to an assignment with a grade of 25%. Either way, it still leaves us with a failing grade.

This situation, though, is a great example of how legislators are capable of doing the right thing for Kansas schools. It is the pressure of their hyper-partisan leadership that keeps them from doing so.

Legislator Spotlight

While some legislators attempt to send public education advocates scrambling in every direction, Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City, pictured above) has refused to be distracted. Whether in committee or on the floor of the Kansas House of Representatives, Rep. Winn has represented our agenda and echoed our core values. 

On Feb. 17, the House K-12 Education Budget Committee debated the so-called “Parents Bill of Rights.” While legislators debated about processes to ban books, require teachers to spend time posting lesson plans and learning materials, or self-report their professional development activities (as if it were a violation of some kind), Rep. Winn stuck to the basics. 

Declaring that her amendment was about “restoring baseline policy that was trashed during the dead of the night,” Rep. Winn offered a proposal to restore statutory due process to Kansas teachers. Her amendment failed but her tenacity hasn’t waned.

This week Rep. Winn showed that she remains steadfast. During the debate on a flawed K-12 budget and policy bill, Rep. Winn led the effort to oppose the bill based upon its harmful policy.

Later in the evening, during debate on another flawed education proposal on the House floor, Rep. Winn readily admitted that some of her colleagues may be tired of her repeating a common message. “Some of you are saying, I’m so sick and tired of this woman coming up and talking about poor versus rich, haves and have nots, and that is fine. There’s a very clean and clear solution to that. Quit passing bills that have inequitable provisions in them,” Rep. Winn implored the body. She continued to say, “as long as you keep doing it, I’m going to keep coming up and I’m going to keep calling it out.”

Rep. Winn continues to be a strong voice in support of public education and an ally who deserves to be recognized. Thank you, Rep. Winn.