Air Guns in Schools

A hearing was held this morning on HB 2468, a bill that would prohibit school districts from having a policy denying use of a school facility by organizations that provide shooting sports programs solely because they use air guns. Air guns are currently listed as a weapon in statute.

Those testifying in favor of the bill were mostly from 4-H programs that offer a shooting sports programs using BB or pellet guns. 4-H offers these programs in 96 of our 105 counties serving more than 2500 kids. These programs are generally offered after school hours.

There are some places where there are no appropriate indoor spaces in which these organizations can meet. Under the bill school district policies could still prohibit students from possession of air guns during school hours.

The Committee had lots of questions for conferees and discussed possible amendments including a more restrictive definition of air guns that would limit the velocity of projectiles such that they would not break skin. Other issues discussed were the protection of school property and liability for anyone who might be hurt whether a participant or bystander.

We are certain there are amendments that will be drawn up before the Committee debates the bill or takes any action.

Federal Funds Discussion

The House Education Committee has been spending the past two days learning about federal funds in education. An issue of concern to some in the legislature is maintenance of effort agreements requiring states to maintain a certain level of support in order to receive federal funds. Several years ago the state had to take quick action to protect federal special education funds when state funding was reduced.

There is a bill in the legislature proposed by Rep. JR Claeys (R-Salina) that would require legislative approval before an agency could accept federal funds with a maintenance of effort requirement.

Suicide Prevention Training

The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on SB 323, the “Jason Flatt Act,” which would require two hours of training annually for teachers and principals on the warning signs of potential suicide. As written the bill provides wide latitude on how to meet the requirement including using online resources and self-reporting. Such online training based on best practices is currently available free of charge.

KNEA supported the bill generally but asked the Committee to consider what would happen if the online training was no longer offered for free. Additionally we raised questions of liability and urged the Committee to consider the implications in a litigious society should a teacher or principal not recognize a student’s warning signs.

There was no opposition to the bill. The hearing has closed and the Committee may take up the bill at a later date.

House Ed Schedules Hearings on Bradford Bills

The House Education Committee has scheduled hearings on three bills requested by Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing).

On Monday, Feb. 1, they will hold a hearing on HB 2468, creating the school district bond project review board. This bill would do the following:

  • 2015 Block Grant  SB 7 amended state aid formula for bond election held between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2017; abolished state aid after July 1, 2017
    • This bill reinstates new formula for elections held after Jan. 1, 2016, subject to approval of oversight board.
    • The formula provides 75% state aid for district with LOWEST valuation per pupil; drops 1% for each $1,000 increase in AVPP.
  • Bill creates the school district bond project review board – make up of chairs and ranking minority of Appropriations/Ways and Means; two members of State Board of Education
    • “The board shall determine the extent to which the facility being constructed or improved is to be utilized by the school district for direct instruction of students of the school district, and shall express such utilization as a percentage of the total utilization of such facility.” (Not defined)
    • “Any architectural enhancements to a facility beyond basic building planning and design shall not be deemed part of the facility that is utilized for direct instruction of students.” (Not defined)
  • Only the percentage of the project approved by the board should be eligible for state aid.
  • Note: This concept was recommended by the K-12 Student Success Committee; as well as use state building architect and project manager; limited amount of aid per year.

On Tuesday, Feb 2, they will hear HB 2457, amending the tax credit for low income students scholarship program act. This bill will do the following:

  • Changes part of definition of eligible student from an at-risk student attending a public school to a child whose family household income does not exceed 250% of the federal poverty level.  Removes portion of definition which required them to be enrolled at a public school the previous year or to be eligible to be enrolled in the first year sought for the child and the child is under the age of 6.
  • Removes portion of public school definition that required the school to be either a Title I focus or Title I priority school.
  • Adds a provision to require scholarship granting organization to give preference to students who received a scholarship the previous year.
  • Adds provision requiring scholarship granting organization to break payment into 2 installments (1st and 2nd semester).
  • Section 4 removes reference to corporate income tax.  Now reads: “There shall be allowed a credit against the tax liability imposed upon a taxpayer . . .”  This would allow individuals to claim the credit.
  • Section 4 also changes the amount of the credit from 70% of the contribution to the SGO to 100% of the contribution.
  • Adds provision that prohibits the credit be given to anyone who designates the contribution for the benefit of a dependent.
  • Increases the limit of the total amount of credits from $10M to $12.5M.

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, they will hear HB 2504, school district realignment (consolidation). This bill will do the following:

  • Requires State Board of Education to oversee redesign of districts by July 1, 2017; take effect one year later.
    • Every county with 10,000 or fewer students to be a single district; over 10,000 districts must have at least 1,500.
    • Apparently based on public school district students who are resident of the county.
    • Boundaries generally follow county lines – exceptions:
    • Voluntary consolidations to reach threshold by July 1, 2017
    • State Board may take into account efficiency, not divide cities or townships
    • Boundary of districts in over 10,000 countries, redrawn if necessary to reach 1,500
    • Innovative districts may not be divided or disorganized; may have territory added
  • Bond debt will remain with territory that originally approved; so part of new district may be taxed for previous bond issues
  • “The number of school administration and supervisory service employees employed by a realigned school district shall not exceed 120% of the number of school administration and supervisory service employees of the school district with the largest enrollment in the prior year.” (Not defined)
  • Districts must inventory real property and vehicles for central office; all excess property not required for new central office goes to the state to be sold.
  • No provision of process of determining new school board.

KNEA opposes all three bills and will be working with other education organizations to align testimony.

Our thanks to KASB for the bill descriptions used above (why reinvent the wheel?).