The first half of the 2016 Kansas Legislative Session was over before 1:00 yesterday afternoon by which time both chambers had finished taking action on bills and adjourned until next week.

This break is important. All 165 Kansas Representatives and Senators will be back home and we are certain they will want to hear from their constituents.

As far as public education is concerned several issues are still out there.

House Bill 2531 repealing due process for Community and Technical College instructors has been referred to the Appropriations Committee so it is still available for debate in March. Be watchful.

House Bill 2486 and Senate Bill 356 have both been sent to the Appropriations Committee and are still available for action. These are the two bills establishing the bond and interest state aid review panel.

House Bill 2698, a bill on school district bullying policies, was also referred to Appropriations Committee. This bill did not get a hearing in House Education during the first half. It may be saved as a vehicle for some other purpose.

House Bill Sub for 2292 is the “common core” bill. It has not been referred to an exempt committee and under normal circumstances would be considered dead but the contents of bills under the dome never seem to die. They come back, zombie-like, and are resurrected via floor amendments or on a gut and go maneuver. So while the bill does not advance, don’t expect the proponents to give up yet.

House Bills 2174 and 2457, the bills amending and expanding the voucher program via tuition tax credits both failed to advance and so may be done for this year. But remember! They could come back as zombies via floor amendment or gut and go.

These are all issues on which your legislators need to hear from constituents and you and your neighbors are constituents! Look for opportunities to meet with legislators during this brief break – forums, around town, eggs and issues -–wherever you can find your legislator, give them an earful!

For the second half of this session, the legislature needs to abandon these anti-education bills and instead focus on solving the state’s serious revenue crisis so that vital public services from highways to public safety, from the social safety net to public schools can be adequately funded. Stop playing games and get to work.

We’ve updated the UTD bill tracker to include turnaround status. Use the link on the right-side menu to access the bill tracker.

Gone for Good?

Some bills have probably gone away for good – or at least for the rest of this session.

Senate Bill 324, the winter celebrations curriculum bill did not come out of committee and was not blessed. This issue is probably gone for this year. The bill was not terribly controversial in the hearing and the Senate Education Committee didn’t seem to be overly interested.

House Bill 2504 was Rep. John Bradord’s school district “realignment” (consolidation) bill. The bill had a hearing and generated overwhelming opposition. The committee took no action and it is not blessed.

House Bill 2532, as we reported Tuesday, was killed on the House floor. This is the change to the Rose Standards that added financial literacy. It had been amended on the floor to include last year’s ethnic studies bill. But when Rep. Don Hineman pointed out that this bill was usurping the State Board of Education’s constitutional authority for curriculum, many Representatives changed their vote from Aye to Nay and the bill was defeated. It likely will not come back.

An Education Bill from Each Chamber!

Despite all the hearings, debates, and discussions, only one bill we have been tracking has managed to get through either chamber.

The Senate, on a vote of 38 -1 adopted SB 323, the Jason Flatt Act requiring one hour of annual suicide prevention training for educators. It was amended in committee to provide liability protection for educators. This bill will now go to the House for consideration.

The House passed HB 2578, a bill that would allow chiropractors to clear a school athlete with a head injury to return to play. The bill passed on a vote of 73 to 51. A motion to reconsider that action was offered and, upon reconsideration, the bill was once again passed on a vote of 70 – 53. It will now head over to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Passes Bill Paying Some Foster Parents to Put Children in Private or Home Schools

The Senate advanced yesterday and approved on final action today Senate Bill 410 which establishes a special category of foster family labeled a “CARE” family.

Here is how the bill defines a CARE family:

A family shall meet the following requirements, and any additional requirements imposed by the secretary, to become licensed as a CARE family:

(1) A lawfully married couple in a stable relationship, married for at least seven years;

(2) submit to a background check on both spouses;

(3) no use of tobacco by anyone inside the family’s home;

(4) no history of unlawful drug use for the past seven years by anyone currently living in the family’s home;

(5) no alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverages in the family’s home;

(6) both spouses have attained at least a high school diploma or equivalent;

(7) at least one spouse does not work outside the home;

(8) the family is actively, regularly socially involved in their local community; and

(9) provide the secretary at least three references from people familiar with the family.

Sen. Forrest Knox (R-Altoona) introduced this bill last year. It is slightly different this year in that subsection (8) above was worded in last year’s bill to imply participation in weekly religious meetings.

The bill allows for the CARE family to be paid for the “actual educational expenses incurred for each child who is not enrolled in a school district in an amount not to exceed the statewide average state aid per pupil.” There is no requirement that the child be educated in an accredited school. The child could be home-schooled with the foster parents getting up to the “statewide average state aid per pupil.”

Additionally it appears, from an amendment offered by Knox and adopted on a voice vote, that the public school district that had the child before would be required to pay into the “juvenile out-of-home placement fund.” According to the amendment “such school district shall remit to the secretary an amount equal to the general fund budget of such school district, excluding moneys held in the special education and related services fund, the special retirement contributions fund, the capital outlay fund or bond and interest fund of the school district, the proceeds of any tax levied by such school district that are directly deposited in a fund of such school district and any moneys received by the school district pursuant to federal law, for the current school year divided by the total enrollment of such school district for the current school year divided by 12.”

On final action today, the bill was passed on a vote of 24 to 15.

This bill now goes to the House. Begin talking to Representatives now about this terrible policy.