11 education bills make it out of the first chamber by turnaround

As the battle over the abortion constitutional amendment rages on, little has passed either chamber this year. And of those education-related bills that have passed, there was almost no controversy. Here’s the rundown on the 11 bills and the near unanimous to unanimous votes they received.

First, in the House. These bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

  • HB 2487; Changing “emotionally disturbed” to “emotionally disabled.” Passed 118-7
  • HB 2503; Transferring $268 million to KPERS; amendment struck re-amortization. Passed 125-0
  • HB 2507; Giving schools responsibility for liability insurance for students in workplace learning programs. Passed 97-27
  • HB 2515; Creating Kansas promise scholarship program. Passed 116-6
  • HB 2540; Extending high-density at-risk for 5 years; limiting at-risk expenditure to certain programs. Passed 111-14
  • HB 2619; Changing frequency of KPERS actuarial reports. Passed 118-7

Now, in the Senate. These bills now go to the House for consideration.

  • SB 271; Extending high-density at-risk weighting for 2 years. Passed 40-0
  • SB 284; Disability placards for school district vehicles. Passed 40-0
  • SB 335; Now Sub for SB 335; authorizing school districts to pay tuition for students in dual or concurrent enrollment programs. Passed 37-2
  • SB 337; Paying for ACT & WorkKeys exams for students in private schools. Passed 39-1
  • SB 382; Amending the capital improvement state aid schedule to remove Ft. Leavenworth. Passed 40-0

Plenty of controversial bills were “blessed” – moved to timeline-exempt committees so that they would be available for continued work in the second half of the session. These include four voucher bills, bills enacting more requirements for high school graduation including the civics test bill, and bills going after worker rights.

Still in play, of course, is the fate of Medicaid expansion. Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) is holding everything health- related hostage until the House passes her constitutional amendment on abortion. In the meantime, Governor Laura Kelly and Senator Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) have been on the road together calling on her to let the bill get a vote and three former Republican Senate Presidents – Steve Morris, Dave Kerr, and Dick Bond – have called upon Wagle to put her political ambitions aside and serve the people of Kansas.

Music, Suicide, and Special Education – That’s Quite the Combination

Yes, quite the combination but it was the combination of topics in the most recent meeting of the Senate Education Committee.

Representatives of the Kansas Music Educators Association were in the Statehouse to emphasize the importance of music and the arts in developing well-rounded individuals as well as supporting other learning. Senator Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) noted the “music puts the steam in stem,” a reference to recent changes in viewpoint that have moved the emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math education (STEM) to the broader idea of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).

Once the music educators were done with their presentation and received the appreciation of the committee members, Steven DeVore, CEO of Headquarters, located in Lawrence, appeared before the committee to brief them on the work of the suicide prevention hotline.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) is operated from 162 sites across the nation. Kansas has two sites – Headquarters in Lawrence which serves all 105 counties and Comcare in Wichita which serves Sedgwick County. DeVore noted that some 14 million calls have come into the Kansas hotlines since the NSPL came into existence and that number is expected to double over the next few years.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to launch 988, a three digit number that will route calls to the NSPL. This, combined with the expected increase in calls, has some ramifications for Headquarters. They are requesting $100,000 in new funding to handle the changes to technology called for by 988 as well as the expansion of facility space and staffing to handle the increasing number of calls.

After DeVore’s presentation, Baumgardner said the committee would have an unusual informational hearing on SB 317 – unusual in that the bill was not blessed and so cannot be worked in the second half of the legislative session. The bill by Senator Bruce Givens (R-El Dorado) would base the funding of special education on the FTE staffing numbers of the prior year instead of the current year as it is done now. This would provide more funding certainty and end the practice of having to guess how much money there will be when building a district budget. Givens is a special education director in his other life.

Senator Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills) asked if this bill content could be combined with that of SB 318, another special education bill, that is currently in the Ways and Means Committee. She was told that SB 318 would stay in Ways and Means. This left some folks puzzled about whether or not something else was planned for SB 318. If legislators are warm to SB 317, it could appear somewhere this year as an amendment to something else but is no longer available to be worked as a bill on its own.