Where does legislation stands now that we’ve hit “turnaround,” also known as “halftime” of the legislative session?

The state of education in Kansas is safe for the next few days as the legislature has reached its turnaround deadline – Friday, Feb. 24 – and is taking a few days off before they return for the second half of the 2023 session. Bills that do not make it out of their originating chamber by the turnaround are often considered “dead.” However, to keep bills alive past the deadline, legislative leadership can choose to “bless” them by sending them to an exempt committee. Many of the bills we saw in the House K-12 Education Budget Committee were blessed, including the voucher scheme bills (HB 2218 and HB 2048) and the amended open borders bill that contains the curriculum portal amendment (HB 2271).

Before leaving town, the House worked nearly 70 bills, and the Senate worked about 40. Here’s where things stand:

First Voucher Scheme Passes

The first of the voucher scheme proposals passed the Senate on a vote of 22 to 16. Senate Bill 83 seeks to expand the existing “low-income tax credit scholarship” program. As introduced, the bill expanded eligibility of students to include families making 250% above the federal poverty line ($75,000 for a family of 4) as well as children in foster care, children who have been adopted, and children of law enforcement officers, emergency personnel, or military service members. Additionally, contributions made to the “scholarship” fund would be 100% applicable to the individual or business tax liability. If the donor has a tax liability of less than the amount they donate, the amount rolls over to be applied to the next year’s tax liability. Lastly, the bill increases the total amount to be contributed to the program to $20 million.

Public school “shakedown” for vouchers.

The Senate rejected amendments to the bill that would have increased transparency and evaluation of the efficacy of the program, including an amendment to rename the program since it is no longer just for low-income students. The Senate adopted amendments to expand eligibility to families making 400% above the federal poverty line ($120,000 for a family of 4) and reduce the tax liability to 75% — still, a 5% increase from the current program and still drains public funds from the state general fund that could otherwise be used to help all Kansas children. The bill now goes to the House for consideration, where two additional voucher scheme bills remain in play.

Tax Policy

  • Individual Flat Income Tax: The Senate passed SB 169, which would create one income tax bracket where everyone pays a 4.75% state tax rate on their income. The vote was  Yea: 22 Nay: 17.

Election Changes Adopted

  • Advance Ballot Grace Period: Both chambers passed legislation seeking to eliminate the 3-day grace period for returning advance ballots. Advance ballots would have to be received by the county election office by the close of polls on Election Day to be counted. The Senate version is SB 209, which passed 23 to 17; the House version is HB 2056, which passed 77 to 45.
  • Eliminating Drop Boxes: SB 208 would restrict advance ballot drop boxes and be amended on the floor to eliminate drop boxes completely. Senator Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) offered the amendment and passed 22 to 16. The bill passed on a vote of 21 to 19.

Bill Making Local Elections Partisan Fails: SB 210 allows candidates in local elections to request to have their party affiliation published on the ballot. Fortunately, Senate Bill 210 failed on a vote of 16 to 24.

Education Policies Adopted

  • Parents’ Bill of Rights: This year’s version of the Parents Bill of Rights (HB 2236) passed the House on a vote of 75 to 47. (Note: This bill does not contain the parent portal stipulation. That was adopted as an amendment to House Bill 2271 in the House K-12 Education Budget Committee.
  • Virtual State Assessments: HB 2080 allowing students enrolled in virtual schools to take virtual state assessments passed 87 to 35. KNEA did not take a position on this bill.
  • Educator Apprenticeship Program: HB 2292, establishing a tax credit for employers offering apprenticeship opportunities, was amended on the House floor to establish the Kansas Educator Registered Apprenticeship Program that would provide apprentice opportunities for paraeducators or other school district employees seeking a teaching license. The bill passed from 115 to 7.
  • Updated Definitions: HB 2322 updates the definition of children with disabilities to replace “emotional disturbance” with “emotional disability.” It passed 120 to 2.
  • Teacher Mobility Compact: SB 66 creates the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact. The purpose of the compact is to facilitate the mobility of teachers across the member states with the goal of supporting teachers through a new pathway to licensure. The vote was Yea: 35 Nay: 4.

Infectious Disease Control Stifled: Senate Bill 6 restricts the duties and authority of the Secretary of Health and Environment and would make it more difficult to act in cases of public health concern. This bill would prohibit schools from sending home students with infectious diseases. The bill passed 22 to 18. KNEA did not initially take a position on this but will continue to follow it through the process.

Attacks on Women and the LGBTQ+ Community Advance

  • Trans Athlete Ban: HB 2238 seeks to prohibit trans girls in grades K-12 from participating in sports. The bill passed 82 to 40.
  • So-Called Women’s Bill of Rights: SB 180 alleges to establish a so-called “Women’s Bill of Rights.” It passed 26 to 10.
  • Civil penalty for gender-affirming care: SB 233 prohibits gender-affirming care. It passed 26 to 11.