Timothy Graham, KNEA director of legislative advocacy
Where do things stand at the moment?
Lauren Tice Miller, Director of Government Relations
At this point in the 2022 legislative session, the majority of committee work wrapped up this week. Next week, both chambers are scheduled to be on the floor all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. They’ll be off Thursday and Friday before returning for conference committee work as we make our way to the first adjournment on April 1.
Conference committee work is done when one chamber amends a bill previously passed by the other chamber and then the originating chamber must decide whether to accept, reject, or negotiate the changes. This is when the legislative process gets even more complicated as bills get shuffled in and out of other bills.
In preparation for that, here is an outline of where education and other related bills currently stand:
Sub for Sub HB 2512 = House Education Budget + Voucher Expansion + Part-Time Enrollment + Virtual Schools Policy Pieces + Building Needs Assessment + KSHSAA Mandatory Reporters + Literacy Programs + Academic Achievement + Alternative Education Opportunities
This bill is Frankenstein’s monster. It includes the funding for schools as recommended by Governor Laura Kelly with a few changes along with a host of policy pieces. Most notably, regarding the funding portion contained within the bill, the House K-12 Education Budget Committee:
- Mandated that up to $4 million be provided for statewide implementation of an online supplemental math curriculum called “Math Nation” for grades 7-12. Any district with more than 50% of students scoring in Levels 1 and 2 on the 2019 state math assessment must participate in the program and contribute to the cost from their existing budgets. Early estimates indicate nearly every district will be required to participate and the cost is approximately $17 per student. No other vendors were considered for this. When Rep. Kristey Williams, chairwoman of the K-12 committee, was asked “why this vendor?”, she responded that no one else had come to present to the committee. The committee held an informational briefing on Math Nation on March 1. Less than 10 days later, the committee allocated $4 million and created an unfunded mandate on schools.
- Added $100,000 for the Communities in Schools grant in KSDE’s budget but provided no additional funding so KSDE will have to take it out of their existing budget.
- Added $5 million for another year of school safety and security grants and expanded the program to include those funds can be used to pay new school resource officer positions but requires a dollar-for-dollar district match.
- Eliminated $1.5 million recommended by the Governor for transportation to career and technical education programs (members of the committee argued schools should already be able to fund this out of their existing budgets).
- Earmarked that the $3 million for mental health intervention team funding must be prioritized to expand the program to districts that have not previously participated.
Additionally, they bundled sections of bills previously heard by the committee into the bill. These policy pieces include the following:
- Voucher expansion: They amended the Tax Credit for Low Income Student Scholarship Program for private schools (the voucher program that send public dollars to private schools under the guise of a tax credit) to allow students to receive a scholarship if first applying at age 7 or under. There was not a hearing held on this policy piece. However, KNEA opposes this.
- Part-Time Enrollment: Adds language previously included in HB 2514 that requires school districts to admit any student at any time to attend any courses, programs, or services offered by the school district on a part-time basis. KNEA submitted testimony opposing HB 2514. There is no additional funding provided for these students and the bill generated more questions than answers.
- Virtual Policy Bundle: These are the pieces previously bundled in Substitute for House Bill 2512. This “bundle” provides an alternative calculation of graduate rates for virtual schools (originally the contents of HB 2602), prohibits virtual schools from offering any financial incentive to entice students to enroll (originally the contents of HB 2649), and authorizes virtual school state aid for students who are credit deficient (the original contents of HB 2512). KNEA did not take a position on any of these bills.
- School Building Needs Assessment: The contents of Senate Bill 362 as passed by the Senate, which includes requiring documentation by local school boards of building needs assessments in determining budget needs. The House K-12 Budget Committee modified the language slightly by specifying proficiency on state assessments is above level 2 rather than level 1. KNEA did not take a position on this bill.
- KSHSAA Mandatory Reporters: They added a provision from what was originally House Bill 2511 the requires all employees and volunteers of the Kansas State High School Activities Association to be mandatory reporters. KNEA did not take a position on this bill, but does not oppose more mandatory reporters.
- Literacy Programs: Added a section of what was originally House Bill 2690, called the Every Child Can Read Act, establishing that third grade “marks a pivotal grade level” that students must attain proficiency in reading. The sections direct school boards to establish policies measuring student achievement, provide targeted interventions, communicate with parents, and report to the Kansas State Board of Education. KNEA opposed HB 2690 as it originally contained merit pay. The sections added to this bill do not include merit pay but are still problematic in terms of legislative overreach.
- Academic Achievement: Another section of House Bill 2690 that requires KSDE to prepare a performance accountability report and longitudinal achievement reports on all students enrolled in any public school or accredited nonpublic school. The section provides the details on what the reports should include.
- Alternative Education Opportunities: The contents of the original House Bill 2615 authorizes school districts to provide alternative educational opportunities outside of the classroom. This proposed legislation, as introduced, is not a bad bill. It allows students to participate in alternative education opportunities for course credit (think internships or long-term 4-H projects) so long as they are sponsored by a teacher from their school and is approved by the Kansas State Board of Education.
Overall, KNEA opposes Substitute for Sub for House Bill 2512. Even though there are some pieces of this bill that are not bad when coupled with everything else it makes this a bad bill. It passed out of committee and is waiting for full consideration in the House, which could happen as early as next week.
PARENTS BILL OF RIGHTS
House Version = Sub for HB 2662
This is still mostly in its original form, with establishing the Parents’ Bill of Rights and Academic Transparency Act. However, it was amended to remove the affirmative defense section of the bill and then added requirements for the administration of surveys, questionnaires, suicide risk assessment, and screening tools in schools. They also clarified definitions of materials making it clear that they want anything and everything used in all classroom lessons. As noted in our previous write-up on this bill, it would have a chilling effect on education. The majority of the proponents included out-of-state organizations with a history of supporting efforts to dismantle public education. Not one parent testified in favor of this bill. KNEA remains opposed.
Senate Version = SB 496
The Senate version of the Parents’ Bill of Rights does not contain the “academic transparency portal” language that is in the House version. It is strictly a listing of 12 “rights” for parents – most of which are already rights that parents have. This was even acknowledged by proponents in testimony. They noted that certain statutes, as well federal and state case law, support these very rights.
On the surface, the Senate version just seems redundant and harmless since it does not outline any penalties. However, it remains very problematic. For example, right #6 is “the right to make healthcare and medical decisions for such child including the right to make decisions regarding vaccinations and immunizations.” While this does not change the statute pertaining to childhood immunizations, there is doubt that this would not be used to bolster arguments to challenge those statutes for the purpose of expanding exemptions, removing authority from KDHE, etc.
Additionally, both versions contain language taken verbatim from the Heritage Foundation – a Washington, D.C.-based, extremely conservative think tank – seeking to censor content in classrooms, libraries, and educator professional development. If we want to be addressing the needs of Kansas students, why are we using template language from out-of-state ideologues?
KNEA remains opposed.
Next steps: The Senate version (SB 496) is scheduled to be worked on the Senate floor on Monday, March 21.
House version = Sub for HB 2615
This bill now contains the contents of what was originally House Bill 2553 with amendments. As introduced, the bill required schools to accept non-resident transfers at any time during the school year based upon the local school board’s definition of capacity for each building in the district – the same as what was discussed with the Senate version in Under the Dome last week.
The House K-12 Budget Committee amended its version by specifying that the local school board must adopt a policy by January 1, 2023, and that prior to adopting the policy, the board must hold a public hearing to give residents of the district an opportunity to provide input. Then, rather than allowing nonresident transfers at any time during the school year, the new version only requires districts to accept transfer students until September 10 as long as they have the capacity. Following September 10, they are not required to accept out-of-district students. However, students of military families can attend nonresident districts at any time, regardless of capacity.
When the House heard the original bill, there were three proponents and 15 opponents. None of the proponents were private citizens, and there were never any examples provided of Kansas students being unable to transfer to a nonresident school. Instead, this is just another solution in search of a problem. KNEA remains opposed.
Senate Version = SB 455
The Senate spent the entire week amending their version of the open enrollment bill. Their goal was to simplify it, but in the end, they made it far more detailed and rigid, leaving very little to the decision of local school boards. What was most concerning is throughout the process, many committee members seemed to think that adding another class within a grade level is something that can be easily done just before school starts. There was no consideration of the fact that planning of class sizes and a number of sections in each grade level starts as early as February so that positions can be posted in March and April to help attract quality teachers for the upcoming school year. Waiting until July, as suggested by the committee, to determine whether to add another section is simply not good management.
We are better off not trying to fix something that isn’t broken. KNEA remains opposed.
Next steps: The Senate version (SB 455) is scheduled to be worked on the Senate floor on Monday, March 21.
OTHER BILLS TO WATCH
SB 484 = Anti-Transgender Sports Legislation
Dubbed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” SB 484 seeks to prohibit transgender girls from participating in interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls. The bill, though, does not exclude females from participating in athletic teams designated for males, men, or boys. The bill had about a dozen proponents, most of whom were from out of state, and well over a hundred opponents, including KNEA. The bill is scheduled to be worked on the Senate floor on Monday, March 21.