Week 4 at the Kansas Statehouse began with a birthday celebration for the great state of Kansas. Kansas Day at the Statehouse means speeches, historical reenactments, and a big birthday cake. Kansas officially became the 34th state of the union on Jan. 29, 1861. The State of Kansas is located on the ancestral homelands of several Native American peoples. The Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kansa, Kiowa, Osage, Pawnee, and Wichita are tribes considered native to present day Kansas. Kansas is currently the home to four Native American reservations: the Iowa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Sac and Fox.

The first large influx of European settlers began to arrive in Kansas in the mid 1850’s. Although the history of the Sunflower State is deeply rooted in agriculture, most of the first non-native Kansas settlers came here in the 1850’s to ensure the future state would be settled as a state free of slavery. Not only did these Free-Staters bring with them a fierce opposition to slavery, they also brought their children and the time-honored dreams of creating a better life for those children. As a result, community schools quickly became the cultural center of every Kansas town and TEACHERS and STUDENTS became the center of every community school. The history of Kansas cannot be told without including the story of Kansas teachers.  

High Profile Issues to Watch

The KPERS issue saw some movement during Week 4. One bill that would increase the lump sum death benefit for KPERS members from $4,000 to $6,000 did advance favorably out of a key Senate committee but it is a long way from becoming law. A few other bills dealing with KPERS budget, policy, and investment portfolio requirements had movement as well. The specific issues of Tier 3 reform and cost of living adjustments (COLA) for KPERS retirees have yet to ramp up though everything still appears to be on track for the Legislative Post Audit Division to release its audit of KPERS Tier 3 on Feb. 7. It is at that time many believe the log jam will begin to break and work on reform will hopefully begin.

One voucher bill was introduced and became public on Friday, Feb 2. All still seems quiet on that front at this time. Is this just the calm before the storm or will legislative leaders skip this uphill battle in this election year? Stay tuned.

The issue of school funding, including special education funding, took center stage with the hearing of HB 2594. Watch the hearing in the link below. This bill eliminates the current Special Education and Related Services Funding Taskforce and replaces it with a general taskforce that is assigned to take a deep dive into the school finance formula. KNEA submitted written testimony in opposition to this bill due to the abolishment of the SPED taskforce as well as the failure to include a teacher on the new taskforce. The bill remains in committee for the time being.

The tax issue continues to suck all the oxygen out of the Statehouse. As reported many times, Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the Republican-inspired flat tax bill on Jan. 26. The legislature has 30 days to respond. Rumor is the legislature may attempt to override her veto as early as next week. This action would have to start in the Senate. We’ve consistently opposed unreasonable tax schemes that are unfair to our members and potentially harmful to the state’s financial health and will continue to do so. We testified several times in opposition to flat tax bills in the last legislative session but did not have the opportunity to do so this session because the bill that passed was fast-tracked and did not have hearings.

The governor’s tax bill also had a hearing on Jan. 31. This issue will continue to brew. As it unpacks, we will evaluate the appropriate avenues to advocate for key provisions that may be included in a possible compromise tax bill.  

Medicaid expansion is in Year 6 of a purely political battle that has prevented the state from capturing federal dollars to provide uninsured children the healthcare they deserve. KNEA has always supported the expansion of Medicaid and will continue to do so. Listen to our Under the Dome podcast to hear KNEA President Sherri Schwanz discuss this issue.  

Several election Issues are beginning to emerge. The most of which are concerning at best. Many of these issues will create unnecessary boundaries for our educators to exercise their right to vote. KNEA will monitor these closely and respond appropriately.

Other issues are starting to come alive as well. Stay tuned to our written, audio, and live updates as we maneuver the session together.

House Committee on Education 

The House Committee on Education, chaired by Rep. Adam Thomas, R-Olathe, with Ranking Democratic member, and KNEA member, Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village, met to conduct a hearing (linked below) as well as an informational session on the topics of special education and foster care.

Watch the House Committee on Education hearings at the following links: 

Tuesday, Jan. 30: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240130/-1/17704

  • HB2567 — Establishing the Kansas National Guard educational Master’s for enhanced readiness and global excellence (EMERGE) program.                    

Wednesday, Jan. 31: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240131/-1/17702  

  • Foster care report card and special education

Learn more about the House Committee on Education, including committee members and leadership, bills in committee, and other useful information and resources here: https://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_ed_1/ 

House Committee on K-12 Education Budget

The House Committee on K-12 Education Budget, chaired by Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, with Ranking Democratic Member, and KNEA member, Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, conducted a hearing on a controversial bill (link below) that creates a new school funding taskforce and abolishes the current Special Education Funding Taskforce. They also met for a host of informational sessions on the Kansas School for the Deaf and Kansas School for the Blind budgets, as well as a discussion on statutes relating to at-risk learners.

Watch the House Committee on K-12 Education Budget hearings at the following links:

Monday, Jan. 29: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240129/-1/17825

  • HB2594 — Establishing the education funding task force and abolishing the special education and related services funding task force.

Tuesday, Jan. 30: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240130/-1/17826

  • School for The Deaf and School for The Blind budget briefings

Wednesday, Jan. 31: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240131/-1/17827  

  • Application of statutes related to at-risk learners (K.S.A. 72-5151-through 72- 5154).

Thursday, Feb. 1: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240201/-1/17828

  • School for The Deaf and School for The Blind budget recommendations

 Learn more about the House Committee on K-12 Education Budget, including committee members and leadership, bills in committee, and other useful information and resources here: https://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_h_k12_education_budget_1/ 

Senate Committee on Education

The Senate Committee on Education, chaired by Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, with Ranking Democratic member, Sen. Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, conducted hearings on three pieces of proposed legislation. The topics included enrollment eligibility, enrollment figures for the purpose of school funding, and tweaks to state law regarding 529 education investment accounts.   

Watch the Senate Committee on Education hearings at the following links:

Monday, Jan. 29: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240129/-1/17723  

  • SB 387 — Providing for the continued enrollment of students who attend a school district of nonresidence pursuant to the school district open enrollment law.

Tuesday, Jan. 30: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240130/-1/17724  

  • SB 386 — Requiring enrollment under the Kansas School Equity and Enhancement Act to be determined using the current school year or the preceding school year and requiring any district that closed a school building in the preceding school year to use the current year enrollment count.

Wednesday, Jan. 31: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240131/-1/17725

  • SB 360 — Allowing a taxpayer to elect the taxable year in which a subtraction modification for contributions to a 529 program account, ABLE account or first-time home buyer savings account would be applied and authorizing the state treasurer to appoint a 529 program advisory council.

Thursday, Feb. 1: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240201/-1/17726  

  • Tech colleges by the numbers

Learn more about the Senate Education Committee, including committee members and leadership, bills in committee, and other useful information and resources here: https://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/committees/ctte_s_ed_1/