Week 6 at the Kansas Statehouse was typically busy. As reported last week, we’re heading into the official halfway mark of the 2024 legislative session. This means right now we’re in the process of keeping up with an overabundance of bill hearings caused by legislative procrastination.

One major highlight of the week took place on Thursday, Feb. 15. Eight KNEA members were invited by the House Committee on Education to participate in a roundtable discussion regarding the rise of behavioral situations in the classroom. KNEA has been very vocal about not being allowed to be a part of the process. This invitation is a step in the right direction. Click on the link below to watch the hearing.

Key Issues

As reported last week, the issues of vouchers, special education funding, and KPERS reform have all started to move. Because of the chaotic nature of the legislative process this time of year, we may need to react and respond quickly. We will let you know ASAP should we need you to join us in any calls to action soon.

House Committee on Education 

The House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Adam Thomas, R-Olathe, with Ranking Democratic member, and KNEA member, Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village, had a full agenda for Week 6.

Monday, Feb. 12, was “service scholarship day.” The committee heard three bills (HB 2644, HB 2699, HB 2740) that made several tweaks to current law and dealt with issues like eligibility requirements, award limitations, uniform interest rate policy, to scholarship programs like the Kansas Hero Scholarship program and the Kansas Nursing Service Scholarship program. KNEA did not weigh in on these bills.

Tuesday, Feb. 13, included hearings on HB 2658, a bill that would require a student to attend virtual school after a long-term expulsion. They also heard HB 2539, a bill that would remove residency requirements for the Kansas Promise scholarship. KNEA did not testify on these bills.

Wednesday, Feb. 14, saw the committee hear three bills: 1) HB 2641, a bill that would prohibit the use of privately owned electronic devices in schools during school hours; 2) HB 2709, a bill that would require the state board of education to mandate local school boards to designate Fentanyl Awareness week and adopt a one size fits all curriculum program to distribute; and, 3) HB 2700, a bill that would set up a school library rating system that is essentially administered by politicians. KNEA testified in opposition to all three bills.

Watch the House Education hearings at the following links: 

Wednesday, Feb. 14: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240214/-1/18052

  • HB 2641 – Requiring school districts to prohibit the use of privately owned electronic communication devices during school hours.
    • Timothy Graham Testimony – TIMESTAMP: 2:32:05
  • HB 2709 – Establishing fentanyl poisoning awareness week for public middle schools and high schools to educate students on the abuse of and addiction to fentanyl and other opioids.
    • Timothy Graham Testimony – TIMESTAMP: 1:44:45
  • HB 2700 – Establishing the school library rating system task force to develop a rating system for materials available to students in public school libraries and requiring school districts to implement such rating system.
    • Timothy Graham Testimony – TIMESTAMP: 2:46:05
    • Kristy Oborny, Hays NEA, Testimony – TIMESTAMP: 2:53:10

Thursday, Feb. 15: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240215/-1/18053

  • Teacher Roundtable

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

House K-12 Education Budget Committee

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, with Ranking Democratic Member, and KNEA member, Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, had a relatively light week in terms of quantity but the one bill that was heard was tremendously bad. HB 2738 was heard on Tuesday, Feb. 13, and was one of the bills we referenced last week. It would take current levels of funding (69% of excess costs) and manipulate it in a way that would allow the state to falsely claim that it is funding the excess costs of special education at 109% without adding a penny of new spending. KNEA submitted written testimony in opposition to this bill.

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

Tuesday, Feb. 13: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240213/-1/18160

  • HB 2738 – Revising the special education state aid statewide excess costs calculation to count additional funding, requiring the state board of education to determine each school district’s excess costs and to establish a special education state aid equalization distribution schedule to distribute certain amounts of special education state aid and requiring school districts to transfer amounts attributable to the special education weighting from their supplemental general funds to their special education funds.

Learn more about the House K-12 Education Budget 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_h_k12_education_budget_1/ 

Senate Education Committee

The Senate Education Committee is chaired by Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, with Ranking Democratic member, Sen. Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa. It had a full agenda in Week 6 as well. Unfortunately, two of the more notable actions to take place during committee deliberations during this week were not aligned with our values. First was the hearing of SB 437. This was another one of the bills we warned you about previously. SB 437 is a full-fledged voucher bill. This bill significantly expands the Kansas Education Enrichment Program or KEEP. KEEP was Gov. Kelly’s initiative that was limited in scope, short-term in nature, and private schools were not eligible. HB 437 would permanently make private schools eligible for vouchers to the tune of $100 million in possible funding.

The second action that took place was that the committee deliberated on school funding and recommended nearly $120 million less in spending on education than Governor Kelly had in her budget recommendations. This included $74 million less in special education funding and $30 million less in childcare grant funding. Key legislators have stated these funding items will be addressed and that a portion of this funding will be added back into the budget before the legislature adjourns sometime in the spring. However, this is still troubling because these types of moves have a history of being hard to reverse.

Watch the Senate Education Committee hearings at the following links:

Tuesday, Feb. 13: https://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240214/-1/18146

  • SB 437 – Establishing the Kansas education enrichment program to provide educational awards to elementary and secondary school students for qualifying expenses for educational goods and services.
    • Lauren Tice Miller Testimony – TIMESTAMP: 2:19:55

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/