Kansas Legislative Bills and Their Impacts Upon Our Public Schools
Thanks to Paul Johnson with the Kansas Rural Center for the following legislative bills impacting K- 12 public schools:
Big Changes for Public Education
by Paul Johnson
Conservative Republicans are taking control to change the structure of public education in Kansas. Three bills will be heard next week before the House Education committee at 1:30 pm to start the changes.
The first bill creates a school district bond project review board giving the State more control over the issuance of local school district bonds.
A second bill amends and expands the tax credit for low income student scholarships that can be used at any private school.
The third bill starts the debate on forcing most school districts to consolidate and realign. To this point there has not been any legislation introduced to establish a new school funding formula so the frozen school funding block grant will be in place for 2017.
House Bill 2486 creates the school district bond project review board. It establishes a new formula for state aid in regards to local school bond issuances after January 1, 2016 by requiring approval by this new oversight review board. The new formula provides 75% state aid for districts with the lowest valuation per pupil and drops 1% for each $1,000 in increased property valuation per student. This school district bond project review board is made up of chairs and ranking minority party members of House Appropriations & Senate Ways & Means committees along with two members of the State Board of Education. Determination will be made on the percentage of the bond that is utilized by the school district for direct instruction of students. So the construction of sport facilities would not be subsidized by the State. HB 2486 will be heard on Monday (Feb. 1) before House Education.
House Bill 2457 amends the tax credit for the low income student scholarship program that was part of the school funding block grant act passed in 2015. Eligibility is changed from at-risk students (133% of federal poverty level) attending a public school to a child whose family income does not exceed 250% of the federal poverty level.
With HB 2457, individuals as well as corporations could claim the income tax credit. The amount of the tax credit increases from 70% to 100% of the contribution. HB 2457 increases the limit of the total amount of credits from $10 million to $12.5 million. HB 2457 will be heard on Tuesday (Feb. 2) before House Education.
House Bill 2504 mandates the realignment of most school districts. HB 2504 requires the Kansas State Board of Education to oversee the redesign of districts by July 1, 2017 to take effect one year later.
Every county with 10,000 or fewer students will have one school district. Counties with over 10,000 students must be realigned so that each school district has at least 1,500 students. School bond debt will remain with territory that originally approved so new patrons in the new consolidated county school district may be taxed for previous bond issues. There is no provision in HB 2504 for determining a process to create a new school board. Initial speculation is that this new realignment will decrease the number of school districts from 286 to roughly 130. HB 2504 will be heard on Wednesday (Feb. 3) before House Education.
Senate Bill 3 removes protections from schools from prosecution of teachers and school administrators for using lesson materials perceived as harmful to minors.This bill would not remove similar protections for libraries, museums, and universities.