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Roundup of education issues at the Statehouse
As the Kansas Legislature wraps up the fifth week of its 2013 session, here's a roundup of some of the significant pieces of legislation that would affect public schools and the action that has been taken so far.
The hyperlinks below will take you to pages on the Legislature's website where you can access more detailed summaries of the bills, the text of the legislation and previous actions.
School finance amendment: SCR 1608 would amend the Kansas Constitution to provide that the financing of public schools is exclusively a legislative power, and only the Legislature can determine how much to spend on education. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings Wednesday and Thursday of next week, Feb. 13 and14.
Third-grade reading retention: HB 2004 would require that third-grade students who score below proficient on the state reading assessment be retained in third grade unless good cause is shown for why the students should be exempted. Gov. Sam Brownback expressed support for such a policy in his State of the State address in January. The bill was introduced and referred to the House Education Committee. No hearing has been scheduled yet.
At-risk weighting: SB 103 would change the formula for determining each district's at-risk weighting. Currently, for funding purposes, each at-risk student counts as 1.456 students. Under the bill, that would remain in place for students in grades K-3. For students in grades 4-12, the bill would change the method by counting students who failed to meet the standard on state math or reading assessments the previous year. The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Union lobbying: HB 2023 would prohibit public employee unions from using money collected through payroll deductions for political purposes. It passed the House, 68-56, Jan. 31. The Senate Commerce Committee held hearings Feb. 5 and 6.
Teachers unions: HB 2085 would repeal existing law mandating exclusive recognition of a single bargaining unit in a school district; remove the length of class times and the number of classes taught from the list of items subject to negotiation; and provide that teachers who do not join a local union are not bound by terms of the negotiated contracts. The House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on the bill Jan. 29.
Property taxes: HB 2047 would require that in years when the total taxable value of existing tangible property increases from one year to the next, local governments such as cities, counties and school districts would have to lower their property tax mill levies accordingly so they would not receive more revenue as a result of increases in property appraisals. If a governing body approves a budget calling for more property tax revenue than the previous year, it would have to publish a notice of that vote in the official county newspaper. The bill would not apply to property taxes levied by the state. The House Taxation Committee recommended the bill for passage on Feb. 5.
Statewide mill levy: SB 23 would reauthorize the statewide 20-mill property tax levy for public schools for two additional years. The tax generates an estimated $575 million a year. The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on the bill Feb. 6.
Dyslexia services: SB 44 would require schools to provide specific services for students diagnosed with dyslexia. It would require the State Department of Education to adopt rules and regulations establishing best practices for instruction; requiring school districts to provide early screening for students enrolled in pre-K through second grade; and require teachers to complete training programs for teaching students with dyslexia. The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing Thursday, Feb. 7.