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No new faces on House panel to push for charter schools
Education lobbyists at the Kansas Statehouse were surprised to hear Monday that there will be no changes in the makeup of the House Education Committee, where a bill to greatly expand the state's charter school law failed last year by a single vote.
Republican House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, announced a host of committee changes Monday, prompted mainly by a large turnover in House seats since the end of the 2013 session.
All told, Merrick shuffled 31 assignments on 18 committees, but none of them affecting the Education Committee, where Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City, will stay on as chairwoman, and Rep. Ward Cassidy, R-St. Francis, remains vice-chair.
House Democratic leaders also made no changes to their Education Committee assignments, which means Rep. Ed Trimmer of Winfield will remain the ranking minority member. No Lawrence-area House members serve on the committee.
The failure of the bill to advance out of committee came as a surprise to many because it had been a high priority issue for some GOP leaders, including Kelley.
Charter schools are generally thought of as publicly-funded private schools. They are often managed on contract by outside, for-profit companies, and in some states they are allowed to set their own administrative and employment policies, meaning they may not be required to bargain with teachers unions.
Kansas, however, has one of the most restrictive charter school laws in the country. Only public school districts can apply to open a charter school, and while they may managed by outside companies, they are ultimately governed by local school boards.
The Lawrence Virtual School is a charter school managed by K12, Inc., but it's governed by the Lawrence school board.
House Bill 2320 last year would have revamped that law allowing charter schools to be set up under the auspices of city or county governments, the Kansas Board of Regents, or the governing body of any public or private postsecondary institution.
Charter schools established under the law would have been exempt from most state laws and regulations that apply to other schools, including the requirement that they accept students who need special education services.