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Week one of 2024 Kansas legislative session gets underway

Four days into the 2024 Kansas Legislature Session, six education-related bills are in the works and Gov. Laura Kelly released her budget, proposing to fully fund K-12 public schools, including special education. 

Kansas legislators returned to the Kansas Statehouse Monday, Jan. 8.  

Bill tracker 

There are a few education-related bills that have been introduced so far. In the House, four bills were introduced during chamber proceedings on Monday. Those are: 

  • HB 2475 – Prohibiting the commencement of the school term prior to Labor Day.  
  • HB 2480 – Requiring each school district to employ an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder specialist. 
  • HB 2485 – 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. 
  • HB 2489 – Limiting the legislative option to purchase school district buildings to buildings that were formerly used as attendance centers. 

HB 2475, HB 2480 and HB 2489 were referred to the House Committee on Education. HB 2485 was referred to the House Committee on K-12 Education Budget. 

On Tuesday, SB 128 was removed from the Senate Calendar and sent to the Committee on Assessment and Taxation. The bill establishes the ad astra opportunity tax credit to provide an income tax credit for taxpayers with eligible dependent children not enrolled in public school. 

On Thursday, during the House Chamber Proceedings, HB 2494 was introduced. This bill establishes policy requirements for school safety and security plans and cardiac emergency response plans and provides grant programs for the implementation of such policies. 

Gov. Kelly’s State of the State Address and budget proposal 

Wednesday evening, Gov. Laura Kelly gave her annual State of the State address. She said she would continue to reject vouchers and any attempt to send public education dollars to private schools. She recognized Fowler USD 225 Superintendent Jamie Wetig and School Board President TJ Milford. In 2023, USD 225 was facing the largest funding cut at 25%, according to Kelly. 

The governor said her budget will fully fund Kansas schools and put the state on track to fully fund special education. 

After hearing recommendations from the Early Childhood Task Force, Gov. Kelly is calling for all early childhood services to be put under one roof – the “Office of Early Childhood.” She said she will put forward a bill soon to consolidate those services. 

On Thursday, the governor released her budget during a joint meeting of the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. In her push to fully fund K-12 public schools, she presented the following: 

  • Full funding for fiscal years 2025 and 2026, allowing for predictability for school districts when extending contract offers. This also includes expenditures associated with increasing the 20 mills residential exemption. 
  • Professional Development State Aid to be funded at the level requested by the Kansas State Board of Education. Gov. Kelly is recommending funding of $3.7 million in FY25 and FY26 
  • Mentor Teach State Aid. Gov. Kelly is recommending full funding by adding $1 million that will allow for a stipend of $1,000 for each of the three years of mentorship. 
  • $3 million to expand the Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT) Pilot Program to provide for a total of $16.5 million, which would be enough to cover 100 districts. 

In response to the Early Childhood Transition Task Force’s recommendations, Gov. Kelly presented the following for early childhood care and education: 

  • $56.4 million to fund coordinated efforts for early childhood and education. Money will assist in ensuring adequate available child care slots across the state. 
  • $30 million for childcare capacity accelerator grants. With private match requirements, this will infuse additional funds into the sector. 
  • $15 million for sustainability grants, administered by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. This will be used as direct support to existing childcare providers, especially home-based providers. 
  • $5 million for a pilot program to address rural childcare needs in northwest Kansas.   

The governor also presented a plan to fully fund special education at the level required by law, adding an incremental $74.9 million each of the next five years. K.S.A. 72-3422 details the calculation by which the state is required to fund special education. She said her recommendation will allow Kansas to reach the full statutory funding by FY29, which allows the state time to advocate for greater federal support. 

Gov. Kelly also released her tax proposal this week that she said won’t threaten the state’s ability to fully fund Kansas schools. Included in the proposal is the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday. The governor said this would help parents afford the resources students need to succeed in the classroom. 

The science of reading 

On Thursday, Dr. Laurie Curtis, Kansas State Department of Education’s early literacy/dyslexia program manager, presented to the Joint Committee on House and Senate Education on the science of reading and briefly described her work at KSDE. 

KSDE defines structured literacy as the explicit, systematic, diagnostic and cumulative approach to teaching literacy that acknowledges the value of both word recognition and oral and written comprehension as evidenced in all grades and all disciplines. 

“Structured literacy and the science of reading is not one technique,” Curtis said. “It is not a specific curriculum or a single element or component of instruction, like phonics. It’s not a one size fits all approach. It is responsive to data. That data is based on students and students are unique. It relies on the professional wisdom of teachers, of educators and administrators, and it is the work that I feel is the work of my team and the others that I work with at KSDE.” 

Curtis mentioned structured literacy is part of the Four Fundamentals KSDE believes will build capacity to elevate student opportunities and reduce limitations at the school building and classroom levels in each school system in Kansas. The others are standards alignment, balanced assessment system and high-quality instruction.  

Curtis also shared that KSDE has received approval to conduct a comprehensive curriculum audit across the state. That will help the agency identify what resources districts are using now and how KSDE can develop additional support for district leadership and educators. 

Curtis also mentioned KSDE’s revision of the dyslexia handbook and English language arts standards.  

The House is adjourned until 8:30 a.m. Friday. The Senate is adjourned until 9 a.m. Friday. Click here to see calendars of the House and Senate, and agendas for committees. 

Posted: Jan 11, 2024,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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