2016 Legislative Session

July 25, 2016

At its July meeting the Kansas State Board of Education considered several options related to school funding and there was positive news for those of us in special education. The board recommended a large increase in overall funding and a significant increase to special education. You can find the special education funding options considered on page 91 of the .pdf document located here:
http://goo.gl/QzNO3w

The board’s recommendation is a giant step forward on the path towards full funding for special education. Too often special education programs and the funding for those programs are overlooked. This was a positive message and is one we want to support and follow as the legislature considers a new funding formula. It takes character and courage to make a recommendation like this in my humble opinion and it is even more heartening to see that there hasn’t been any widely reported opinions that are critical.


April 14, 2016

HB 2741 continues to generate interest and discussion in the education community. Much of the dialogue is well thought out and well communicated.
It is safe to say that HB 2742 represents a radically new approach for financing education and will challenge conventional thinking.
I found this article to be very well written, interesting and insightful. Hope you’ll take time to read it.
You can find it here:
http://bit.ly/1YrN5TK


April 4, 2016

The new school finance bill HB 2741 holds some good news and some bad news.

You can read more detailed summaries of the bill here:
http://kasb.org/wcm/_NB/16/NB0404c.aspx
and here:
http://goo.gl/QGZJKW

I like to finish things on a positive note so let’s start with the bad news in this bill. Funding for schools is cut by some 373 million dollars. Funding for extra curricular and food service programs must be generated locally as it will be prohibited for schools to use state aid for these programs. Local school districts would face more obstacles if they found it necessary to challenge school finance laws. Cash balances held by local districts would be reduced and districts would have to levy a statewide property tax mill rate of 35 mills compared to the current 20 mills. Capital outlay state aid would be impacted as well.

There is good news in the bill that is worth noting too. Special education funding as established in statute 72-978 remains essentially the same. Funding is to be at 92% of the measured cost of providing special education and related services. This is good news for special education. It is important to note though that the bill gives no indication as to when this level of funding might actually materialize. Also positive is the Efficiency Incentive Program that will reward any school employee who identifies an efficiency that is put into place and saves dollars. The employee would see up to 10% of the money saved and that is a good thing. Another positive would be to put all school employees into the state insurance pool. I agree that this might be bad news for some but speaking for Keystone it looks like good news.

You can read the full text of the bill here:
http://goo.gl/f33QjH

March 23, 2016

It has been more and more difficult to find any positive news related to the 2016 legislative session and the Kansas economy. A quick Google search using the terms Kansas Legislature or Kansas economy will produce thousands of hits from across Kansas and across the United States. Unfortunately, those hits lead to media content that is predominately negative.

Here’s an example of one such article: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article66848447.html

The Kansas Legislature and the Governor of Kansas have become frequent fodder for the late night comedy hosts. A quick review of some of the bills being considered hasn’t helped me to find anything to be positive about. For a person who builds into their professional practice the simple habit of finding the best in all of the circumstances that surround us that has become more and more challenging. One hit from the search terms above took me to an entertaining video of Seth Myers critiquing Kansas. I won’t provide a link, as some of his content is inappropriate for a younger audience, although you can easily find it should you choose.

That challenge was finally overcome when my youngest son came home to share his experience as a page in the Kansas Senate one day earlier this week. He was as motivated and as energized as I have ever seen him. He shared the specifics related to the bills that had been debated that day and I could tell he had learned a great deal. I couldn’t help but wonder, “How did he come away from that experience with such positive outlook?” The answer was simple. Our system of governing is a good one. It’s a system that encourages diverse opinions and through that process great things can come. Children go into the process without a predetermined agenda. They want only to learn more about each issue in order to make an informed decision. Indeed they revel in the opportunity. Seeing the legislative process through younger eyes gave me a new perspective. Bringing students into the process may be one of the best things our legislators do. We can only hope that they will embrace the opportunity to engage and learn from those precious students.


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