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Under the Dome - February 25, 2013


House rejects voucher bill


The big news out of the House Education Committee today is the defeat of House Bill 2263, the special education voucher bill promoted by Rep. Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe). During a long debate today, several amendments were made to the bill but it was clear that there was a close split in the Committee. 


Eventually, Rep. Ed Trimmer sensing the closeness of the potential vote, took the chance of calling the question. His motion to close debate was adopted and a subsequent voice vote on passing the bill out of committee favorable for passage was too close to call. Chair Kasha Kelley asked for a show of hands and declared the bill dead on a vote of 8 to 10. 


Since it was an unrecorded vote, it is not possible to tell you exactly who voted which way. 


House advances "innovative districts" bill


The House Education Committee did advance House Bill 2319 which would allow for creation of 10 so-called innovative school districts which could opt out of all state laws. Since most of what school districts call barriers are federal issues (IDEA, ESEA, etc.) and the bill does not allow opting out of finance or KPERS laws, one is left to wonder what else there is. 


It doesn't take long to realize that the biggest targets are likely to be collective bargaining and teacher due process which probably explains why KASB is such a strong advocate for the bill but can't identify what needs to be waived. 


None of the school administrators that supported the bill supported waiving due process or collective bargaining and even said they thought that would be a bad idea and yet when the committee was offered amendments to block waiving those laws, they were rejected. And even though Education Commission Diane DeBacker told the Committee there was nothing stopping districts from implementing innovative programs right now under current law, the Committee moved the bill forward.


We are fascinated by legislative enthusiasm for a bill allowing schools to opt out of all laws they might find troublesome while the same legislators are rushing to pass a bunch of radical new laws telling schools what they can and can't do! For example, will these innovative school districts be permitted to opt out of the proposed laws to require teaching climate change denial theories or prohibiting the mention of sustainable development in schools? Will they opt out of the new changes proposed to bullying laws? Will they want to opt out of the bill proposing a prohibition on accepting federal money? Maybe they can opt out of the proposed law requiring third graders with low reading assessment scores to be retained in grade or the one establishing a required curriculum for celebrate freedom week. 


Senate Education Committee handles several bills


Senate Bill 44, dyslexia: This bill sponsored by Committee Chair Steve Abrams had a number of proposed amendments brought to the Senator Abrams by KNEA and a few special education directors. During committee discussion one particular section of the bill gave Senators significant trouble - section three as written allowed a parent to force a district to provide private school services simply by not agreeing to an IEP for six weeks. 


Senator Abrams made an effort to fix that part of the bill but it still troubled a majority of the Senators and in the end the Committee simply decided to walk away from the bill and not advance it. 


Senate Bill 131 dealt with capital outlay funds and broadened the definition of what could be consider a capital outlay expense. The debate boiled down to a property-wealthy versus property-poor district debate as most of the Committee did not like the the idea of broadening the law when the state was not appropriately funding equalization aid. As with SB 44, the bill was set aside.


Senate Bill 128, a non-controversial bill cleaning up some language in last year's revisions to career and technical education changes was passed out of committee without any amendments. 


Senate hears 3rd grade retention bill


The Senate today held a hearing on Senate Bill 169 which would require that any third grader who was in the bottom performance bracket on the state reading assessment be retained for another year. The bill also provides grants to non-profits to provide services to these children but no funding for school districts to provide services. There are exceptions in the bill for some limited English proficient students and special education students.


The bill is from the Governor's office and they were joined by the Kansas Policy Institute in supporting the proposal. 


KNEA President Karen Godfrey spoke against the bill as did Assistant Superintendent Marcy Clay from KCK USD 500, Topeka 501 Superintendent Julie Ford, and a representative of KASB.


No action was taken on the bill.


Tomorrow in limbo!


Weather conditions so far have closed the Topeka Schools and Washburn University for tomorrow and the Legislature is announcing a two hour late start. We are anxiously waiting to see what happens - weather-wise - over night. It is possible that there will be another legislative closure!


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