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Under the Dome - April 3, 2013

Education Conference Committee wraps up
The Senate/House Education Conference Committee wrapped up its work this morning, disposing of all bills left in the committee.

The following agreements were reached this morning:

House Bill 2261 which deals with flexibility in using unencumbered balances will also include HB 2222 which contains a change in bullying policies and HB 2280, the mandatory celebration of freedom bill. HB 2280 was amended to apply only to grades K-8 since such curriculum (the constitution, bill of rights, emancipation, etc. are all covered in high school through civics and government classes was the rationale).

The House agreed with the Senate changes to HB 2349 which requires a certain number of school district audits each year and will run a motion to concur in the Senate changes on the House floor.

The last bill taken up was HB 2319, the coalition of innovative schools act. The House agreed to the Senate changes - going from 10 districts to 10% of all districts, requiring reporting, and sunsetting the bill in five years - and added an amendment ensuring that these districts cannot opt out of the Open Meetings Act or the Open Records Act. These districts will be able to opt out of most other state rules, regulations, and laws. We suppose that means they can opt out of the new mandate of celebrate freedom week, new mandates on accounting, or any mandatory retention bill that might pass.

All of these bills will now go to the floor for final approval.

House Ed Budget/Senate Ed Conference Committee making some agreements
This conference committee put together several packages today.

Senate Bill 23 which extends the statewide 20 mill property tax levy for schools will be bundled with SB 171 (new accounting and reporting procedures), HB 2109 (the second count date for military students), and HB 2391 (extending the ancillary facilities tax to nine years).

House Bill 2003, the mandatory 10% LOB bill which had been added to SB 23 in committee, was cleaned up of the provisions that would have cost some districts large amounts of funding, and will stand alone as a conference committee report.

Senate Bill 104, the internet protection act, which the House Committee had amended to include private accredited schools - requiring all accredited schools to have internet use policies to protect children - was stripped of the House amendment and will stand on its own. This means public schools will be protecting children from inappropriate internet material but there will be no such requirement for private schools in Kansas.

Retention once again being debated
Still being debated is Senate Sub for House Bill 2140, the mandatory retention bill. This bill has come a long way from its introduction having started as a mandate to retain in grade any third grade student who performs less than proficient on the state assessments. It was at first voted down in committee but later resurrected and amended to allow a parent override of the decision. Once it hit the Senate floor, it was amended again. This time it was changed to a recommendation for retention of first graders who are not progressing in reading. The argument is that it is better to deal with problem at a younger age. This is how it passed the Senate.

Some are now apparently regretting that move and questioning the bill. There has been significant discussion in the conference committee but no resolution to the issue as of now. We do not know when the conference committee will meet again.

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