Hello from Topeka It was great to be home over the weekend and see the sun. Our hearts go out to our livestock producers who have had one challenge after another during calving season. But you will not find a more resilient group of folks than those involved in agriculture. Things are ramping up in Topeka, but it looks like this first year of the biennium will be one with out many issues being acted on. One of the issues that is working towards a vote is K-12 school finance.

Last week the K-12 Education Budget Committee received an informational briefing on HB 2395. The bill addresses school finance, as well as a number of education policies. The education policies reflect language from bills heard earlier in the session. The bill contains supplemental appropriations for the Department for FY 19, based on the Governor’s recommendations. Appropriations are also included for FY 20, including for the six primary funding sources for school districts: State foundation aid; supplemental state aid; special education services aid; capital outlay state aid; capital improvement state aid; and KPERS employer obligations.

Appropriations are also included for the ACT/Workkeys assessments., professional development for elementary teachers in identification of dyslexia and effective reading interventions, Teach for America, ABC early childhood intervention pilot program and continuation of the safe schools grants.

The bill also contains a new weighting for behavioral health intervention. This weighting expands the mental health intervention team pilot program from 2018 SB 423. All districts would be eligible to participate. To receive the weighting, a school district must hire a behavioral health liaison for each school included in the program. Approximately $20 million is appropriated for this weighting. The weighting is 0.5 for each student attending a qualified school. The bill also adds 0.026 to the at-risk weighting of each school district. The additional moneys are to be expended only for at-risk evidence-based programs, such as Job’s for America’s Graduates — Kansas. The bill also extends the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia for an additional three years.

Cash reserves, accountability provisions

The bill requires school districts to spend down a portion of their unencumbered balances. If their average monthly unencumbered balance is greater than 15 percent, the district would be required to spend the difference between that balance and 15 percent of their operating budget. Capital outlay and capital improvement cash balances are excluded from the calculation. The bill also contains provision to create performance accountability for the state, each school district, and each school. The reports are to be one-page annual reports on student performance on state assessment, college and career readiness metrics, and the Kansans Can standard. Additionally, the department will prepare annual longitudinal reports on student achievement, along with annual financial accountability reports. The bill also establishes uniform internet publication requirements, requiring that the department and each district provide a displayed link on their websites.

Bullying prevention

The bill creates the Legislative Task Force on Bullying Prevention in Public Schools. The Task Force would meet up to 6 times during FY 20 and twice during FY 21, with reports made to the 2020 and 2021 Legislature. The bill also contains the Kansas Hope Scholarship Act, which allows student victims of bullying to participate in a scholarship program to transition to a new school, including a private school. The scholarships would cover the costs of attending a new private school. To be eligible for the program, a student must report they are a victim of bullying. An investigation, made within 30 days of the incident being reported, must contain a determination that bullying occurred and who the victim is. If it is decided to transfer the student to another school, school district, or private school, KHSA provides that a certain percentage of the current year BASE aid amount is transferred from the KHSA fund to the student’s account (based on student’s grade level). If the student transfers to another school district, then the State Board is directed to adjust the school district’s state foundation aid.

Additional considerations

The bill amends current law regarding transportation requirements. Under the bill, a school district would be required to provide transportation to students living less than 2.5 miles from their school if there is no safe pedestrian route and if there is no additional cost to the district to provide that transportation. Other provisions address the bonding authority, special education excess cost, requiring a study on computer science and personal financial literacy courses, and the abolishment of the Mineral Production Education Fund.

There are many moving parts to the House version of K-12 spending we will see what survives. The Senate has proposed the governor’s recommendations on school funding without many of these enhancements.

On Thursday, the Senate concurred with the changes the House made to SB 22 with a vote count of 24-16. The House added provisions to reduce the food sales tax and the fix the loophole concerning internet sales tax collections, which will protect our brick and mortar stores, and passed the bill on March 8 with a vote of 76-43.

SB 22 is currently on its way to Gov. Kelly’s desk. She will have 10 days after receiving the bill to act. She has the option of signing the bill, allowing the bill to become law without her signature, or veto the bill.

Early last week, the House adopted HR 6016, a resolution recognizing the Kansas Small Business Development Center’s 2019 Businesses of the Year. Eight Emerging Businesses of the Year and eight existing Businesses of the Year award recipients were chosen by the Kansas SBDC’s regional directors and staff. It was great to be on hand when Lost Creek German Shepherds from Clayton was recognized as one of the 2019 Emerging Businesses of the Year. Taylor and John Meitl are doing a fantastic job… Lead On!

The other 2019 Emerging Businesses of the Year are: ArtForms Gallery in Pittsburg, owned by Sue Horner, Janet Lewis, Ruth Miller, and Sylvia Shirley; Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore in Emporia, owned by Marcia Lawrence; Gravity Wellness Center in Garden City, owned by Kristi Schmitt; Leeway Franks in Lawrence, owned by Lee and K. Meisel; Norsemen Brewing Company in Topeka, owned by Jared and Emily Rudy and Adam and Melissa Rosdahl; Safely Delicious in Overland Park, owned by Lisa Ragan; and Triple Threat Ag Services in Conway Springs, owned by Aaron, Allen, Paul and Phillip Lange.

The 2019 Existing Businesses of the Year are: Angela’s Wellness Center, LLC in Elkhart, owned by Angela Willey; Bolling’s Meat Market & Deli in Iola, owned by Cara Bolling Thomas; Dod Installations in Wichita, owned by Wilt and Tina Dod; Floyd’s Inc. in Emporia, owned by John and Ruth Wheeler; Good Energy Solutions in Lawrence, owned by Kevin Good; LaCrosse Furniture Co. in LaCrosse, employee-owned; The Winged Lion in Manhattan, owned by Ralph Diaz; and Wolcott Foods in Kansas City, owned by Ron Tilman.

Ken Rahjes represents the 110th district in the Kansas House of Representatives.