5-12 legislative wrapup

5-12 legislative wrapup

Innovation bill, budget are high points in 2012 session

By Madelynn Coldiron
Staff Writer

There were a few bright spots in the 2012 legislative session for K-12 education, although it continues treading budgetary waters.

One bill in particular may usher in some major changes in school districts – and, for a change, they will be voluntary. House Bill 37 establishes districts of innovation; school systems successful in getting this designation will be able to bypass certain state regulations that stand in the way of innovative programs.

“It has far-reaching potential, but districts need to clearly understand the process,” KSBA Governmental Relations Director Shannon Stiglitz said.

Initially proposed to start with 10 districts, the legislature eventually decided all districts should be eligible. The bill sets up a detailed application process to the state education department, Stiglitz noted. 

She said the plan for innovation is devised by the district with input from all stakeholders. The rub is that 70 percent of the employees of a school must agree to the proposal before it can be submitted to the state.

“While it is important to have employee buy-in, we may have set the bar too high for employee buy-in to make it impossible for a district to be able to be one of these. But the concept is wonderful,” Stiglitz said.

Details of the program will be fleshed out when the state school board drafts regulations. The 2012-14 budget provides no extra funding for these innovations.

Also unfunded is a bill that emphasizes the General Assembly’s intentions to promote career and technical education. SB 38, commonly called career pathways legislation, creates new standards geared toward college and career readiness and requires guidance counseling for students about appropriate career paths.

For school districts affected by the spring tornados, there was better fiscal news. The budget bill ensures that SEEK allocations for these districts will be held harmless for the current and following school year, in addition to allowing for some disaster days. A separate bill gives those districts a sales tax refund on building materials.

The budget
While basic funding for education will be flat, the likelihood of school districts getting caught by mid-year trims in their allotment is less than in prior years.

“Our No. 1 goal when we started the session talking about the budget was to ensure they understood we would not stand for numbers that were not sufficient to fund the per-pupil allocation based on student population estimates as we move forward,” Stiglitz said of lawmakers and the governor’s office. “We do feel pretty confident that we will get there.”

The base SEEK appropriation for each year of the new biennium is about $2.03 billion; that breaks down to a per-pupil allocation of $3,833 and $3,827 in each of the respective fiscal years. There is no additional money for preschool, but the legislature increased funding amounts in Learning Services and Results in family resource and youth services centers, extended school services, gifted and talented education and Read to Achieve.

“There are always constituencies that are very committed to these programs; legislators are committed to many of those programs, particularly in the case of FRYSCs,” Stiglitz said.

Districts that have previously approved a nickel tax for school construction will find that lawmakers kept their end of the bargain, providing state equalization. No new equalization money was provided, however. The budget also provides $100 million in School Facilities Construction Commission funding, though the agency, following common practice, will not be able to offer up that money until after 2013-14.

While the state education department’s administrative budget, like other state agencies, will be cut by 8.4 percent, the school technology programs, which are part of that budget, will see a cut of only half that amount, thanks to some tweaking.

Language included in the new biennial budget allows districts to continue flexibility in use of capital outlay funds. In the current budget cycle, 140 school systems put that to use in juggling their budgets. Stiglitz is pleased with the continuation, but said she is disappointed lawmakers didn’t allow for more flexibility for districts that are facing a funding cliff when federal stimulus money dries up this fall.

“We did get some that’s very critical and important, but if we could have had a little bit more I think it would have helped some districts,” she said.

Budget language
Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed some language in the budget at the request of Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. The main item was an attempt by lawmakers to stop two additional elements the state school board added to student assessments: program reviews in world languages and in P-3 programs.

Neither area was part of the original assessment statute that established other program review areas, but Holliday successfully fought to maintain them, saying they are important to the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver and future federal Race to the Top funding.

The governor also vetoed language that required any excess SEEK money to be transferred to the state budget reserve trust fund.

Bills that passed

HB 69 establishes in statute that the Response to Intervention process will be used by all school districts, beginning in kindergarten.

HB 168 prevents a superintendent from assigning any certified or classified staff to an alternative program as a disciplinary step

HB 281 requires coaches to complete training on recognizing and treating concussions and head injuries; sets up process for athlete to return to play

HB 366 allows a superintendent’s spouse with eight years of experience (currently 20 years) to work in the same district, with the approval of the school council

HCR 155 establishes a legislative task force to study the issue of middle school athletics
SB 24 changes the school entry date to 6 years old by Aug. 1 instead of Oct. 1; allows 5-year-olds to enroll by Aug. 1

SB 43 requires an alternative high school diploma for students w/ disabilities

Bills that did not pass

HB 30 would have permitted local boards to sell advertising on school buses

HB 40 would have required the state school board to set up a statewide certified personnel
evaluation system with weights to be applied to each performance criteria

HB 77 would have authorized establishment of charter schools

HB 255 in its original form would have set up a bonding authority for energy efficiency projects

HB 336 would have expanded bullying legislation to include specific groups

HB 395 would have clarified definition of persistently low-achieving schools, revised audit process, capped the number

HB 473 would have restricted teacher working hours, requiring payment above that level

SB 9 “neighborhood schools bill” aimed at Jefferson County Schools’ attendance plan

SB 21 would have allowed non-polling place schools to be open on primary election day

SB 64 an “ethics” bill for school assessment testing

SB 86 would have set up an option for early graduation

SB 109 would have allowed local boards to raise the mandatory attendance age to 18 (a similar statewide bill also failed)

SB 143 would have relaxed inter-district enrollment

Assorted bills that would have mandated increased physical activity in schools, required Body Mass Index testing

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