January, 9 2020
The Kansas Legislative session is set to begin on January 13. Below are some important issues to watch for throughout the session, and further down you’ll find an update on teacher contract negotiations. And as always, you’ll find a plug for the importance of voting, especially in those lesser known down ballot races.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN TOPEKA
Public education advocacy groups are noticing some concerning chatter among a few legislators regarding at-risk spending in Kansas. This stems from the results of an audit that showed that at-risk funding isn’t always spent directly on at-risk students. There is a concern that this could be part of an attack on public schools in the upcoming legislative session. This excerpt from a Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) article gives a good high level summary of the issue and the nuances involved with at-risk spending.
A new audit of at-risk spending in 20 Kansas school districts noted that “Most of the at-risk funding we reviewed was spent on teachers and programs that serve all students rather than focusing on at-risk students.” This is precisely because we do not isolate or segregate at-risk students from their peers. Every classroom in Kansas has at-risk students; some more than others. If we were to ensure that at-risk funds benefited only at-risk students, such students would need to be isolated from their peers. This is not only morally wrong, but it is also a highly inefficient use of resources and would end up costing more than is being spent today.
More information can be found in the KNEA article, Funding at Risk, as well as in the following article submitted by the Kansas Board of Education to the Kansas City Star. Simplistic Report on Kansas at-risk school spending ignores the reality of teaching
Medicaid Expansion – BREAKING NEWS!
After writing an update about how Medicaid Expansion was going to be one of the big issues in Topeka this session, it was announced that the Governor and the Senate Majority Leader reached a deal to expand Medicaid in 2020. Details on the deal and the resulting Medicaid expansion bill are still to come, but this is big news! Kansas is one of only 14 states that has yet to expand Medicaid, leaving around 150,000 Kansans without healthcare coverage, because they fall into a coverage gap. This means they make too much money to be covered by traditional Medicaid, but not enough money to qualify for a subsidized plan under the Affordable Care Act. 90% of Medicaid Expansion would be paid for by the federal government. This Kansas Healthcare Foundation website has a good explainer of What Expanding Medicaid Means for Kansans.
Medicaid Expansion is an item on the SMSD legislative platform, as it will increase health insurance coverage for a significant number of families in our community, promoting family access to health care, which will increase the opportunities for students to be successful in school.
Gun Sense Legislation
While many states have been passing "red flag laws," which allow guns to be removed from individuals that have proven to be a danger to themselves or others, here in Kansas, two legislators plan to introduce an "anti-red flag act.” This would prohibit Kansas authorities from enforcing "red flag" orders issued against a Kansas resident by another state or from federal authorities, should "red flag laws" be passed at the federal level. Basically, this "anti-red flag act" would ban enforcement of any court order "for which the primary purpose is to reduce the risk of firearm related death or injury."
You can learn more in this AP news article: GOP lawmakers in 2 states seek anti-red flag laws on guns
National PTA supports the Second Amendment and recognizes the right to bear arms, but at the same time supports efforts to protect children and youth from gun violence.
TEACHER CONTRACT NEGOTIATION UPDATE
Contract negotiations between the district and the teachers are in a fact finding stage, in which a neutral party will review the information presented by both sides. You can find the Pre-Hearing Brief and Exhibits submitted by the district on the new Information Central section of the district website and the materials submitted by NEA-Shawnee Mission (teacher’s association) on their website. The hearing will begin at 5:00 pm on Thursday, January 9. After hearing testimony from both the district and NEA-SM, the fact finder will issue a report with recommendations.
VOTE!! – AND DON’T FORGET STATE LEVEL RACES
As always, remember that there is a lot that goes on at the state level that can impact the success of our students and the district as a whole. This is all the more reason to stay informed, keep your friends informed, vote, don’t forget the importance of voting in down ballot state races, and make sure your friends vote! Every state senate and representative office will be on the ballot in November 2020.
SMAC PTA Legislative Coordinator