As we approach first adjournment on April 6, the committee meeting schedule has slowed down considerably. The budget committees have finished most of their work and recommendations are being made to Appropriations, and only a few other committees continue to meet. The main Committees still meeting regularly are primarily Tax and Appropriations Committees.
A few interesting developments have come to Appropriations from the Budget Committees. One of the bigger items was the Education Committee recommending that the entire 2019 K-12 education funding be pulled from the budget. There could be several possible scenarios for doing that. The main thought is to set aside the K-12 funding for now to allow working and finishing the balance of the budget. K-12 funding represents about half the general fund budget and the study being done will not be disseminated and decoded until next week. By doing this we can finish most budget items, leaving only a few items to finish up.
Another line of thought is that if the K-12 budget is separated from the other budget items, that might cause K-12 funding to be played against other budget items as something of a competition for funding. If that is done, there could be pressure to limit the K-12 funding in order to keep other programs’ funding higher. It is unknown how this will play out at this time.
One point that needs to be considered in the prioritization of funding is that schools and other programs, particularly the mental health programs, cannot operate independently of each other any longer. Those programs should be working closely with each other, as there seem to be more children with mental health issues, and many more that have discipline or academic issues, due to lack of parental involvement.
It really would not make much sense to create similar but duplicate programs, one for in school and the other for out of school.
Regardless of what your thoughts may be on pulling the K-12 funding out, perhaps it will start some conversation on how to better integrate mental health counseling and care into the school setting. Certainly, the issue needs to be addressed to avoid duplication and to create a more integrated and coordinated way to provided social services.
Another bill I have been watching, and one that could affect education funding, is creating a dyslexia task force to help determine a better curriculum for children with that learning disability.
Dyslexia is something that as many as 15 to 20 percent of the children have, causing them to fall behind in reading and math. If this disability is addressed it may help improve reading and math scores and helping address concerns the Court has with school funding. To address dyslexia may not take a large amount of funding, but dyslexics have a different style of learning so using a modified curriculum may help considerably.
I plan to go to the initial presentation of the new education cost study that has been done. The first presentation will be this afternoon and a copy of it will become available at that time. Since it has not been released as I write this, it is unknown if the report is 50 or 250 pages. Either way, there will be a lot of data and other research material to digest. Next week there should be abbreviated versions available.
The entire budget is very fluid at this point and many changes will be made before we finish. Since the K-12 funding was stripped out for now, the remainder of the budget proposals will have a full hearing next week in both Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations Committees. After that, the budgets need to pass both chambers, go through conference to reconcile Senate and House positions, and finally receive another vote to pass the budget. The work is not over, but we are making progress.
Rep. Don Schroeder is the Kansas House Representative for District 74, which includes Lindsborg.