Legislative Update - March 13, 2023
Legislature tackles big issues for taxpayers
My House committees are now in the midst of some big bill debates, and I'm pleased to report we're making progress. As I promised in my campaign, I’m working to prioritize our most vulnerable Kansans and eliminate waiting lists for services for individuals with disabilities. I’m also working to eliminate state taxes on social security and retirement income.
Other major issues this legislative session include education (which accounts for more than half the state budget), tax relief to return much of our $3 billion surplus to you, and prudent balanced budgeting for the KPERS retirement system, energy cost relief and access to free-market health care options. We also just passed the Women's Bill of Rights, which would ensure that access to women-only spaces is limited to biological females.
See the entire list of bills and resolutions currently in House committees here.
Focusing on student-centered funding and achievement in K-12 education
In the Kansas House and Senate, we plan to provide a more than 5% increase in funding for next year and fully fund education - again. Contrary to what you may hear from unions and school associations, we have indeed fully funded K-12 education for the last five years, well beyond the rate of inflation. Our legislature has been led by Republicans, and the Governor has signed our budgets.
There is a real concern, however, that student success is not keeping pace with our enormous education funding ($6.6 billion in FY23). Recently, according to the Nation’s Report Card (U.S. Department of Education), Kansas eighth graders ranked 42nd in Reading. Only 9% of our at-risk high school students in Kansas are proficient in Math, and only 14% are proficient in English Language Arts. These results are dismal; we must provide better ways for students to succeed.
To improve this, let’s acknowledge that not all kids are the same. Not all kids can learn in a traditional environment — whether it be in a public or private school. It’s a challenging, changing world with new pressures for kids. Let’s open the doors of opportunity to all kids in Kansas by funding students, not systems.
We can do that with the Sunflower Education Equity Act, an education savings account bill (House Sub for SB 83). The ESA takes a portion of a state’s per pupil funding (about $5,000) and gives it back to parents to put toward books, a wide range of other schools, tutoring, etc. for their student. The remaining amount (20 mils statewide and all local property taxes) goes back to the public school, even though the child is no longer attending school there. The bill also includes:
• teacher salary increases
• $72 million more for Special Education, and
• the ability for school districts to use higher headcount to compute base aid
These provisions were initiated by Republicans and also address the concerns of the school associations and unions. More importantly, this legislation would address the needs of parents and families to direct the education of their children to achieve better outcomes. I hope we can pass it and that Governor Kelly will sign it when it comes to her desk. Please let her know you support it, so we can bring educational improvement and parental choice to Kansas families.
In the House Education Committee, we have heard much testimony on a variety of bills. My colleagues and I are attentive to the concerns of educators and parents, and we are working to create better opportunities for student success. Subscribe to my legislative updates to follow our progress.