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Winter Forecast: Expect Education to be a Hot Topic in State Legislatures in 2012

Art Credit: KC Education Enterprise - Photo Credits (State Capitol Buildings): Wikimedia Commons - Art Credit (Snowflake background): 123rf stock image

‘Tis the season. If it’s December in Kansas and Missouri, expect colder temperatures, a few snow flurries and … Not that season? Oh, the other season. Yes, if it’s December it’s also time for state lawmakers to pre-file bills in preparation for the January start of the legislative sessions on both sides of the state line.

Education is one of the largest expense items for state governments. Because revenues in both Kansas and Missouri have declined since 2009, legislators have struggled to balance their budgets the way home owners struggle to shovel their driveways in a blizzard. Therefore, spending on schools will be an important topic of debate when the state legislatures convene in January.

On Dec. 1, Missouri lawmakers started pre-filing bills for the upcoming legislative session. Pre-filing in that state may continue until the new session convenes next month.

The system works differently in Kansas and is slightly more complicated. During odd-numbered years there, legislators may begin pre-filing bills as soon as the session adjourns in May. The deadline for pre-filing is 5 p.m. on the Friday before the next session begins.

So far, Missouri state representatives have pre-filed 23 bills, at least two of which pertain directly to K-12 public education. One is HB 1043, filed by Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville. It would make changes to the school funding formula. In addition, Rep. Sue Allen, R-Town and Country, has filed HB 1049. It would define “cyberbullying” and set requirements for school districts to implement anti-bullying policies.

State senators have been busier than representatives in Missouri. They have pre-filed 99 bills so far, nine of which pertain to education. Two of special interest were filed by Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg. The first — SB 454 — would modify the school funding formula. And the second — SB 456 — addresses student transfers from unaccredited to accredited school districts in the same or adjoining counties. In addition, Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Independence, has pre-filed SB 434, which would govern boundary line changes to move students out of unaccredited and into accredited districts.

In Kansas, lawmakers have had more time to pre-file but have been nowhere near as prolific as those in their neighboring state. They have submitted a total of six bills — one in the Senate and five in the House — in advance of the upcoming session. Of these, none so far relates to education. However, Gov. Sam Brownback has announced his intention to change the school finance formula, so education will certainly be an issue.

Missouri’s state legislature will return to Jefferson City Wednesday, Jan. 4, at noon, and Kansas lawmakers will return to Topeka Monday, Jan. 9, at 2 p.m.

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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