Keystone Address

Direct from the Director
A Blog by Andy Ewing



KASEA Legislative Update May 20, 2017

Overtime in the 2017 Session
This Monday marks the 98th day of the 2017 legislative session, into what most of us would call "overtime." From the beginning, legislative leaders allowed that this session might take closer to 100 days given the weighty issues before them, but it's clear that day will be in their rearview mirror before the session wraps up.

The real sticking point is assembling a comprehensive tax package that can pass both legislative chambers, without being vetoed by the governor. The House has shown willingness to pass healthier revenue bills, including one vetoed by the governor earlier in the session. The House voted to override the veto, but the Senate failed to do so by three votes.

Download the complete report.


KASEA Legislative Update May 5, 2017

Veto Session, Week One
The Legislature returned May 1st to complete the major tasks of the 2017 session: passing a balanced budget; assembling a revenue package to support budget demands; and crafting a school finance formula that passes Supreme Court muster, as detailed in the Gannon III decision.

As of Friday, budget committees in the House and Senate have put finishing touches on their budget proposals, but have yet to debate them in chambers. As it currently stands, legislators will need $500 – 540 million in additional revenues to simply balance the budget, not including additional funding for school finance. Download Complete Report.


Endrew F. v. Douglas Co. School District

April 10, 2017

The Endrew F. case was decided on March 22nd with the SCOTUS providing a unanimous decision that changes the standard by which an IEP is to be evaluated. This was a decision that was applauded by special education advocates and is, in my humble opinion, a good decision.

The old standard that courts used came from a 1982 decision in the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley. In that case, it was established that a school had provided a free, appropriate public education if the child's IEP was reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits. In the Endrew F. case, the court established a new standard for determining FAPE. For students educated in the regular classroom, the IEP should be reasonably calculated to enable the student to achieve passing grades and advance from grade to grade. For children for whom grade level advancement isn't realistic, the IEP must be appropriately ambitious, and provide the child the chance to meet challenging objectives.

Special education teachers and the related services professionals, along with parents and school administrators, already write IEP's that are designed to provide students with the greatest achievement possible. That being the case, the new language provided by the court establishes a standard that IEP teams have been meeting for quite some time. This has been true in all of education, at least since the earliest NCLB days.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court with instructions to apply the updated standard. It will be interesting to see how they rule.

Here are some further resource links related to the Endrew decision:

Supreme Court Firms Up Goal Posts on Spec. Ed. Rights

Letter To Kansas Hearing Officers Mediators and Complaint Investigators


KASEA Legislative Update for April 7, 2017

Revenue, School Finance, KPERS Working After Retirement


Deaf-Blind Funding Delay

March 15, 2017

Just wanted to acquaint everyone with an update regarding funding for our blind/low vision population.

In 1879, the "Act to Promote the Education of the Blind" paved the way to providing an annual amount of money toward supplies needed to educate students who are low vision or blind within the United States (i.e. braille materials, low vision aides, etc.). As of February 22, 2017, the federal budget that provides this funding had not been approved, and is considered delayed. Because the budget decisions are unknown, the 2017 school year funds have been capped at 60% until further news is released about budget decisions made by the new administration. More information will be shared when decisions by the new federal administration are made.


Marijuana and Autism

March 14, 2017

Medical marijuana and autism spectrum disorder. Two terms I never anticipated putting together in the same sentence. Until recently, that is. Seems that a discussion has been going on across the nation and it has come closer to home in this last school year. Not long ago I was asked by a couple of well intentioned parents as to what I thought about the use of marijuana for children who present extreme behaviors. It wasn't the first time that the question had come up – it just took me awhile to get past the preconceptions I had related to this particular drug and the people who use it – once I did, I decided to do some research and wanted to share that info.

Research in the area is almost non-existent. Look at this article from AUTISM SPEAKS and you may come away thinking that there could be potential with this treatment and there isn't much research going on. Here's another from Forbes. Treatment usually centers around the use of just one of the active ingredients found in marijuana and hemp – CBD. Treatment usually involves the use of hemp oil or marijuana used in an edible form. Some of the individual cases that are popping up more and more show marked success in some cases. Bottom line? This is an area that merits further study in my humble opinion.

Here are some of the well publicized cases:

Joey
Elliot
Kara
9 yr old boy


KASEA Legislative Update for March 10, 2017

Budget, tax and school finance. KPERS - working after retirement. Efficiency report recommendations.
Plus, the Bill Tracking Report. Download complete Update.


KASEA Legislative Update for Feb. 24, 2017

Prepared by: Dodie J. Wellshear and Cheryl L. Semmel
Ad Astra Government Relations

Legislature has Roller Coaster Week
Read more about KanCare/Medicaid Expansion, Teacher Due Process, School Finance and KPERS.
On Monday, Special Education Administrators presented to the Special Education Committee - Download this week's Update to read their testimonies and keep track of legislative schedules.


KASEA Legislative Update for Feb. 17, 2017

Legislature Passes Comprehensive Income Tax Bill
The House and the Senate have passed a comprehensive income tax bill, HB 2178, which is anticipated to raise $590 million in FY2018. The question now: “Will the governor veto it?” The governor has long threatened to veto any legislation that rolls back his signature 2012 tax cuts, most especially the non-wage pass through income. Download complete report on budget, "turnaround" week and informational meetings.


KASEA Legislative Update for Feb. 3, 2017

Four Weeks In (and running!)
The Legislature completed their fourth week on Friday. Most of the new legislators have grown acclimated and are showing readiness to tackle the multitude of issues before them. The Legislature, by and large, has shown a reluctance to accept most of the governor’s budget and tax recommendations. To nearly a person, especially among new legislators, the message is clear: they want to fix the underlying revenue issues and restore the state to sound fiscal management. Download complete report on budget, taxes, school finance and Calendar items.


Special Education - Legal Updates

Dec. 22, 2016

Now that our schools are out for the holidays it's a good time to revisit some of the legal issues that will be decided in 2017.

Arguments have been heard in Fry v. Napoleon Public Schools (Case No. 15-497) and the Supreme Court will publish its decision in the case soon. This case will determine whether families must exhaust the remedies available to them under the IDEA before pursuing a case under the ADA.

Arguments are scheduled for Jan. 11 in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The court will make its decision in the case sometime thereafter. This case could have significant implications for schools as they work to education children with disabilities. The case is one in which the court will weigh in on the educational benefit a student must receive in order for the school to demonstrate that it is in compliance with the requirement to provide FAPE. In the case parents have argued that because their student wasn't making meaningful progress the school district should pay for placement at a private school.

Meanwhile, in Texas, US Dept. of Education officials have been conducting town hall meetings across the state to solicit input from the public. Stories from the families who have spoken are emotional and show how challenging things can be for students and families when special education services are denied or delayed. Read more here: http://bit.ly/2hrZvgs

With these issues at the national level and the upcoming Kansas Supreme Court decision in Gannon v. Kansas, 2017 is poised to be an exciting year!


Oct. 10, 2016

Here's an update on the Texas special education identification policy that limits schools to identify 8.5% or less, of their student populations: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Feds-order-Texas-to-eliminate-use-of-benchmark-on-9652019.php?t=6dcfc9f295438d9cbb&cmpid=email-premium

Also on the legal front, the Supreme Court of the United States will soon weigh in on a couple of cases that are important in the world of special education. Fry v. Napoleon Public Schools (Case No. 15-497) is a case that addresses the use of a service animal by a special needs student. The case will help determine how the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the IDEA are to work together to support the rights of handicapped children.
The second case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (No. 15-827) will decide what level of "educational benefit" schools must provide for children with disabilities to meet the FAPE (free, appropriate, public education) requirements in the IDEA.

Read more here:

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/10/05/significant-education-cases-on-supreme-court-docket.html

http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/fry-v-napoleon-community-schools/

http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/endrew-f-v-douglas-county-school-district/


Special Education - the Texas Report

Sept. 21, 2016

It was reported recently that the state of Texas has imposed a cap on the number of special education students who may be identified with a disability. The cap has been set at 8.5% and has been in place since 2004. You can read the full story here and you'll find a shorter version of the story here. If you take time to read those articles you may come away with questions much as I did. One conclusion is certain, there will be much greater scrutiny on schools in Texas from parents, advocacy groups, and regulatory agencies going forward.

Back to the questions that arise: Should there be limits to the number of students we identify? If we establish the national average as the standard for all states how much deviation from that standard should be allowed? Of greater consequence in the near future is the question of whether the practice of denying services to students with disabilities in Texas will have consequences for those of us who are far away? For instance, if Texas were to raise the cap on special education students allowed from 8.5% to get closer to the national average of approximately 13% (NCES) it could have far reaching effects. The number of special education teachers needed, along with school psychologists, speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and many, many other professionals could have a significant impact on the already short supply of professionals in these areas. Could other states face greater scrutiny related to the numbers of students identified with disabilities? Perhaps. Are there any positives in this story? Again, perhaps. It's true that necessity and innovation are intertwined so there may be programs that have been implemented because of the cap (or that make that cap viable), that have produced greater achievement? Bottom line is that it will be interesting to follow this story to see how things go.


2016 Legislative Session

July 25, 2016

At its July meeting the Kansas State Board of Education considered several options related to school funding and there was positive news for those of us in special education. The board recommended a large increase in overall funding and a significant increase to special education. You can find the special education funding options considered on page 91 of the .pdf document located here:
http://goo.gl/QzNO3w

The board's recommendation is a giant step forward on the path towards full funding for special education. Too often special education programs and the funding for those programs are overlooked. This was a positive message and is one we want to support and follow as the legislature considers a new funding formula. It takes character and courage to make a recommendation like this in my humble opinion and it is even more heartening to see that there hasn't been any widely reported opinions that are critical.


April 14, 2016

HB 2741 continues to generate interest and discussion in the education community. Much of the dialogue is well thought out and well communicated.
It is safe to say that HB 2742 represents a radically new approach for financing education and will challenge conventional thinking.
I found this article to be very well written, interesting and insightful. Hope you'll take time to read it.
You can find it here:
http://bit.ly/1YrN5TK


April 4, 2016

The new school finance bill HB 2741 holds some good news and some bad news.

You can read more detailed summaries of the bill here:
http://kasb.org/wcm/_NB/16/NB0404c.aspx
and here:
http://goo.gl/QGZJKW

I like to finish things on a positive note so let's start with the bad news in this bill. Funding for schools is cut by some 373 million dollars. Funding for extra curricular and food service programs must be generated locally as it will be prohibited for schools to use state aid for these programs. Local school districts would face more obstacles if they found it necessary to challenge school finance laws. Cash balances held by local districts would be reduced and districts would have to levy a statewide property tax mill rate of 35 mills compared to the current 20 mills. Capital outlay state aid would be impacted as well.

There is good news in the bill that is worth noting too. Special education funding as established in statute 72-978 remains essentially the same. Funding is to be at 92% of the measured cost of providing special education and related services. This is good news for special education. It is important to note though that the bill gives no indication as to when this level of funding might actually materialize. Also positive is the Efficiency Incentive Program that will reward any school employee who identifies an efficiency that is put into place and saves dollars. The employee would see up to 10% of the money saved and that is a good thing. Another positive would be to put all school employees into the state insurance pool. I agree that this might be bad news for some but speaking for Keystone it looks like good news.

You can read the full text of the bill here:
http://goo.gl/f33QjH


March 23, 2016

It has been more and more difficult to find any positive news related to the 2016 legislative session and the Kansas economy. A quick Google search using the terms Kansas Legislature or Kansas economy will produce thousands of hits from across Kansas and across the United States. Unfortunately, those hits lead to media content that is predominately negative.

Here's an example of one such article: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article66848447.html

The Kansas Legislature and the Governor of Kansas have become frequent fodder for the late night comedy hosts. A quick review of some of the bills being considered hasn't helped me to find anything to be positive about. For a person who builds into their professional practice the simple habit of finding the best in all of the circumstances that surround us that has become more and more challenging. One hit from the search terms above took me to an entertaining video of Seth Myers critiquing Kansas. I won't provide a link, as some of his content is inappropriate for a younger audience, although you can easily find it should you choose.

That challenge was finally overcome when my youngest son came home to share his experience as a page in the Kansas Senate one day earlier this week. He was as motivated and as energized as I have ever seen him. He shared the specifics related to the bills that had been debated that day and I could tell he had learned a great deal. I couldn't help but wonder, "How did he come away from that experience with such positive outlook?" The answer was simple. Our system of governing is a good one. It's a system that encourages diverse opinions and through that process great things can come. Children go into the process without a predetermined agenda. They want only to learn more about each issue in order to make an informed decision. Indeed they revel in the opportunity. Seeing the legislative process through younger eyes gave me a new perspective. Bringing students into the process may be one of the best things our legislators do. We can only hope that they will embrace the opportunity to engage and learn from those precious students.


House Bill 2534 - ESI Update

March 8, 2016

How are things going with HB 2534 the ESI bill? At the time of this blog post the interested parties making up the ESI Task Force have come to agreement in all areas except one. That one area is significant, it's the sunset clause. The sunset clause was originally written so that the law would cease to exist at a specific point in the future – June 30, 2018. The sunset of this statute is a good idea – regulating the ESI effort in Kansas schools is something that is best addressed by the Kansas State Board of Education. Many argue that there have been many attempts by the legislature to usurp control of Kansas schools from the state board. This is a topic for another day however as we want to keep our focus here in ESI. If the sunset provision is not removed the statute will remain in perpetuity.

That one item (the sunset clause and whether it will remain) will likely be decided by the committee chairperson and then HB 2534 will be offered to the committee as a whole (Committee on Children and Seniors) and from there will go to the full house and and then the senate. I'm attaching a copy of the proposed language for HB 2534 with the sunset clause included for those who would like to review. I will keep you posted as the ESI discussion continues…

Click here to read HB 2534


Kansas Supreme Court

Feb 15, 2016
By now everyone has likely heard the Kansas Supreme Court opinion that was issued last week on Feb. 11th. In that opinion related to the equity portion of the Gannon school finance case the court found that the current school funding statute fails to meet constitutional muster. The opinion itself is 80 pages in length and can be accessed here:

http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2016/20160211/113267.pdf

After reading all 80 pages I was both disappointed and impressed. Disappointed that the adequacy portion of the case is taking so long to resolve and impressed because this opinion is well written, examines every point made by each side in the case and then goes on to cite the appropriate legal reference to substantiate the findings that were made. The court's finding was hardly unexpected. They did not impose a remedy on the legislature, they simply weighed the evidence, balanced it with the appropriate legal standard and arrived at a conclusion.

Undoubtedly, the court will come under fire by many of those far right legislators who proposed the current school funding statute. It will certainly be worth watching to see how the legislature responds in the weeks ahead. Will they resort to name calling and political maneuvering to prolong the issue? Let's hope that objective minds will go to work to address the equity issues in a productive and timely manner.

http://cjonline.com/opinion/2016-02-13/editorial-legislators-need-get-board


Keystone Teacher Advisory Committee

February 9, 2016
Did you know that Keystone has a Teacher Advisory Committee? We do! This great team of Keystone educators has been discussing many topics and is currently working to provide recommendations to address our need for training to support reading and math. Like many special education agencies, Keystone faces many challenges when it comes to providing skilled staff members to support special education efforts. Here at Keystone we are blessed with some of the very best, most highly qualified professionals and para-educators in the state. The challenge comes as we look to hire new staff members who are in short supply. Sometimes we're faced with hiring professionals who don't have a background in special education and may not have an extensive background related to reading strategies and instructional practices. We have to provide them with a foundation to ensure that they can address the needs of our special needs students. The staff members who we employ as para-educators come to us from a wide variety of backgrounds as well. We want to ensure that they have had a chance to develop an understanding of the components of reading and have been exposed to direct instruction strategies that are effective so that they can better support the reading instruction in all classrooms.

We hope to start by providing training for new staff members, both teachers and paras, during the summer to address this need. We would follow up with training in the fall and again in the spring to connect with new staff members who have been recently hired. Once we have training for reading in place, we'll turn our attention to math. Stay tuned for more updates as plans are finalized and implemented.


Parents As Teachers

April 14, 2016 - update on funding

On April 1, The Kansas Children's Cabinet board adopted Kansas State Department of Education's report received by the Cabinet on April 1, to be sent to the Governor and to Division of the Budget.  
The Cabinet further recommended removing Proviso language for Mean Testing.  However, if the proviso is not removed, the Parents as Teachers will target families who are low income.  
 This Friday, April 24, The Kansas Children's Cabinet will be making further recommendations to fund Parents as Teachers with Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF).  Options being explored by the Cabinet include:

• Serving families who fall at or below 200% of the federal poverty level guidelines
• Serving families who fall at or below 300% of the federal poverty level guidelines
• Serving families who have a variety of risk factors
• Serving all families while encouraging 2 parent households

Download a document that outlines the options above.  
 
We are hopeful to have The Kansas Children's Cabinet final recommendations sometime next week.  However, we will not have final information on PAT funding for 2016-17 until the legislature convenes.  
 
We will receive the PAT Continuation Grant for 2016-17 Application mid May.  Our turnaround time for submission will be 2 short weeks.  
 
Although, the redesign of PAT is still uncertain, we feel it is important to continue to move forward with planning for next year program year.  Districts also need to make budget decisions.  PAT Staff need to make decisions on their work hours.  And, most importantly, Keystone PAT Families need to feel confident that services will continue.  
  
Keystone PAT is working on operational plans now that would work under these options.  Doing the ground work now will provide data as to how deep of an impact the changes may have. 
 
The Children's Cabinet could recommend PAT remain universal while funded with TANF by including the goal of establishing or maintaining a 2-parent households.  This goals is currently part of the PAT program.  We discuss the importance of having a father figure role in the life of a child, we provide family counseling resources and referrals as part of family well being, we plan visits and group connection to include fathers, and much more.  

Why is universal access important:

• Universal access for parents helps local program addresses other at risk factors than low income.  Our Kansas families have many issues:  child abuse, teen parents, parent or child with special needs, etc.  
• Universal access allows all families to join together at group connections reflecting the demographics of our communities. 
• Universal access allows for screening of all children.  PAT is a primary referral source for Infant Toddler Special Services. 
• Each district has its own unique demographics the flexibility to serve all families ensures that the needs of each community is being met.

Keystone PAT is committed to serving families with young children in Northeast Kansas.  We will continue to do so with The Kansas Children's Cabinet recommendations and The Kansas State Legislature decisions regarding funding.


Parents as Teachers Funding Summary

February 15, 2016
1990 Kansas Parent Education Statute K.S.A. 72-3603 et.seq.: 

Passage authorized school districts and consortiums to operate a parent education program administered by the State Board of Education. Download complete document.


Parents as Teachers Information & Testimonials

February 12, 2016
Cammie Braden, Keystone Parents as Teachers Program Coordinator presents information and parent testimonials on the importance of sustained funding for Kansas Parents as Teacher programs. Download here.


HB 2534

February 4, 2016
In the January Keystone Special Edition I took time to elaborate on the inconsistencies in the new school funding statute. The curious part of me will take me to weird places sometimes. Places that many people find to be boring but somehow I'm drawn to. Staying informed related to all things that make up special education is a particular passion and my curiosity serves me well. I mention this because I noticed another inconsistency in another bill currently before the legislature. HB 2534 is a bill relating to the restraint and seclusion of students commonly known as ESI. The bill amends K.S.A. 72-89d02 through 72-89d08 with many changes recommended by the task force that the original bill created. Some of the changes introduced don't match up with the task force recommendations or the intent of the original bill however.

Section 6 of HB 2534 contains the sunset clause. The law and all of its components was set to expire or sunset on June 30, 2018. The new bill to amend reads so that only the task force effort outlined in the original text will actually sunset. This is appropriate as the task force has done its work and made its recommendations. What is unexplained is why all of the other sections of the statute weren't allowed to sunset as intended and recommended?

The argument that we need the statute was debunked when the data was made clear. During the period that regulations were in effect only one family chose to take exception to the actions of their local school and engage the local board of education. The case was later resolved amicably without board action.

I'll keep an eye on HB 2534 and update you later in the legislative session. Click here to read the bill.