Kansas Lawmakers Defeat School Transparency Measure Again


By John Celock

A procedural motion to bring back a bill to require school districts to post their budgets online was defeated by one vote by the Kansas House of Representatives Monday.

The House voted 62 to 59 defeat a motion to reconsider a bill defeated Friday to require school districts to post links to budgets and other spending information on the homepage of the district website or face a $1,000 a day fine. The vote was one vote shy of the constitutionally required 63 votes to bring the bill back from the dead. The bill has been opposed by Democrats, moderate Republicans and unions who have said that its duplicative and the fine is punitive. The measure is pushed by the Kansas Policy Institute, who argues that school districts are not following the existing law requiring disclosure of the budgets on homepages.

“Having done more research it is concerning to me that those tasked with educating our children are ignoring the statue,” Rep. Randy Garber (R-Sabetha) said in making the motion to reconsider. “I find this behavior unacceptable for any state entity.”

Garber had voted no during Friday’s vote and said in his speech to the House that his research into the law over the weekend led him to make the motion. Only those who had voted on the “prevailing side” – in this case No – could motion to reconsider this bill.

The House voted 58-61 to defeat the bill on Friday.

Garber’s comments on his research was in line with comments made by bill supporters during the debate last week and made by KPI. Supporters argued that while the 2013 law requires the posting of information on school district websites, many school districts are not posting the information on homepages and burying it internally on the website.

KPI president Dave Trabert last week told The Celock Report that a review of 40 school district websites around the state, found most not in compliance with the homepage requirement. The current bill – which passed the Senate last year – would fine districts $1,000 a day until compliance is achieved.

Opponents of the bill have centered in on the fine being included and also said that a subcommittee of the House Education Committee is currently working to develop a “dashboard” for school districts to place on their websites that can contain information, including the budget.

“The vote was significant in here,” Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) said Monday. “We already have a subcommittee in the Education Committee for a dashboard to put on websites the state would help create. This is premature.”

Trimmer also called the fine “punitive and excessive.”

Trabert has defended the fine, telling The Celock Report last week that the fine was a way to achieve compliance from school districts for the state law. He noted that private citizens would face consequences if they did not follow state law.

The bill was opposed by the Kansas National Education Association and the Kansas Association of School Boards. KSAB cited opposition to the fine, while a KNEA spokesman told The Celock Report last week that the bill is duplicative to current state law and said it was “unnecessary.”

House Education Committee Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego) told his colleagues that the bill was needed. He said that the dashboard subcommittee is still meeting and has not developed a bill to present to lawmakers on the issue. He said that the issue should be handled separately. He also noted that the bill would send a message to school districts.

“This is a means to tell them that we are serious,” Highland said.