Senate to Vote on Tax Bill Tonight! Urgent Action Needed NOW!

May 30, 2017 by

Things are happening under the dome.  We’ll have a full recap tomorrow.  In the meantime, please read the following message from our coalition partners at Rise Up Kansas.  Then, TAKE ACTION!


Tonight, the Kansas Senate will vote on a bill to end the most harmful provisions of Governor Brownback’s failed tax experiment.

The bill, CCR for HB 2067, would be a MAJOR step in the right direction for Kansas. It closes the LLC loophole, repeals the March to Zero, and reinstates a third income tax bracket – three key policy components of comprehensive tax reform that are essential to putting Kansas back on a path to recovery.

But we need your help to make it happen. 

Click Here to take action now with our easy action alert tool!

After you take action, please share the link with your friends and family. The vote will happen tonight, so we need to share this alert as much as possible in the limited time remaining. 

The legislative session is already in overtime, and this might be our last chance for a good tax bill to pass. We can’t afford to throw away this shot.

Sincerely,

Rise Up, Kansas Coalition

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KNEA President Op-Ed

May 23, 2017 by

CLICK HERE  to read an Op-Ed by KNEA President, Mark Farr, responding to last night’s House vote on SB 30 (rolling back the Governor’s failed tax experiment).

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Mostly quiet today… mostly.

May 8, 2017 by

As legislators returned to the statehouse today, most were looking forward to a week of steady, but not necessarily frantic work.  The full House gathered briefly this morning, but our attention was drawn to the Old Supreme Court room where the House K-12 Budget Committee was to meet.  And meet they did, for about 2.5 hours to work on Proposed Substitute for House Bill 2410.  This is the bill the committee is working to amend, tighten, and present as the fix to school funding that will hopefully pass court muster.

Last week, former Senator Jeff King who has been hired as legal counsel, basically said that it is time for gamesmanship to end and that the Supreme Court ruling on adequacy was a very direct charge to provide full constitutional funding for all public schools and that particular attention should be given to students identified as “at-risk.”  King’s remarks essentially shut down the argument brought by some staunch conservatives that adequacy was only about at-risk students and not about providing full constitutional funding for all public schools.

Still, some ideologies are hard to break, to whit, Rep. Brenda Landwehr was one of the first to speak at the opening of the committee meeting.  Landwehr expressed- in no uncertain terms- her belief that the current bill up for consideration failed to deliver mechanisms for accountability and the consequences necessary to punish districts who did not meet new accreditation requirements due to lack of adequate academic progress.  It seems that the “test and punish” culture of “no child left behind” is something Landwehr refuses to leave behind.  Others like Rep. Scott Schwab agreed with Landwehr.  “We’re in a catch 22” Schwab lamented, stating that new accreditation requirements fail to address individual failing schools within a district (although he admitted there are few), and that the cycle would eventually mean “I’m back in court.”  Rep. Melissa Rooker, one of the bill’s chief architects, was able to assure the committee that there are mechanisms in place to ensure accountability while also providing for paths to success and improvement.

More amendments followed, all were carried favorably, although some after vigorous discussion.  Chief among them were:

  • Provision to “grandfather” districts such that none lose transportation funding under a move to a new transportation formula.
  • Amendment by Rep Rooker to count pre-k at risk students in current year rather than previous year so that more can access a special pool of state funding for building new early childhood, at-risk programs.  Rooker suggested that although the pool of money was relatively small $2 million, it was one more step the legislature could take to show that it recognizes how “extraordinarily important” early childhood and at-risk programs are.
  • Another Rooker amendment seeks to tighten language under the current definition of “at-risk.”  (See a draft of proposed changes here).

One final amendment proposed by Rep Landwehr, but ultimately withdrawn, sought to impose upon the KSDE to create a new report to the legislature.  This report would be a “quick look” style report of information gathered from other existing reports.  Several committee members were opposed to adding this unfunded responsibility to KSDE, citing increased pressure on staff and resources to create a report that essentially duplicates other reports.  KSDE’s venerable Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis responded in his typical endearing and folksy way to a committee member who asked if this would present an increased workload on already stretched staff.  “I’ll be shot if I say yes, but I’d be lying if I say no.”  Landwehr ultimately withdrew the amendment but promised to revise it and bring it back to the committee.

No announcement was made for the next committee meeting time, although legislative schedules show a standing meeting throughout the week.

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KSEdTalk Episode 9: Here’s where we stand ahead of the legislative “veto session.”

Apr 19, 2017 by

This Special Edition of Under the Dome highlights last night’s episode of Kansas EdTalk Podcast with Representative Melissa Rooker, Senator Laura Kelly, Kansas Center for Economic Growth Senior Fellow Duane Goosen, Kansas NEA Director of Legislative Advocacy Mark Desetti and Public Middle School Social Studies Teacher Charles Walther.  The panel enjoyed a lively discussion focusing on the upcoming “veto session” of the Kansas Legislature what to expect regarding a school funding fix as well as a tax and revenue fix and how these issues impact students : CLICK HERE to listen now.

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Medicaid Battle Not Over, K-12 Budget Working Late

Mar 30, 2017 by

VETO OVER-RIDE TABLED IN THE HOUSE

Today Governor Brownback ignored the majority of those in the legislature who were elected to represent the good citizens of Kansas and instead made good on a promise to veto medicaid expansion.  Many advocacy groups have urged Kansans to pressure legislators to vote to override the Governor’s veto.  Governor Brownback’s continued insistence to place partisan ideology ahead of what’s best for the neediest citizens of our state is certainly disappointing.  Kansas Action for Children President and CEO, Annie McKay offered a strong rebuke of the Governor’s veto while calling him to account for backtracking on his own words:

“In 2014, Governor Brownback gladly signed legislation relinquishing authority for expanding KanCare over to the Kansas Legislature. He refused to take any further action on the issue because he said it was the legislature’s responsibility. A bipartisan majority of both legislative chambers have now endorsed the expansion of KanCare. It is deeply disappointing to see Governor Brownback obstruct the will of the people on such an important issue for the second time this session.

Kancare expansion – much like comprehensive tax reform – is widely supported across this state. It will improve the health and well-being of thousands of Kansas children and families and will strengthen our economy as a whole. We encourage lawmakers to stand strong for their communities and give thousands of our citizens the health care they deserve by voting to override the Brownback veto of House Bill 2044.”

After contentious debate in the Kansas House of Representatives, a motion to over-ride the Governor’s veto has been tabled to give citizens an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.  We strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to contact your representatives in both the House and Senate and urge them to vote to OVER-RIDE the Governor’s veto on medicaid expansion.  You can find your representatives and contact them by CLICKING HERE.


K-12 Budget Working Late

Rep. Brenda Landwehr

After Chairman Campbell’s promise to work today until a new school finance formula has been created, the K-12 Budget Committee has been doing just that.  At this hour, there has been much debate around a slew of amendments.  Notably, Rep. Brenda Landwehr suggested in a stern tone that the Supreme Court of Kansas hasn’t suggested that more money is needed to solve adequacy.  Instead, she suggested that a more efficient distribution of funding was in order and would satisfy the court order.  Landwehr went on to state that Catholic schools do better than public schools with less money spent and that “how you teach and approach students is more important than money.”  Few would argue that teaching and learning successes come from dedicated professional educators and engaged students, but as the Supreme Court has noted time and again, the state (most recently with Brownback’s CLASS Act) has not been supporting public education equitably or adequately.

Among the important amendments already adopted are:

  • Replacing the three local tax levies with the prior formula’s LOB formula,
  • Full funding of all-day Kindergarten beginning next year,
  • Additional funding for preschool at-risk,
  • Re-establishing the career and tech ed weighting,
  • Removing the 5 year limit on bilingual funding, and
  • Returning to the prior formula on high density at-risk.

As we write this, amendments are still being offered and the debate continues.  We expect this committee to be working late into the night.  We will post a full report in tomorrow’s edition of Under the Dome.

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