School Finance Action!

Apr 2, 2018 by

House Defeats Their First School Finance Bill

The House of Representatives today debated HB 2445, the first school finance bill to emerge from and Committee this year, and after a long debate, failed to advance it to final action on a vote of 55 to 65. This was not a roll call vote so there is no record of how individual legislators voted.

The bill added about $500 million additional dollars to education over five years and provided fixes to all four equity provisions challenged by the Court in the last Gannon decision. It also revised the transportation formula to codify a “curve of best fit” in the distribution of funding and increased the transportation multiplier to .5 as recommended by the Legislative Post Audit.

Some legislators argued that the funding in the bill was too low and attempts were made by Representatives Ed Trimmer and Jeff Pittman to increase some aid provisions. A motion by Trimmer to increase funding by the CPI applied to the Montoy levels of funding was defeated on a vote of 46 to 76. Pittman tried to increase funding for special education over the four years to meet the 92% reimbursement in statute (failed 45-68) and then to increase the funding to meet the 92% reimbursement level next year only (failed 45-73).

Rep. Brenda Landwehr tried two amendments, one of which passed on a vote of 107 to 14. This amendment added a pilot program of mental health cooperation between school districts and community mental health providers. She also tried a so-called “Kansas School Closure Contingency Plan” which would have created individual student accounts in the treasurer’s office such that if schools were closed, parents could tap the accounts to send their children to private schools. This voucher amendment failed on a vote of 40 to 81.

Two “gotcha” amendments were offered in an attempt to garner “postcard votes.” The first was proposed by Rep. Blake Carpenter who tried to radically increase the statewide local property tax levy for education and call it the “Kansas Supreme Court Education Tax.” Rep. Melissa Rooker challenged the germaneness of the amendment and it was tossed out as not germane.

The next one came from Rep. John Whitmer. He tried to take $45 million out of K-12 funding (payback for what he deems to have been illegal transportation funding) and transfer it to the Board of Regents. He proposed attaching a one-year tuition freeze on higher ed as well. Rooker again challenged the germaneness of the amendment and again it was found to be not germane. The amendment was thrown out.

Rep. Sean Tarwater offered his “safe routes to school” transportation proposal that was taken up in Committee and not acted upon. Tarwater’s amendment would prohibit school districts from charging for transportation if there was no safe route for the child to walk to school. The issue was originally raised to assist some constituents of Tarwater who were charged for transportation after their school district opened a new building and moved their children into that school. The amendment failed on a vote of 56 to 64.

With no further amendments being offered, Rep. Fred Patton who was carrying the bill on the floor moved to report the bill favorably for passage. The voice vote being unclear to the chair, the roll was open and the motion failed on a vote of 55 to 65.

Had the motion passed, a final action vote would take place tomorrow but, having failed, the bill simply sits on the calendar. It is possible to have a motion to reconsider tomorrow but in a surprise move, before adjourning Majority Leader Don Hineman announced the debate calendar for tomorrow – one bill. HB 2445.

Something is afoot!

Senate Now Has a School Finance Bill

While all this was going on in the House, the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance was meeting and assembling their own school finance bill.

This bill, SB 423, will be available in the morning and we will review it here tomorrow.

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Peer Review of Cost Study Released; Constitutional Amendment to Ignore Cost Studies Released

Mar 29, 2018 by

Jesse Levin of the American Institutes for Research appeared before a joint session of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance to release and discuss his peer review of the cost study conducted this year by Dr. Lori Taylor and Jason Willis of WestED.

Levin had earlier this session conducted a peer review of prior cost studies; one done by Augenblick and Myers and another by the Legislative Post Audit Division. Levin generally panned the A&M studies as not meeting research standards and lauded the LPA study.

We would imagine that the hiring of Levin to conduct a peer review of the Taylor study as insurance in case that study was not in line with their wishes. The Taylor study found that Kansas schools were dramatically underfunded especially given the standards they are expected to achieve.

What Levin reported today was that the Taylor study was generally a very good study that met academic rigor.

The general impression I have of the study by Taylor et al. (2018) is that it represents a quality piece of work which has been thought through and implemented carefully. Specifically, the work demonstrates a rigorous implementation of a stochastic cost frontier analysis to investigate the cost of providing educational adequacy in Kansas. Moreover, the results of the study tell a qualitatively similar story to that of the previous cost function study. (page 12)

Levin did share a few concerns he had about the report. One of the most interesting ones he shared was regarding how economies of scale were applied – the study indicated that some exceptionally large districts would require 1.97 more funding than the optimally sized districts – essentially twice as much funding.

He noted that the Taylor study called for significantly more funding than the earlier LPA study but said that the LPA study seriously underestimated the amount of funding needed because it was based on spending levels rather than costs.

In a nutshell, the Levin peer review determined that the Taylor study was done well and confirmed what earlier studies had said about school funding.

Click here to read the peer review.

Click here to see Levin’s powerpoint presentation.

Elusive Constitutional Amendment is Released

We’ve heard a lot about a desire by conservatives to apparently hold any school finance bill hostage to the passage of a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments have surfaced year after year beginning with the Montoy decisions.

Today a new rumored constitutional amendment was introduced in the House.

The constitution currently reads:

The Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.

This would be changed to read:

As all political power is inherent in the people, the legislature shall determine suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state. The determination of the total amount of funding that constitutes suitable provision for finance of the education interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power and shall be made as provided by law. Such power is committed to the legislature under article 2 of this constitution and shall be shown due respect by the other branches of government. No court, or other tribunal established by this constitution or otherwise by law shall alter, amdne, repeal or otherwise abrogate such power, nor shall such power be exercised by, either directly or indirectly, by any such court or other tribunal. (New language in bold.)

Under this proposal, the legislature would no longer have the obligation to provide suitable funding only to determine what it is. One assumes they would provide it but hey, who knows? Further, the language also asserts that no one but the Legislature can make the determination – so much for seeking expert opinions!

Make no mistake, this constitutional amendment is intended to diminish school funding.

It must be first approved by 84 members of the House and 27 members of the Senate; then sent for a vote of the people which requires a simple majority.

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Bills Debated Yesterday Pass on Final Action Today

Mar 28, 2018 by

Four education bills debated yesterday, one in the House and three in the Senate, were all passed on final action votes this morning.

In the House, HB 2773, the Safe and Secure Schools Act was passed on a vote of 119-5. The bill, which was supported by KNEA, would require the State Board of Education to work with other agencies to develop standards for school security and school safety plans. Local school districts would be required to develop security and safety plans and submit those plans to the State Department of Education. The bill would also allow schools to offer firearms safety instruction using the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program or another research-based program. Such instruction would be optional.

The Senate passed three bills:

SB 352 makes adjustments to the school transportation formula, moving the funding for transportation from the highway department to the state general fund and codifying in a slightly different way than the “curve of best fit” calculation being used by the State Department of Education in distributing funding.

SB 422 repeals the 10% at-risk funding floor and expanded uses of capital outlay funds – two issues flagged by the Supreme Court as equity violations in the last Gannon decision. The bill also changes two LOB provisions that the Court deemed to be equity violations. One provision would have based LOB aid on the prior year’s LOB; that was repealed but the new bill requires advance notice to the state of a district’s intent to raise the LOB. The other provision dealt with changes in the LOB election process. The new bill allows a protest petition process for LOB increases. Some believe that this will still not be acceptable because of evidence that it is much more difficult to raise a property tax in a low-income community than it is in a wealthy community.

Both of these bills go now to the House which is working on its own transportation and equity fixes.

The Senate also passed Sub for HB 2602, the bill establishing the dyslexia task force. This bill had already passed the House but the Senate made changes to the make-up of the task force. The bill now goes back to the House for a vote to either concur in the Senate changes (and send the bill to Governor Colyer) or to non-concur and form a conference committee. Advocate groups believe the changes to the bill made by the Senate are improvements over the House version and hope the House will simply concur and move the bill to the Governor for quick action.

 

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Guns for Teachers, Security for Schools, & School Finance

Mar 27, 2018 by

A packed committee room greeted the House Insurance Committee early this morning as they took up HB 2798, a bill essentially forcing school districts to arm teachers as the legislative response repeated mass shootings in schools, the Parkland Student Movement and the March for Our Lives held this past weekend.

The bill popped up unexpectedly late last week and Friday afternoon was scheduled for a hearing this morning.

Proponents of the bill started their testimony first. Bill sponsor, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby) went first followed by Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover). You’ll remember Masterson put an amendment on another firearms bill that would allow the carrying sharpened throwing stars in our schools. Those are currently prohibited but Masterson’s nephew was suspended for bringing one to school. His amendment would allow them in school unless you intended to use it to harm someone. So I guess you could ask as kids come in…

Anyway, because, as the proponents were fond of saying today, “There’s nothing we can do stop mass shootings in our schools,” they want to arm teachers. Let the teacher get her kids safe and quiet, then just pull out a gun and go in search of the shooter is apparently the solution to gun violence in schools.

Other proponents were the Kansas Rifle Association (our state NRA), a high school teacher and Iraq war veteran from Wichita, and a gun range owner/former security officer.

Opponents started with KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti followed by Shawnee Mission Interim Superintendent Rick Atha, David Smith from KCK Public Schools, Olathe Public Education Network, The Mainstream Coalition, Moms Demand Action, Kansas Interfaith Action, a mother who spent time in lockdown at school with her kindergartener during a false alarm, a mom and attorney from KCK (pointing out many legal flaws in the proponents arguements), two parents from Education First Shawnee Mission, a parent from Blue Valley Schools, a school secretary from Lawrence, and a woman whose daughter was a victim of gun violence and is now raising her grandchildren. You can view a segment of today’s testimony as posted by Loud Light- facebook https://www.facebook.com/BeALoudLight/ –  (including that by KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti beginning at 09:01 below).

Written opposition testimony.

In addition, there were more than 300 pages of written testimony in opposition to the bill.

It is clear that there is overwhelming opposition to this bill. We will continue to watch this bill to see if Chairman Vickrey intends to work the bill and attempt to send it to the full House. If you have not yet weighed in on this bill with the members of the House Insurance Committee and your own legislator, we would urge you to do so now.

More on School Safety

Later, in the full House, debate was taken up on HB 2773, the safe and secure schools act.

This bill does some good. It sets standards for school security, it sets standards for school safety plans, it requires school districts to create school safety plans and it provides $5 million in matching grants for school security upgrades. It also allows school districts to offer students firearm safety training so they know what to do should they encounter a weapon.

While KNEA supported this bill in a hearing, we were clear to state that it does very little to address the problem of violence in our society and shootings in our schools. It is a mere band-aid on a wound from an assault rifle. But it is a step in the right direction.

A number of amendments were offered on the bill on the House floor today that were supported by KNEA but did not pass. One was an amendment by Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) who tried to strip out reference to the NRA and the Eddie Eagle program relying instead on Kansans to make decisions for Kansans. The amendment failed on a vote of 49 to 75.

An amendment by Rep. Henry Helgerson (R-Wichita) would have provided for ongoing funding or school security improvements through fees on firearms and ammunition – $1.00 per gun purchase and 1 cent per bullet purchase. As the bill is, funding is $5 million total and ends after one year. The Helgerson amendment failed on a vote of 35 to 88.

Rep. Brett Parker offered an amendment to provide $100,000 to survey school employees about what they would like to have to address the issue and to repeal the law that currently allows school districts to let teachers carry firearms in classrooms. (No districts do.) The amendment was divided into two parts. A vote on the funding for the survey failed on a vote of 50 to 72.

Most interesting to us was the debate on the second part, repealing the ability of school boards to allow concealed carry on school campuses. Proponents of guns in classrooms like Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita) or Blake Carpenter (R-Derby) argued in favor of the sanctity of “local control.” Of course, whenever there is a vote on granting institutions of higher education or municipalities local control over gun issues, they argue the critical importance of state mandates. So, if local control results in more guns – YES. If local control resulted in fewer guns – NO. This is the very definition of hypocrisy. This amendment failed on a vote of 44 to 79.

The bill was advanced to a final action vote which will come tomorrow.

Over in the Senate

The full Senate debated three bills and advanced all three to final action.

The first bill was Sub for HB 2602 establishing the dyslexia task force. This bill, strongly supported by KNEA was advanced on a voice vote with little discussion.

Next (although much later) was SB 352, a bill dealing with transportation funding. This bill moves the funding of school transportation from the highway department to the state general fund and then establishes a new “curve of best fit” (codifying what the state department of education has been doing for years). This bill also generated little discussion and was advanced on a voice vote.

The third bill was SB 422 which deals with equity issues in the Supreme Court’s Gannon ruling.

SB 422 would repeal two provisions of SB 19 – the 10% at-risk floor and the expansion of capital outlay expenditures as called for in the Court ruling.

Additionally, it would use the current year to determine LOB state aid while requiring districts to notify the state of an intent to raise LOB by March 15. It would also allow the protest petition process for any increases in LOB over 30% and repeal any high LOB that had not been subject to an election (none that we know of).

There was an attempt by Sen. Pat Pettey (D-Kansas City) to repeal the notice requirement since it comes before the Legislature sets budgets for the coming year, but that effort failed.

Senator Hensley (D-Topeka) then offered an amendment to deal with adequacy by proposing a $200 million increase in funding each year for three years as called for by the State Board of Education. The amendment failed on a vote of 10 to 28 with all nine Democrats and Independent John Doll (I-Garden City) voting YES.

A subsequent Hensley amendment would raise funding by $151 million in 2018-19, and $150 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21 for a total of $451 million (the “maintain the status quo” figure in the new cost study). That amendment failed on a vote of 10-26 again with Independent John Doll joining the Democrats in support.

The bill was then advanced to final action.

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Gun Time Today and Tomorrow

Mar 26, 2018 by

There was not much specifically dealing with education in either chamber today but one pays attention anyway because, well…you never know!

So it was on the House floor today on HB 2644, a bill dealing with budgeting at postsecondary educational institutions in Kansas.

Rep. Elizabeth Bishop (D-Wichita) offered an amendment to insert language ending campus carry on Kansas college and university campuses. Leaping to his feet was Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita), a gun enthusiast to challenge the germaneness of the amendment.

The rules committee deemed that there was only one point of contact between the underlying bill and the amendment and so it was ruled not germane.

Too bad college campuses will remain subject to concealed carry even over the objection of faculty, student groups, and parents.

Tomorrow, the House Insurance Committee will hold a hearing on HB 2789, the bill forcing school districts to arm teachers.  Bill architects pretend it is “permissive” but one section ensures the if a district chooses not to arm teachers and some incident should occur, the district will be assumed to have been negligent in protecting students.

The hearing will be at 8:00 am and you should be able to listen in online at this link: http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/View/Calendar/ From there click on the Insurance Committee.

It’s not too late to add your name to Rep. Brett Parker’s (D) petition to “oppose militarizing teachers.”  Rep. Parker is a teacher and KNEA member from Johnson County who is a member of the House Insurance Committee.  CLICK HERE to add your name to Rep. Parker’s petition.

 

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