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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School Finance Bill Coming Together, Brownback Support Rock-Bottom and Falling, Fighting for Medicaid Expansion

Mar 31, 2017 by

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee worked until nearly 9:00 last night taking up amendments to HB 2410, the school finance bill.

Amendment after amendment, the debate went on through the afternoon and into the night and most of those amendments were adopted. Here are changes made yesterday:

  • The bill changed the LOB into three local levies, the Local Foundation Budget up to 20% a portion of which had to be transferred to bilingual and at-risk programs, the Local Enhancement Budget up to 5% that could be used for anything, and the Local Activities Budget up to 4% that had to be used for non-instructional purposes. A motion by Rep. Fred Patton (R-Topeka) replaced all three with a 33% LOB as in the prior formula. KNEA supports this change.
  • The bill phased in all-day kindergarten over three years. On a motion by Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville), all day kindergarten would become effective next year. KNEA supports this change.
  • A motion by Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) added $2 million in 2018 and another $2 million in 2019 for preschool at-risk programs. KNEA supports this change.
  • Two motions by Rep. Jim Karleskint (R-Tonganoxie) added $800,000 for new teacher mentoring and $1.7 million for teacher professional development. KNEA supports both changes.
  • The bill had a five-year limit on bilingual aid for individual students. An amendment by Rep. Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) removed this limit. KNEA supports the change.
  • A motion by Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) to return bilingual weighting to the contact hours formula in prior law was changed by a substitute amendment from Rep. Aurand to distribute bilingual aid by FTE with a weighting of 0.185. While this results in no loss of overall bilingual funding, school districts that have successfully recruited bilingually licensed teachers will lose funding while those that have few such teachers will gain. KNEA supports a blended method that both funds students and encourages recruitment and retention of bilingually licensed teachers.
  • Vocational weighting was not included in the bill. Instead, the bill would require districts to transfer $100/FTE to a career and post-secondary education fund to be used for vocational programs and dual credit opportunities. A motion by Aurand to require a $50/FTE transfer in 2018 and a $100/FTE transfer in 2019 with a vocational “hold harmless” provision failed. A subsequent motion by Karleskint to return to the prior vocational weighting and calling on the SBOE to study the cost of vocational programs for future funding considerations was adopted. KNEA supports this change.
  • On capital outlay funding, a motion by Campbell to allow capital outlay funds to be spent on utilities was adopted while a motion by Rooker to exempt capital outlay levies from future TIF (redevelopment) projects failed. KNEA supported both amendments.
  • An amendment by Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita) to require a uniform accounting system with more detailed reporting to the state failed. KNEA is neutral on this amendment. KASB and school districts have opposed it.
  • The bill required two student enrollment count dates (9/20 and 2/20) and used the average for determining funding. It also included a complicated three-year formula for examining enrollment going forward. A motion by Rep. Adam Smith (R-Weskan) returned the enrollment count to a single time (9/20) with a second count (2/20) for military dependent children. KNEA supports this change.
  • The bill changed the corporate tuition tax credit (voucher) program by expanding the rules for student eligibility but then limiting the private schools’ families could choose to those accredited by the SBOE and that either exceed the trendline for post-secondary success or have an ACT composite above the state average. An amendment by Trimmer to remove the eligibility expansion and sunset the program in five years was not adopted. Instead, a substitute motion by Aurand that would remove the eligibility expansion and require students to be “direct-certified” by the Department of Children and Families while maintaining the new limits on eligible schools was adopted. KNEA remains opposed to the program but believes these changes are improvements.

There were a few other amendments that failed and resulted in no changes to the underlying bill.

At the conclusion of last night’s work, the committee was recessed – not adjourned – because one amendment was still under discussion and will be taken up again on Monday. That amendment by Rep. Adam Smith would return the transportation formula back to the prior law. Under the bill, the transportation formula was changed to address what is called “the algebra error” identified by the Division of Legislative Post Audit. There has long been a math error in the formula and correcting that error will cause school districts to lose transportation funding. Legislative staffers were directed to find a way to fix the math error and make adjustments so that schools will not lose funding. On Monday they will return to this amendment and see if it’s possible to do so.

Monday may also see some additional amendments specific to funding amounts. The intent of those offering and adopting amendments is to end up with a bill that will provide $150 million in new funding each year for five years for a total of $750 million new dollars.

Monday, then, is the big day. We expect that the Committee will send out their final product at the conclusion of their Monday meeting. At that time, we will examine the bill in its entirety to determine our position. We applaud the Committee for their hard work yesterday. The bill is dramatically better than it was when the committee convened at 1:00.


New Polling Shows Broad Public Support for Increased School Funding

In a press conference today, the Kansas Center for Economic Growth released the results of a new poll gauging public support for Governor Brownback, the Brownback tax policies, and public school funding.

The results back up what we suspected. Governor Brownback remains very unpopular, few Kansans support his 2012 tax plan and want the legislature to reverse it, and a whopping 83% of Kansans want greater funding for public education.  More key findings from the KCEG poll and a full breakdown of the school funding support data follows:

  • Kansans are deeply dissatisfied with both Gov. Brownback and his signature tax plan. Two-thirds of Kansas voters disapprove of the governor’s job performance, with 67 percent who disapprove, and 54 percent who strongly disapprove. Those numbers are nearly identical to discontent with his tax policy (67 percent oppose it and 51 percent strongly oppose it).
  • Nearly all Kansas voters are worried the state is not investing enough in public education. Eighty-five percent of Kansas voters feel concerned about the state’s level of spending on public education. Without comprehensive tax reform, lawmakers cannot restore funding to classrooms.
  • There is broad consensus that the Brownback tax plan harmed the Kansas economy and should be repealed. Seventy-three percent of voters feel the governor’s tax policy hurt the Kansas economy, while 64 percent of Kansans support rolling back the Brownback plan.


More Action Needed to Override the Governor’s VETO of Medicaid Expansion

Several representatives will be holding morning coffee Q&A’s along with town halls this weekend.  Contact your Rep’s office and find out if yours will be holding just such an event.  Regardless, we encourage you to use the following link to the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas website where you can take action to contact your Reps and encourage them to vote YES to override the Governor’s VETO.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION TO EXPAND MEDICAID
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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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War on Teachers is Not Over Yet

Mar 28, 2017 by

More Disrespect for Kansas Teachers

Senators Susan Wagle and Jim Denning

Once again the anti-teacher conservative extremists have abused their power to punish Kansas teachers.

Today leadership in the Senate – Jim Denning, specifically and with the support of Susan Wagle – abruptly withdrew a bill from the debate calendar when they realized an amendment that would restore due process was going to be offered and would almost certainly pass.  We’ve seen this before, this session (click here).  Remember it was Denning and Wagle who sided with Governor Brownback choosing to vote against a veto override on badly needed tax reform, and only after assuring others that they wouldn’t.  Today it was crystal clear that Denning and Wagle are perfectly happy to continue their war on teachers.

Wagle led the effort to repeal due process at 4:00 am back in 2014 through a series of floor amendments on a school funding bill. Wagle and Denning, who have worked for years to diminish the teaching profession took it upon themselves today to once again demonstrate their disrespect for the men and women who teach our children.

Wagle and Denning are the primary advocates of the anti-teacher agenda in Topeka and have personally been leading a war on teachers for years. It is thanks to actions like pulling a bill that was almost certain to pass, just to spite teachers, that the teacher shortage in Kansas has become worse with each passing year.  We know that teachers are retiring in droves while enrollment in teacher preparation programs is in sharp decline.  Education Commissioner Randy Watson has told the education committees that teachers in Kansas feel under attack and disrespected by legislators and that teacher morale is at an all-time low. Wagle, Denning, and their allies are the reason why.

Subverting the democratic process, is subverting due process.  There is no darker irony than purposely muting due process by withholding a bill meant to restore due process for teachers.

You can weigh in on this abuse of the democratic process. Jim Denning serves as the majority leader in the Kansas Senate. He knows that the amendment was coming; he also knows the amendment was likely to pass. Rather than letting there be a vote, he chose to shut down the process. You can let Senator Denning know that you are watching this behavior and that you expect better. Email or call Senator Denning. Tell him to bring HB 2126 back up for debate and amendment.

Email is  Jim.denning@senate.ks.gov. His office phone number is 785-296-2497. As always, be respectful but remember that Denning, like all elected officials, works for you.

Read more about Jim Denning’s attacks on public education here:  http://www.standupbluevalley.org/kansas-senate-district-8


K-12 Budget Committee Cancelled for Today

We had expected the K-12 Education Budget Committee to begin working HB 2410, a school finance bill, this afternoon but the committee meeting was cancelled. Why? We can only speculate.

Support for the bill seems rather weak and it may be that leadership is trying to come up with a strategy to pursue in getting it – or something very like it – passed. It might also be that the Chairman is simply allowing his committee members and the revisor, Jason Long, more time to write amendments. We expect there will be a lot of amendments.

This is when you should all keep people like Jason in your thoughts! He will be at work writing amendments almost 24/7! Lobbyists and legislators alike are very appreciative of the efforts of the hardworking legislative research staff and the office of the Revisor of Statutes.


Senate Approves Medicaid Expansion; Now It’s Up to the Governor

The Senate today gave final action approval to HB 2044, the bill which expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It was approved on a vote of 25-14. Yesterday, five amendments offered by Mary Pilcher-Cook and Dennis Pyle that would have done everything from prohibiting Medicaid expenditures for family planning to denying Medicaid to anyone living in a town that has adopted a “sanctuary city” were all defeated.

The bill then was approved by the Senate in the same form in which it passed the House. That means the bill will not be subject to a conference committee and instead go directly to the Governor.

A statement issued by the Governor’s office indicates his opposition to Medicaid expansion but stopped short of saying he would veto the bill. We’ll see.

 

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Schools, Medicaid, and Grinding Toward the End

Mar 27, 2017 by

School Finance Hearing Finishes; No Work Yet

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee met today and concluded three days of hearings on HB 2410, the Chairman’s bill on school finance. We have been there all three days and don’t believe we heard any proponents for the bill with the exception of a virtual school organization that rose to express support for only that portion of the bill and had no position on anything else.

Based on Chairman Larry Campbell’s (R-Olathe) previous comments, we had assumed that the committee might begin working the bill after the hearing ended but instead Campbell adjourned the committee after announcing that tomorrow’s meeting would be “on the call of the chair.” So tomorrow we will be waiting for an announcement from the floor of the House as to whether or not the committee will meet.


KanCare and Medicaid Expansion

Rep. Cindy Holscher (D-Overland Park) offered an amendment to HB 2047 to add an independent ombudsman for KanCare. Currently, if denied services, one can appeal only to the very board that denied the service. This was one of the issues raised in the highly critical federal review of KanCare that found serious problems with the Kansas system. The amendment failed 49-73. In other words, the Kansas House voted once again to deny a due process appeal, this time by persons with serious medical issues being denied services by the Colyer/Brownback health care system.

Also this afternoon, Medicaid expansion is being debated on the Senate floor. It has already passed the House with 81 votes and chances are good that it will pass the Senate after what is expected to be a lengthy debate. One of arguments most used by the opponents of expansion – the move by congressional Republicans and Donald Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act – has been neutered by the failure of “Trumpcare” in Congress last week and the statement by House Speaker Paul Ryan that “Obamacare is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.”

UPDATE: Medicaid expansion passes the Senate 25-13 but still two votes shy of a veto-proof margin.  Here’s how your Senator voted courtesy of Topeka Capital-Journal Reporter, Celia Llopis-Jepsen (interactive map):  CLICK HERE

 


Mostly Floor Action This Week; Conference Committees Next Week

This week has very few committee meetings scheduled. Instead, both chambers will convene earlier in the day to debate bills that have come out of committee with the intention of finishing such work by Thursday, Friday at the latest. This will reserve next week for conference committees to work out the differences between House and Senate versions of the same bill and then adopting or rejecting those conference committee reports.

The last day for the regular session is April 7. Legislators will then go home for three weeks, reconvening for the veto session on May 1.

 

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A Couple Big Days for Education

Mar 24, 2017 by

Yesterday’s work under the dome went longer than usual because, both the House K-12 Budget Committee and the House Education Committee both met and conducted hearings on important bills.

In the K-12 Budget Committee, the hearing on HB 2410 began. HB 2410 is the Chairman’s Bill on school finance. We explained the components of this bill earlier this week. This hearing will run for three days, ending on Monday, after which the Committee will begin the process of “working” the bill. We anticipate many amendments being offered at that time.

On the first day, testimony was offered by KASB and a number of school superintendents. Today, KNEA was one of a long list of organizations offering testimony. KNEA suggested that there were a number of points in the bill that we support but we cannot support replacing the LOB with three funds, much of which would be restricted. We also testified that the funding in the bill – $75 million in new money – is woefully inadequate and would be rejected by the Supreme Court.

Today, the same concerns brought forth by KNEA were shared in testimony from the Kansas PTA, Game On for Kansas Schools, the Eudora Superintendent, the Pratt Superintendent, and the Central Heights Superintendent.

Later yesterday, the House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2374, a bill which would radically expand the tuition tax credit program that drains up to $10 million from the state budget to send children to private schools including unaccredited private schools. HB 2374 would expand who is eligible to get a “scholarship” and expand tax breaks by giving individuals the ability to contribute to a scholarship granting organization (SGO) and get a tax break. Currently, only corporations can get the tax break.

The bill was supported by the Kansas Policy Institute and the Kansas Chamber – two organizations working overtime to drain funding from public schools – and the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. Opposing the bill were KNEA, KASB, the League of Women Voters, Game on for Kansas Schools, Kansas Families for Education, the Mainstream Coalition, and the Kansas PTA.

Committee Chairman Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) announced at the beginning of the meeting that he would not be working bill. This means that the bill is dead for this year as a stand-alone bill. The Committee will not meet again this year.

There is a version of the bill in HB 2410 but the expansion there, while changing the definition of eligible students, does not expand the tax breaks and limits the scholarships to students attending accredited schools that do better than the trendline for post-secondary success or have an ACT performance above the state average.


The following is republished from”Walk to Restore the Revenue” Facebook Event Page:

We walk for three days (Fri 24 – Sun 26), and arrive in Topeka on Monday, March 27th. Join us for all or part, but most importantly join us Monday at 10:30 am in front of the Kansas Supreme Court Building (South of the Capitol) for our final steps into the Capitol for a rally demanding reform.

Share the Event: bit.ly/Kwalk2017

For the last four years, Kansans have walked to raise awareness of the need to fund public education. This year, education supporters are coming together with roadworkers, social workers, and other concerned citizens to support real revenue reform.

A sustainable tax policy was passed by both the House and Senate, but the Governor vetoed the policy. The House managed to override the veto, but the Senate was shy just three votes to override the veto.

Kansas is three votes away from a tax policy that will provide the structure required to sustain solid infrastructure, to provide support for vulnerable Kansans, and to invest in the education of our children.

This year the walk will again begin from three locations: Merriam, Emporia, and Manhattan.

Register to Participate/Support: bit.ly/Kwalk17
Order a t-Shirt: bit.ly/KwalkShirt

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