Turnaround! The Halfway Point is here.

Mar 1, 2019 by

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At the halfway point, a lot of stuff goes away

Turnaround was Thursday, February 28. That was the day by which bills had to have passed their chamber of origin in order to be considered by the second chamber. Unless…

There’s always an “unless,” isn’t there?

Most committees are subject to strict timelines. For example, the Kansas House and Senate Education Committees (and actually most committees) stopped work on Monday, Feb. 25, because the 26th through the 28th were reserved for time on the floor in order to pass as many bills as possible. But all of this means that if a bill did not come out of one of the four education committees (House Ed, Senate Ed, House K-12 budget, and Senate Select School Finance) on Monday, there was no way it would be considered on the floor and so no way it could pass the chamber of origin. Since those committees are subject to the timelines, any bills not passed technically die.

But House or Senate leadership could “bless” a bill – keep it alive for the second half by referring it to a timeline exempt committee – like Appropriations in the House or Ways and Means in the Senate – before adjourning for the turnaround break. And one should never forget that anything can be resurrected in the form of an amendment either on a bill that is now being considered by a committee of the second chamber or on the floor of either chamber.

What bills have passed and head across the rotunda?

The House has passed and sent to the Senate two bills of interest to KNEA.

House Bill 2144 is the community college reporting bill. This started out as a terrible bill placing all kinds of restrictions and requirements on community colleges relating to reporting, tax limitations, and limitations on capital spending. The House Education Committee amended out all the worst stuff and then further amended it with some language requests from the community colleges. The bill now requires demographics reporting by the Board of Regents and public notice of what courses transfer to all regents institutions. You can read the amended bill here. It now goes to the Senate.

Senate Bill 9 requires the state to repay $115 million in previously withheld employer contributions to KPERS. The last two years employer contributions to KPERS were withheld in order to balance the budget in the aftermath of the Brownback tax disaster with promises to pay them back over time. This bill has also passed the Senate and is now on the Governor’s desk.

The Senate has passed and sent to the House six bills of interest to KNEA.

Senate Bill 7 allows school boards to change the timing of the election of school board officers to adjust to the change of school board elections from April to November.

Senate Bill 9, repaying $115 million to KPERS (See above).

Senate Bill 16 allows at-risk money to be used for evidence-based programs including Jobs for America’s Graduates, or JAG, and Boys & Girls Clubs. We believe this is already allowed and wonder why it is necessary.

Senate Bill 71 eliminates the expiration of the postsecondary technical education authority and requires a report to the Kansas Legislature.

Senate Bill 128 changes the number of required fire, tornado and crisis drills. Monthly fire drills would drop to at least four per year, tornado drills would drop to at least two per year with one in September and another in March, and at least three crisis drills would be required per year during school hours.

Senate Bill 199 creates the AO-K to Work program allowing certain adults without high school diplomas or GEDs to earn a “high school equivalency credential” by participating in career pathways and earning an industry accepted credential.

What bills did not make it out of committee?

House bills of interest to KNEA that did not go to the floor.

  • House Bill 2071 creating the Proud Educator license plate. This bill was on the House floor for debate but passed over and did not return to debate.
  • House Bill 2166 requiring a financial literacy course for high school graduation (committee actually voted no on a motion to pass it out).
  • House Bill 2183 requiring a computer science course for high school graduation.
  • House Bill 2233 requiring school districts to give every teacher $500 to purchase school supplies.
  • House Bill 2256 establishing the community leadership service act.
  • House Bill 2287 restoring due process for Kansas teachers.
  • House Bill 2288 establishing the student and educator religious freedom of speech act.
  • House Bill 2330, a bullying bill based on one written by Walt Chappell.
  • House Bill 2078, Governor Kelly’s school finance bill responding to Gannon.
  • House Bill 2106, Rep. Jim Ward’s school finance bill responding to Gannon.
  • House Bill 2108 allowing at-risk funds to be used for evidence-based programs (the same bill was passed by the Senate as SB 16).
  • House Bill 2145 re-appropriating unspent special education funds to special education.
  • House Bill 2150 granting a private school voucher to any student who alleges bullying happened.
  • House Bill 2207 putting limits on requirements districts might place on contractors bidding on school construction/repair/remodeling.
  • House Bill 2257, the bullying bill proposed by Equality Kansas.

Senate bills of interest to KNEA that did not go to the floor.

  • Senate Bill 47 creating the Student Opportunity Scholarship Act and creating a post-secondary scholarship for a student who graduates from high school at the end of the junior year.
  • Senate Bill 52 restoring due process for Kansas teachers.
  • Senate Bill 148 putting limits on requirements districts might place on contractors bidding on school construction/repair/remodeling.
  • Senate Bill 44, Governor Kelly’s school finance bill responding to Gannon.
  • Senate Bill 142, a two-year school funding fix in response to Gannon.
  • Senate Bill 156, a school finance bill increasing the at-risk weighting.

The status of Senate Bill 22, the multi-national corporation tax cut bill

As we have reported here before, SB 22 passed the full Senate on a vote of 26 to 14 and was sent to the House. The Senate version of this bill provides nearly $190 million in tax cuts, most of which go to multi-national corporations. About 25% of the cut in this bill goes to a few individual taxpayers who will be allowed to itemize deductions on their Kansas income tax form even if they can’t on their federal form.

Under the Trump tax cuts, many people who used to itemize can no longer do so because of the increase in the standard deduction on the federal tax form. This could result in some Kansas taxpayers paying more in state income taxes.

During floor debate, Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) said the bill benefits “working Kansans” but in reality it does not. Wagle noted in debate that without this bill about 9% of Kansas individuals are wealthy enough that they can still itemize under the new federal law. If SB 22 were to pass, another 9% of Kansas individuals would benefit from itemizing on their Kansas taxes. Those individuals would be a higher income levels. In other words, 82% of Kansans would get no benefit at all while multi-national corporations would.

The bill was amended in the House Tax Committee to include a one-cent reduction in the food sales tax and a new provision that would require all online vendors to collect and remit Kansas sales tax once they hit a threshold of $100,000 in sales in Kansas. This amended version of SB 22 now goes to the House floor and will likely be taken up shortly after legislators return on March 6.

KNEA strongly opposes Senate Bill 22. Kansas is now on the road to recovery after the disastrous impact of the Brownback tax policies. This is not the time to be considering another massive corporate tax giveaway.

We urge all Kansans to contact their representatives and tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 22. Use the link below to contact your legislator. Let’s balance the budget, fund our schools, fix our foster care system, mend our corrections department, and fund our highway program. These are our shared priorities.

ALERT: Stop a Dangerous New Tax Plan
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Some action, but still no funding solution.

Feb 26, 2019 by

Community College bill revisited, amended, and passed again; Religious “freedom of speech” bill dropped from consideration

The House Education Committee on Monday had been scheduled to work two bills – HB 2144 on community college reporting and HB 2288, the so-called “student and educator freedom of religious speech act.”

After a major amendment taking the worst parts of the original HB 2144 out of the bill, it was passed as a bill simply requiring community colleges to let students know which courses were transferrable to Regents institutions and to report some student demographic data. On a motion of Rep. Adam Smith (R-Weskan) the bill was brought back to committee for reconsideration (this was possible because it had not yet been read in on the floor of the House and so was still under the control of the committee).

Smith had a small amendment brought to him by the community colleges that does not change the bill significantly but eases the burden on the colleges. The Smith amendment was adopted and the bill was again voted out of committee favorably for passage.

HB 2288 was sponsored by Rep. Renee Erickson (R-Wichita) and had Representatives Arnberger, Bergquist, Blex, Burris, Capps, Carlson, B. Carpenter, Collins, Delperdang, Dove, Garber, Helmer, Hoheisel, Houser, Howard, Humphries, Jacobs, Mason, Owens, Seiwert, E. Smith, Tarwater, Thimesch, Thomas, Vickrey, Waggoner and Wasinger, all Republicans, as co-sponsors.

The bill granted students rights they generally have under current law but would have implied in Kansas statute that teachers and other employees could violate the constitution in promoting their own religious beliefs with students. Kansas law today says that parents have control of their children’s “religious and moral” upbringing but HB 2288 would have granted educators broad rights to promote their own religious beliefs. Teachers carry their own personal religious beliefs with them at all times but in the public school, school employees aren’t allowed to promote those beliefs with students.

The bill was supported in the committee hearing by Rep. Erickson and a representative of the Family Policy Alliance. Opponents were KASB, KNEA, and the Mainstream Coalition. The bill, if passed, would encourage behavior among school employees that is clearly illegal under the United States Constitution as demonstrated by a long history of case law. As a result, lots of costly litigation would likely follow.

On Monday, the Committee had the bill on their agenda to work and vote on but at the last minute, Rep. Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka) who was chairing the committee in the absence of Rep. Steve Huebert (R-Valley Center), conferred briefly with Erickson and then adjourned the meeting without taking an action.

It would appear that the bill is now dead.

Bills on interest moving on the floor

Three bills of interest to KNEA were debated in the chambers today – one in the House and two in the Senate. All three bills were advanced and will face final action votes on Wednesday.

In the House, consideration was given to a bill sponsored by Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta), HB 2006, which would require the Legislative Post Audit to review state economic development incentive programs every two years with an eye to determining if the state is getting a good return on investment.

These programs – and there are a lot of them – grant tax breaks or incentives to companies with the understanding that good paying jobs will be created in Kansas but there has never been a review to determine if jobs are actually being created.

The bill was amended to put them on a three year review cycle to ease the burden on the LPA and then passed. It will face a final action vote on Wednesday.

This is a good bill and Williams is to be commended for her efforts on this issue. The bill is long overdue. We urge legislators to pass the bill.

In the Senate there were votes on SB 128, a bill changing the requirements on emergency drills. Currently schools must hold one fire drill every month, this bill changes that to at least four per year. The bill reduces the number of tornado drills to at least two per year with one in September and one in March and requires at least three crisis drills to be held during school hours.

Overall, the number of drills is reduced and more focused. The bill will face a final action vote on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 16 also came up for debate. This bill would allow at-risk dollars to be spent on evidence-based student programs and specifically allows expenditures on Jobs for America’s Graduates and the Boys and Girls Club in addition to Communities in Schools which is listed in current law. The bill really doesn’t do much as schools can use their funds for this currently and at their discretion.

There was an attempt by Senator Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) to amend two years of inflation funding increases into the bill. His rationale was that the Senate so far was not taking action on school finance and the Attorney General had expressed a desire to have school finance done by March 15 if there were no changes to the formula and March 1 if there were.

His amendment was defeated on a vote of 12 to 28 with all Republicans voting NO. All Democrats and John Doll (I-Garden City) voted YES for school funding.

SB 16 was then advanced without the Hensley amendment and will be considered for final action on Wednesday.

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Funding and curriculum mandates

Feb 12, 2019 by

Senate Committee on Education Finance continues hearing on SB 44

The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance continued their hearing on Senate Bill 44, Governor Kelly’s school funding bill intended to end the Gannon school finance lawsuit by addressing the last Gannon ruling.

The Supreme Court last ruled that the actions taken by the legislature in 2017 and 2018 had effectively created a constitutional school finance formula but that they were off on adequacy of funding because of the phase-in of funding increases.

After addressing all equity issues in the formula, the legislature had decided to return to the funding level that resolved the earlier Montoy decision and was abandoned due to the Great Recession and the failure of the Brownback tax disaster. So they picked an adjusted dollar amount but then chose to phase that amount in over several years.

The result is that, while the Court thought the approach was right, the legislature would have to account for inflation – the legislature would need to increase funding such that inflation increases were met. SB 44 is based on the Kansas State Board of Education’s calculations and Schools for Fair Funding, the organization representing the lawsuit school districts, told the committee that if this bill passes with no other changes to the formula, they would stipulate that it meets the Gannon ruling.

School districts, KASB, KNEA and parent groups, like Game on for Kansas Schools and the PTA, and many other education advocacy groups, were united in support for the bill. The only opponent was the Kansas Policy Institute, the Koch-funded organization that supports corporate tax giveaways and seeks to block all school funding increases. KPI asserted in testimony that the Court has no right to rule they way they do and that money doesn’t influence student achievement.

Contact members of the Senate and ask them to support Senate Bill 44 without amendment. It’s time to fully fund our schools and get out of court!

You can email any Senator using this format: firstname.lastname@senate.ks.gov. Members of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance are Molly Baumgardner, Jim Denning, Anthony Hensley, Bud Estes, Dan Goddard, Dan Kerschen, Carolyn McGinn, Pat Pettey, and Eric Rucker.

House Ed Committee considers mandating more courses

The House Education Committee held a hearing on Tuesday on the first of two bills mandating new course requirements for Kansas high school students. The bill heard on Tuesday was one that seems to appear annually which mandates a financial literacy requirement. Brought to the committee by Rep. Renee Erickson, R-Wichita, the bill would require all Kansas high school students to take and pass a course on financial literacy in their junior or senior year.

While no one disputes the importance of financial literacy, school advocates opposed the mandate. As reported by the Kansas State Department of Education, 92% of Kansas schools offer financial literacy now with 28% putting the course in their graduation requirements.

Opposition to the bill focused on several concerns:

  • The mandate would be difficult to implement due to a lack of qualified instructors;
  • The mandate would deny students the opportunity to take other elective courses and possibly interfere with the ability to earn an industry certificate in a CTE program; and
  • The real problem with financial issues faced by adults has more to do with crippling student debt and the predatory practices of payday and title lenders and credit card companies.

Opponents to the mandate included KASB, the Kansas State Superintendents Association, KNEA, and Game on for Kansas Schools. Supporters were Rep. Erickson and Walt Chappell and the Kansas Realtors Association who indicated that student debt was hampering the ability of young people to buy homes. Sadly, passage of HB 2166 will not do anything about student debt.

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Senator Laura Kelly Headlines KNEA PAC’s List of Recommendations in the 2018 General Election

Aug 28, 2018 by

Senator Laura Kelly, Candidate for Governor of Kansas- Click Image to View Campaign Website

CLICK HERE for complete list of KNEA PAC recommended candidates.

Kansas Senator Laura Kelly, a two-time recipient of Kansas NEA’s “Friend of Education,” headlines the list of KNEA PAC’s recommended candidates for November’s general election, KNEA officials announced Tuesday.

“There’s a reason Senator Kelly has twice received KNEA’s highest acknowledgment of service to the mission of public education,” Mark Farr, KNEA president, said. “She and her running mate, Senator Lynn Rogers, have a legacy as advocates for Kansas students, our public schools and the dedicated professionals who ensure our kids are safe and have the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential.”

“I’m running for governor to make sure all Kansas students have the opportunity to succeed no matter where in Kansas they live,” Senator Kelly said. “In order to do that, we must work together to invest in our public schools and to restore respect and support for our teachers and staff. Kids have a natural curiosity and we need highly qualified teachers who have the time and resources needed to ensure that their curiosity is nurtured so that they can learn and achieve.”

Kansas NEA believes the Kelly/Rogers campaign represents a return to common sense Kansas values where public schools are a priority and where teachers are respected instead of marginalized. Senator Kelly values teachers and recognizes them as the strongest advocates for children outside of the home. In contrast to her opponents’ promises of returning to Brownback-style attacks on public schools, Senator Kelly’s platform includes a comprehensive vision to strengthen educational opportunities for Kansas students from pre-kindergarten through high school and beyond.

“I’m not new to the struggle educators and students have endured in recent years,” Senator Kelly continued. “I have fought against policies that put the interests of a select few ahead of the promise of opportunity for every Kansas student. Throughout my career, I have stood with our teachers and the professionals who are closest to our students in the classroom. As governor, I will make certain our schools, our teachers and our students will be a priority once again.”

Kansas NEA’s KPAC is comprised of KNEA members throughout the state who determine criteria for recommendations and interview candidates seeking KNEA’s recommendation in state races. The candidates who earn “recommended” status have demonstrated a commitment to strengthening public education in Kansas.

CLICK HERE to download today’s press release.


Full List of KNEA Recommended Candidates Available Now

KNEA has released the full list of recommended candidates ahead of the November Election.  CLICK HERE or click the image below to view and download the list.

 

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Bills, Bills, and More Bills!

Mar 15, 2018 by

Senate Ed Committee Considers “Education Inspector General”

In case you thought there were not enough folks supervising the K-12 education system, along comes SB 424. This bill would establish the position of “Education Inspector General” in the State Treasurer’s Office. The intent is to have someone conduct continuous audits of education spending.

The proponents – Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, Senator Ty Masterson, the owner of Freedom Bank in Johnson County, and KPI’s Dave Trabert. Masterson was quick to say that this had nothing to do with the kerfuffle over transportation funding that included a letter from Sen. Wagle and Rep. Ryckman to the State Board calling for Dale Dennis to be suspended and an investigation launched. Of course, the bill was introduced after the SBOE stood up for Dennis and the practice used for distributing transportation dollars.

And all this was put aside in Mr. Knudtson’s testimony in which he attacked both the Department and Dennis. Trabert also continued his attacks on the department and calls for millions of dollars to be pulled back from school districts.

Opposing the bill were KASB and State Board Member Jim McNiece.

No action was taken on the bill today.

More Bills Taken Up in Senate Ed

After the hearing was closed on SB 424, Chair Baumgardner turned her attention to HB 2541, a bill that adjusts tuition support for members of the Kansas National Guard. This bill passed the House on a 120-0 vote.

After the hearing, the bill was moved out of committee on a motion of Senator Hensley and placed on the Senate’s consent calendar where non-controversial bills are sent. After three days on the consent calendar, the bill will be passed, skipping the debate process.

Their next action was on HB 2542, another non-controversial bill requested by the Board of Regents that adjusts the fees that KBOR charges to private higher education institutions to cover the costs of regulation.

The bill was passed out of committee and will go to the full Senate.

Baumgardner then brought up Sub for HB 2602, the dyslexia task force bill. Baumgardner announced that she would craft an amendment to change the make-up of the committee to reduce the number of legislators and add teachers, particularly classroom teachers. As Baumgardner put it, “We need more boots on the ground representation on this task force.”

Other Senators had items they wanted to think about on this bill and Baumgardner said they would take it up next week, perhaps mid-week.

Full Senate Defeats So-Called “Campus Free Speech Act”

The Senate took a final action vote today on SB 340, a bill dubbed the “Campus Free Speech Act.” This bill would ban free speech zones on campuses and make all open areas available to anyone for rallies, literature distribution, and demonstrations. It is widely seen as a reaction to colleges that are trying to keep students safe in light of actions taking place congruent with some recent activities around the country.

The bill would allow any student to invite a speaker and the college would be required to allow the speaker. We see this as an opening for extremists on both sides to come to campus and perhaps incite potentially violent acts. One student could invite Richard Spencer, another could invite Louis Farrakhan and the university would not be able to restrict such events.

Many other issues were raised in the debate on the bill and today it was voted down on a 20-20 vote. KNEA opposed the bill.

House Tax Committee Looks at Tobacco Taxes

The House Tax Committee held a hearing today on HB 2231, a bill raising taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products. The Cigarette tax would increase by $1.50 per pack.

KNEA testified in favor of the bill. Passage would increase revenue to the state by about $90 million per year but more importantly, the higher cost of cigarettes and tobacco products would discourage youth smoking and tobacco use. Evidence shows that increases in cost also incent smoker to quit. As parents and caregivers make that decision, the health and well-being of their children improves.

Reduced smoking and tobacco usage also reduce overall health costs which impact the cost of health insurance for all Kansans.

 

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How about a two-tiered class system for teachers? House Ed Committee says no thanks.

Feb 19, 2018 by

House Ed Committee Rejects Another “Compromise” on Due Process

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand called a meeting today for the specific purpose of addressing due process. Aurand has repeatedly expressed his opinion that due process restoration cannot pass the Senate and so the House must negotiate against its own position and somehow compromise on the issue.

This year it came in his bill, HB 2483, which would establish two tiers of teachers by restoring due process to those who had earned it prior to repeal in 2014 and provide nothing for any teachers hired since. He had an amendment to the bill that would still restore full due process to those who had earned it but provide a very limited due process (the same as in the 1980’s) for new teachers. The new teachers would have an impossible hill to climb in succeeding in a challenge under the bill as Aurand put in only three conditions under which a hearing officer could rule against the district.

In response to those who oppose a two-tiered system, Aurand also put a provision in the bill that would allow the bargaining agent (usually KNEA) to move all veteran teachers into the limited due process system.

The debate quickly showed that the committee was in no mood to establish a bill that did not restore full due process to all Kansas teachers. They repeatedly said that they did not need the bullying bill and due process bill separated and that the two issues were linked since bullying has to do with bullying of students and staff. Rep. Melissa Rooker pointed out that there are eight statutes providing real due process to students including those brought to the district’s attention for bullying but no such protections for teachers.

As to the argument of the need for the House to compromise their own position to appease the Senate or the Speaker or the Governor, Rep. Ed Trimmer said that if one of those three were to torpedo the bullying bill because they did not want to provide rights to teachers, that decision would be on those people and not the members of the House.

The Aurand amendment failed on a vote of 6 t0 10. The Committee then moved to the underlying motion to pass the original two-tier bill. That motion had been offered by Rep. Sutton. That motion failed on a unanimous voice vote.

At that point, Aurand said he recognized that the issue was done; that he recognized the committee’s position and would not go any further including not offering a standalone bullying bill.

Rep. Diana Dierks noted that the actions of the committee should not be taken as any disrespect for the Chairman but instead reflected a heartfelt desire of the majority to do right by Kansas teachers.

So here is where we are as of tonight.

The full restoration of due process rights for Kansas teachers in included in the bullying bill, HB 2578, which is on the floor but below the debate line meaning it is available for debate and passage but will not be considered tomorrow.

We will be watching for it to come up above the line and working with both Republicans and Democrats to urge its consideration.

House Higher Ed Committee Hears Repeal of In-state Tuition; Will Not Work Bill

The House Higher Education Committee held a continued hearing on HB 2643, a bill repealing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented workers (these children would have to have graduated from a Kansas high school, been in the state at least three years, be admitted to college and sign an affidavit promising to apply for citizenship as soon as they are eligible to do so). The “savings” from the bill would be used to offset tuition for foster children.

KNEA opposed the bill as did many other organization including KASB.

KNEA would be delighted to support a bill that provides tuition assistance to foster children but not at the expense of other Kansas students. Opposition to the bill was overwhelming while Kris Kobach was the primary proponent.

At the end of the hearing, the Committee Chair, Kevin Jones, announced they would not be working the bill. This means that unless the bill is referred to a timeline exempt committee, it is dead for this year.

Senate Fed & State Goes Crazy

Despite all the good news in the House committees, the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee decided to push the ultra-conservative envelope today and passed two alarming bills out of committee.

The first, SCR 1611, calls for a constitutional convention under which the United States Constitution could simply be tossed out and delegates appointed by state politicians could re-write the whole darn thing. While the resolution is specific to what they want to change, there can be no limits put on a constitutional convention.

KNEA opposes SCR 1611.

The Committee also passed out SB 340, the campus free speech act under which colleges in Kansas would have essentially no ability to control rallies and protests on campus. All outdoor areas of campus would be “free speech zones” and if any one student invited a speaker to hold a rally, the college would have no choice but to allow it in whatever outdoor place the speaker wanted. We imagine that Richard Spencer and Louis Farrakhan are both planning their Kansas college tours right now!

Colleges would even be prohibited from stopping events based on other experiences. So, for example, while Spencer’s events create havoc (see Charlottesville, Virginia), a college could not use the safety of students as an excuse to restrict Spencer’s use of the campus. Combine this with a new House bill that would allow 18-year-olds to carry weapons on campus and we can only envision disaster.

KNEA, believing that the safety of students is paramount in determining what events will be permitted on campus, opposes SB 340.

 

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