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:

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:
Order a t-Shirt:

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Chairman’s Bill on School Finance is Revealed

Mar 21, 2017 by

Today we attended a briefing on the “Chairman’s Bill” on school finance in the House K-12 Education Budget Committee. While the bill is not yet in print form, the various components were explained by Revisor Jason Long and Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville). Aurand had facilitated the Committee discussion, seeking consensus on what items would be included in the bill.

While there were no specifics on funding in the bill, we can share the components with you. The bill is similar to the previous school finance formula in that it contains a base funding per pupil modified by weightings.

  • Base state aid per pupil is renamed Base Aid for Student Excellence (BASE). It is multiplied by the enrollment of the district which is the average of two count dates – September 20 and February 20. BASE is adjusted by a number of weightings (explained below). This method determines the school district’s total foundation aid. The state portion of that aid is determined by subtracting local revenue sources (local foundation aid) from its total foundation aid.
  • Kindergarten students would count a 0.8 in 2017-18, 0.9 in 2018-19, and 1.0 in 2019-2020, phasing in funding for all day kindergarten.
  • Bilingual weighting will shift from a contact hours calculation to an FTE student headcount. In the briefing this was said to be a weighting of 0.1 although Aurand later noted that that number was not correct.
  • At-risk weighting is based on students on free lunch as it was in the previous formula. The weighting factor will be 0.456. There is also a high-density at-risk weighting of 0.105 for districts with more than 3,000,69% or more of which are eligible for free lunch. For districts between 2,500 and 3,000 students and between 50% and 60% free lunch there is a linear transition for the weighting.
  • Special education and related services weighting is the same as under the previous formula.
  • Ancillary school facilities weighting is replaced with new school facilities cost weighting and is calculated as ancillary facilities weighting was.
  • The Cost of Living weighting stays as it was.
  • There is no career and technical education weighting. Instead, as we understand it, districts will receive a set amount of money per pupil which may be used for CTE programs or even post-secondary dual credit course and distance learning technology.
  • The bill will reauthorize the statewide 20 mill levy.
  • The LOB is replaced with three local funding sources:
  • The Local Foundation Budget (LFB) is a mandatory levy of 20% of the district’s total foundation aid. A portion of the LFB is required to be used for at-risk and bilingual education in proportion to the district’s at-risk and bilingual weightings. It is equalized as the LOB is today.
  • The Local Enhancement Budget (LEB) is limited to 5% of the district’s total foundation aid. No election is required. It is equalized as the LOB is today.
  • The Local Activities Budget (LAB) is limited to 4% of the district’s enrollment multiplied by the BASE aid. The LAB must be approved by the voters and expended only for non-instructional purposes. It is equalized as capital outlay is today.
  • Capital outlay state aid is reenacted using the same formula.
  • Bond and interest state aid remains the same except that districts with fewer than 260 students would need State Board approval in order to be eligible fore state aid for bonds issued to construct new school facilities.
  • Virtual school aid would remain the same as the current formula.
  • The corporate tuition tax credit program would be change such that eligible students would include those enrolled in a district that receives high-density at-risk weighting. Nonpublic schools receiving students would have to be accredited by the State Board and have a post-secondary effective rate that exceeds the trend line for all school districts as determined by the State Board or have a composite ACT score that exceeds the statewide average.

Wow. That’s a lot to digest! And it is all based on a briefing because the bill has yet to be printed. We expect to see the full bill some time tomorrow and then spend some quality time plowing through all 100 pages.

We’ll keep you posted as the discussion goes on. Tomorrow should be more committee discussion of the above. Hearings on the bill will be Thursday, Friday, and Monday, if needed.


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New Finance Bill? Not Yet.

Mar 20, 2017 by

No New School Finance Bill Today

We suppose the “Chairman’s Bill” on school finance, which we expected to be unveiled in committee today is not yet ready. Today’s meeting of the K-12 Education Budget Committee was canceled.

There are meetings scheduled for Tuesday through Friday, so hopefully, we’ll get our first look tomorrow.

Senate Committee Hears Proponents of Medicaid Expansion

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee today held the first part of a two-part hearing on HB 2044, the bill expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this session, Medicaid expansion was blocked by the House Committee chairman but Rep. Susan Concannon (R-Beloit) brought an amendment on the House floor that put it in another related bill. Concannon’s amendment was adopted on a voice vote and the amended bill was passed with a strong majority (81-44).

Opponents of expansion will have their day before the Senate committee tomorrow.

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A Wonderful Opportunity for Educators

Mar 18, 2017 by

Spend Spring Break Under the Dome!

While some of our readers have already had their spring break, many schools are off for spring break next week. And coincidentally, next week is a big week for school finance under the dome.

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee is expected to receive the “Chairman’s Bill” on Monday and the rest of the week will be a review of the bill and the public hearings will begin. This committee meets every day next week and while the agenda says “to be announced,” we know they will be reviewing the bill and holding public hearings. This could be a great opportunity for you to meet with the legislators writing the new formula!

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee meets from 1:30 until about 3:30 in room 346-S, the old Supreme Court Room.

But wait! There’s more!

The Senate Select Committee on School Finance met for the first time yesterday and they plan to meet on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week. This is the committee tasked by Senate leadership to come up with the Senate school finance plan.

On Tuesday, Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis will review the current and previous formulas with them. On Wednesday they will learn about bond and interest state aid, supplemental general state aid, and transportation weighting from Scott Frank of the Legislative Post Audit Division. On Thursday some school districts will educate them on the local district budget building process.

Again, these are wonderful opportunities for you to see the discussion up close and personal! This committee meets from 1:00 until 2:30 in room 144-S.

Your lobbyists will be there and would love to see you! Are you willing to take one day of your spring break to let legislators know that you are following their actions? While you are here, you can tour the capital and make the climb to the top of the dome! Bring the kids! See the legislature in action!

Look for KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti in the House Committee and KNEA lobbyist Terry Forsyth in the Senate Committee.

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School Finance! School Cuts?

Mar 15, 2017 by

Senate Likely to Debate Rescission Bill Tomorrow

Governor Brownback and Senator Susan Wagle

The rescission bill (Senate Sub for HB 2052) we discussed earlier this week will almost certainly be up for debate tomorrow afternoon in the Senate. The bill does not contain any cuts to state agencies but Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) told the press today that she intends to offer an amendment containing across the board cuts to state agencies for fiscal year 2017 (which ends on June 30) during the debate.

Wagle has not said what level those cuts might be except that they will be less than 5%. The Senate earlier was to consider a bill with a 5% cut to K-12 education but it was pulled from debate when it became clear it could never pass. Whatever the cuts turn out to be, if passed they will apply to both K-12 and higher education.

We do not believe there is support in the Senate for any cuts but it’s best to be ready!


More Discussion on School Finance Bill

The House K-12 Budget Committee has spent the last three days trying to come to a consensus on what will be in the “Chairman’s Bill” on school finance. Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) has announced that his bill will be ready early next week. He then plans to give a little time for it to be digested by the committee and stakeholders before holding hearings which he suggested may last several days.

So far it appears that the formula will be similar to the old formula – likely a base amount with weightings to get to special needs such as at-risk and bilingual students. There was some discussion about how those weightings should be calculated. Today there seemed to be a general consensus to stick with free lunch for at-risk although there could be an effort to create a “blended” formula combining free lunch with students receiving services through a Department of Children and Families program. There was also an effort today to add additional all-risk funding for students not meeting at least two of the KSDE at-risk indicators. This would be similar to the old “non-proficient” at risk. KNEA has been a strong proponent of this to ensure that students who live in wealthy communities but are not performing satisfactorily get the help they need to be successful.

Not much has been said about other parts of the old formula including capital outlay, new facilities weighting, and ancillary weighting. Also brought up in passing were declining enrollment weighting and cost of living weighting but there was little discussion. It is hard to tell if these will be included in the Chairman’s bill or not.

There was support today for all day Kindergarten and pre-school school readiness programs as well as mentoring for teachers and professional development.

Two contentious issues surfaced yesterday when Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita) suggested an expansion of the tuition tax credit or voucher program and Scott Schwab (R-Olathe) suggested merit pay for teachers. Neither were discussed in depth.

Also unknown is how the bill might address accountability. Some believe accountability belongs with the State Board of Education and KSDE while others seem to want it addressed in the finance bill.

It is possible that this will be a bare-bones proposal. The Chairman told his committee members to feel free to prepare to offer any amendments they may have in mind.

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