School Finance Actions & Brownback 2.0

Mar 15, 2019 by

Senate passes response to Gannon decision

Kansas Supreme Court Lobby

The Kansas Senate debated SB 142, a school finance bill that responds to the Gannon decision by increasing school funding by about $90 million and carries that increase forward through the life of the plans passed in 2017 and 2018. In later years, funding would continue to increase by the CPI inflation factor. This action adopts the recommendation of the Kansas State Board of Education and is the same recommendation that was in SB 44, Governor Laura Kelly’s school funding bill.

The bill was advanced to a final action and then adopted under an emergency provision on a final action vote of 32 to 8. KNEA supports this action. We believe that it is past time for the legislature to act and, while there are disagreements on whether this is what the Kansas Supreme Court justices intended in their ruling, it is appropriate at this time to pass the bill and send this response to the justices for their consideration. We hope the House will take up and pass this bill as quickly as possible.

Those Senators who voted NO on the school finance bill were Republicans Larry Alley (Winfield), Dan Kerschen (Garden Plain), Ty Masterson (Andover), Mary Pilcher-Cook (Shawnee), Dennis Pyle (Hiawatha), Caryn Tyson (Parker), and Susan Wagle (Wichita).

The Senate still has to take action on the rest of the K-12 budget which is now contained in SB 147 which is in the Ways and Means Committee. We urge the Senate to pass SB 147 as well.

House committee starts hearing their alternative school finance bill

Rep. Kristey Williams, House K-12 Budget Committee Chair

House K-12 Budget Chair Kristey Williams has brought forward her school finance bill – HB 2395 – and opened hearings on it. This bill is radically different from the Senate’s plan in SB 142.

While the Senate builds on the actions of the 2017 and 2018 actions, HB 2395 sharply reverses course. Instead of funding schools out for four years and providing increases in each year, the House bill cuts out the third and fourth years. The bill also repeals the provision in current law that increases funding to schools by a CPI inflation factor in the future.

While the Senate puts the increase on base aid, supporting all students and programs, HB 2395 puts less on base and puts some in a new mental health weighting and a small, restricted increase in at-risk funding. The bill also repeals the state’s commitment to reimbursing 92% of the excess costs of special education and cuts students off of bilingual weighting if they are not fluent in English in four years.

HB 2395 also enacts a voucher program and makes changes to the tuition tax credit (voucher) program to encourage more elementary children to leave the public schools under certain conditions.

There are numerous other policy changes in the bill to accountability requirements, to bidding capital projects, to developing budgets, and to collecting and reporting data. In fact, it reads almost like an ultra-conservative wish list. Many of these policy changes have been proposed many times in the past and but never adopted by the legislature.

KNEA strongly opposes this bill. The legislature has a simple job to do – fund the inflation factor and leave the formula – which has been deemed to be constitutional – alone. That’s what the Senate is working on. That’s what the House should do too.

During the first day of a scheduled two-day hearing Mark Desetti of KNEA, Tom Witt of Equality Kansas, Mark Tallman of KASB, and G.A Buie of United School Administrators all testified in opposition to the Williams committee bill. There were many other organizations and individual school districts submitting written testimony in opposition.

At this time we know of no proponents planning to appear and have heard that several groups may appear as neutral. This hearing will continue on Monday, March 18, and Committee Chair Kristey Williams has announced her intention to vote on the bill next week while making it clear she has no intention of hearing any other funding bills.

HB 2395 is the wrong answer to the Gannon decision and includes many bad policy ideas that will harm students and schools.


Contact members of the committee and ask them to reject HB 2395 and instead adopt the Senate’s plan in SB 142.


Members of the committee are Republicans Kristey Williams, Kyle Hoffman, Brenda Dietrich, Renee Erickson, Steve Huebert, Brenda Landwehr, Adam Smith, Sean Tarwater, and Adam Thomas. The Democrats are Valdenia Winn, Cindy Holscher, Nancy Lusk, and Jim Ward.


CLICK HERE to contact these representatives.

Senate adopts Brownback 2.0 tax plan

Former Governor Sam Brownback

The Senate voted on a motion to concur in the House changes to SB 22, the corporate tax giveaway bill that was expanded by the House.

As the bill originally passed the Senate it would provide about $190 million in tax cuts aimed at multi-national corporations and wealthy individuals. Passage of the bill represents a partial return to the failed tax policies of former Governor Sam Brownback. While in office, he was devoted to “trickle-down economics” under which the state grants massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations in the hope that the benefit will “trickle down” to working men and women in the form of more jobs and higher wages.

Instead, the Kansas state budget collapsed, services were cut, and desperate measures to balance the budget had to be enacted resulting in hikes in the sales tax, the devastation of the state highway plan, and the diversion of KPERS payments. Those service cuts have brought Kansas a compromised foster care system, prison riots, and crumbling infrastructure.

When SB 22 went across the rotunda, the House not only endorsed the cuts in the Senate version, they added a small reduction in the food sales tax (one cent) and a provision intended to force more online retailers to collect and remit sales tax. Despite the internet sales tax provision, the cost of the bill to the state budget went up even more.

While we believe a action on the food sales tax is needed in order to help low-income families, this bill is not the way to make that happen. Kansas needs to fund our schools, restore vital services decimated by the 2012 tax cuts, and balance the budget. Once we have fully recovered, it is appropriate to examine our entire tax structure to make it balanced across all tax sources and fair to both businesses and individuals.

In 2017, the Legislature reversed most of the Brownback disaster and today the state is in recovery. As we fight to address the disastrous fallout of the Brownback policy, the last thing Kansas needs to do is start taking up more large tax cuts aimed at the wealthy and corporations. Trickle down doesn’t work! It’s time to stop pretending that it ever will.

The Senate voted to accept (concur in) the House changes to the bill on a vote of 24 to 16. With this action the bill now goes to Governor Kelly who is expected to veto it. It would take 27 votes in the Senate and 84 in the House to override a veto.

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Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia: Penultimate Meeting?

Nov 29, 2018 by

The Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia met this week in an effort to begin (and hopefully finish) drafting their final report to the Legislature which is due on January 30, 2019. It didn’t take long to become clear that more time would be needed.

They did hear from each of their four subcommittees and begin to discuss the draft reports from each. Those subcommittees and their members are:

  • The Subcommittee on Evidence-Based Reading Practices, Rep. Brenda Dietrich, chair. Members are Jennifer Bettles, Jaime Callaghan, Christine Middleton, and Sonja Watkins.
  • The Subcommittee on Pre-Service and In-Service Professional Development, Dr. David Hurford, chair. Members are Alisia Matteoni, Jeanine Phillips, Jeri Powers, and Angie Schreiber.
  • The Subcommittee on Screening and Evaluation Process, Sen. Bruce Givens, chair. Members are Sarah Brinkley, Tally Fleming, and Jennifer Knight.
  • The Subcommittee on Current State and Federal Law, Laura Jurgensen, chair. Members are Mike Burgess and Lori McMillan. This subcommittee is made up of the ex-officio, non-voting members of the Task Force.

Each of the first three reports generated significant discussion which quickly challenged the agenda set by Task Force Chairman Jim Porter. Dietrich and Hurford both were also carrying edits to their reports as well as suggestions that certain recommendations would be abandoned or dramatically altered.

Among all the recommendations, perhaps those generating the most discussion and concern were the ones dealing with teacher training.

One recommendation under evidence-based reading practices calls for the State Board of Education to “provide training for all Kansas teachers to create dyslexia-friendly classrooms by incorporating strategies and approaches described in Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (IDA).” The limits to the ability of the SBOE to require training to all teachers including those in private and unaccredited schools ran up against the desire by many on the Task Force to see that every teacher in every kind of school, every teacher from pre-K through high school, creates a dyslexia-friendly classroom.

Similar discussions arose during the discussion of the report on pre-service and in-service professional development. Some wanted to see new master’s degree programs established in dyslexia, others sought endorsements. Some wanted specific numbers of annual hours of training for all teachers, others argued that such annual trainings would end up being something “people just sit through mindlessly like the blood-borne pathogens training.” A recommendation calling for the creation of new positions as “Classroom Dyslexia Educator,” “Dyslexia Practitioner,” and “Dyslexia Trainer/Supervisor” will likely be dropped.

Near the end of the meeting, Laura Jurgensen, an attorney and chair of the Subcommittee on Current State and Federal Law, urged each of the groups to be very precise in their language. They must consider the impact of phrases like “all teachers” and “all districts” and to remember that everything has a cost. Jurgensen pointed out that monies for education are directed to certain programs and tasks. Any recommendation that has a fiscal impact would require either shifting money from some current programs and efforts or finding a new funding stream.

Chairman Porter will ask that the Task Force, in some form, be maintained in order to have annual meetings for the purpose of evaluating progress. Staff pointed out that this Task Force will cease to exist on January 30 but that the Legislature could create another one or one could be appointed by the Governor or the State Board of Education.

It is noteworthy that no subcommittee had recommendations for the Legislature. All recommendations are directed toward the State Board of Education and some would naturally fall to the State Board of Regents.

The Task Force will meet again on January 10 at which time they will work to finalize the recommendations and to merge the four subcommittee reports into one document.

The subcommittee reports are not currently available online.

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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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Some Finance Talk but What about Due Process & Bullying?

Mar 12, 2018 by

What About Bullying and Due Process?

The Due Process Bill (HB 2757) and Bullying Policy Bill (HB 2758) have both been passed by the House and are not sitting in the Senate Education Committee. There has been no word yet as to whether or not Committee Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) will schedule hearings on the bills.

KNEA supports both bills and has asked the Chair to consider holding hearings.

We urge our members to contact Committee Chair Baumgardner and Vice Chair Larry Alley (R-Winfield) and politely ask them to hold a hearing on these bills. They are both important to our teachers and our students.

CLICK HERE to send a message to Senate Ed Committee Chairpersons encouraging them to hear both bills.

Beginning to Talk About School Finance…Kind Of

The House K-12 Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance both held bill hearings today that are beginning to sound like addressing school funding issues.

In the House Committee, Chairman Fred Patton (R-Topeka) held a hearing on HB 2636, a bill repealing some provisions of a law passed in SB 19, last year’s school finance bill. These provisions had the State Board of Education reviewing bond proposals if those bonds would be in excess of 14% of the district’s assessed valuation. The bill put a number of restrictions on the SBOE in those reviews – most specifically that the applications for additional bond authority do not exceed the total principal amount of general obligation bonds retired in the immediately preceding school year. And if total applications exceed that amount, the SBOE must prioritize applications.

HB 2636 would repeal all of these restrictions.

Proponents of the bill including KASB, USA, KSSA, a number of school districts, two large construction groups, and two investment banking groups. The only opponent was Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute.

No action was taken on the bill today.

Later, in the Senate committee, Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) held a hearing on SB 423 which would repeal two provisions of SB 19 that the Supreme Court found to be violations of equity.

The first of those provisions was the 10% at-risk floor under which a district that had fewer than 10% of its students eligible for free lunch would receive at-risk funding as if they did have 10%. There are only two school districts in the state that would have qualified.

The discussion indicated that some Senators still cannot seem to understand that poverty is used as a proxy for at-risk because there is a significant correlation between living in poverty and the potential for not finishing school. The money, while generated by poverty, does not follow the child. It is used to provide at-risk program support for any student who meets factors for at-risk behaviors regardless of the student’s wealth.

The second issue being repealed in the bill is the expansion of uses of capital outlay funds. SB 19 allows school districts to use capital outlay funds for utilities and property and casualty insurance. Prior to this year, this was not allowed. The Supreme Court determined that this too violated equity.

Passage of the bill would address two of the four equity issues the Court flagged.

No action was taken today.

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Reports and Some Concerns About “Lunch Shaming”

Feb 28, 2018 by

Slowly getting back to the session!

The turn-around break has everyone back in Topeka but things were relatively quiet today.

The House K-12 Budget Committee met to receive reports on CTE programs and out of state students. We’ve heard these reports earlier this year in other committees.

At issue is an attempt by some legislators to have CTE programs funded based on the actual costs of such programs. Currently, they are funded with a .5 weighting factor. After much study, the Department of Education continues to recommend the current funding protocol.

Out of state students attend some Kansas schools along the borders because their parents might work in Kansas or the Kansas school is significantly closer to their homes than the school in Nebraska or Oklahoma. Some legislators are quite frustrated that these children receive state funding to attend our schools and yet sometimes come from families that don’t pay Kansas taxes.

School Lunch Issues Discussed

The Senate Education Committee met to discuss school lunch programs. Some parents in Senator Baumgardner’s district contacted her about a practice they called “lunch shaming.” Under this program students who have expended their lunch accounts can be provided an alternative lunch until the account is paid. These lunches might be a cheese or peanut butter sandwich and a piece of fruit.

The parents report that a child can get a lunch, take it to check out only to have it taken away and thrown in the trash with the child sent back to the alternative lunch line. Baumgardner had issues with the throwing away of this food as well as the disposal of food left over at the end of the day.

Staff from the KSDE and from the Kansas City, Kansas and Spring Hill School Districts led the committee through explanations of how food service is covered by the federal and state governments and the many rules that must be complied with in order to receive meal reimbursements. The two food service directors also noted that their districts do not use an alternative lunch – every child needing a lunch is given the regular meal and the district works to secure reimbursement from parents and guardians. Kansas City noted that at the end of the year, they have to transfer more than $50,000 from other programs to cover the costs of providing the lunches.

We’re not sure where the committee might be going with this information. It’s too late to introduce legislation in the Education Committee.

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With Dozens of Education Pros in Attendance, State Board Sends Clear Message

Jan 26, 2018 by

Today, the Kansas State Board of Education conducted an unscheduled meeting to respond to yesterday’s letter from House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Senate President Susan Wagle accusing Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis of distributing certain transportation funds without authority to do so.  The letter also directed the board to suspend Mr. Dennis from employment while an investigation is conducted.  CLICK HERE to read the complete details behind this accusation.

Over the last 24+ hours, the education community throughout Kansas has expressed rock-solid support for Mr. Dennis.  That support overflowed on social media but also within the boardroom at today’s hearing where dozens of education professionals gathered as a show of solidarity.

Upon convening the meeting, it was announced that there would be two closed executive sessions.  The first was for the purpose of consulting with board attorneys and the second was to discuss how to handle the employment issue relative to Mr. Dennis and in response to the Ryckman / Wagle letter.  After the second closed-door session, a motion was put forth by board member Sally Cauble.  In her motion, Cauble stated that the board’s duty was to advise Commissioner of Education Randy Watson when requested regarding employment matters.  Further, Commissioner Watson had requested guidance from the board.  Cauble’s motion recommended to “fully support continued employment for Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis and his staff.”  The motion passed 9-1 with board member John Bacon being the sole no-vote (according to media reports).

While today’s proceedings captured the attention of nearly everyone within the education profession, our soon-to-be Governor, Jeff Colyer, was conspicuously silent and thus far has not weighed-in on the issue.  However, four former Kansas Governors, as well as several state leaders, pledged support for Mr. Dennis prior to today’s hearings.

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