Gannon is resolved?

Jun 28, 2019 by

What to expect now that the Supreme Court has approved the Legislature’s response in Gannon

Our expectation – and we are confident it is yours as well – is that the time has now come for significant investments in Kansas teachers.

In 2008, with the great recession, the legislature reversed course on the promises made in the Montoy decision. That action followed by the hostile anti-government, anti-public education agenda of the Brownback administration resulted in what has come to be called “the lost decade.” It was a decade built on under-funding and funding reductions to our public schools. It resulted in wage stagnation and wage losses for Kansas teachers.

As we enter this next school year, we find Kansas teachers salaries have dropped to 41st in the nation and now lag behind those of all our surrounding states including Oklahoma who just shot past us from the 49th place standing. Teachers in Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, and Oklahoma all make more than Kansas teachers on average.

What we have now with the passage of Senate Bill 16 and the Court ruling is the opportunity to provide significant salary increases to every teacher in Kansas; to begin to make up for the lost decade.

We at KNEA have been saying this for some time but now we finally have others joining us in calling for putting funding increases into the retention of our teaching force. A video distributed by KASB of a panel representing United School Administrators, the State Board of Education, the Kansas Association of School Boards, and the State Department of Education shows a united call for dramatically increasing teacher salaries.

Others have joined in this call. Newspaper editorial boards from across the state are saying now is the time to reward our teachers. There have been op-eds saying the same thing. There is even a column from a conservative teacher quality think tank that says recent teacher activism from states like West Virginia and Oklahoma was justified and that the only way to ensure the excellence in our public education system is to invest in teachers.

We call upon every school board in this state to take this opportunity seriously. It’s time to maximize investments in our teachers. Negotiations are on-going and it’s time to stop stonewalling and start working with the teachers associations to make this happen.

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Senate: Fund Schools; House: Micromanage Schools

Mar 27, 2019 by

The first week of April is the time reserved to reconcile the differences between House and Senate versions of bills and to pass conference committee reports with the final compromise bills.

Of greatest interest to educators, naturally, is what the Legislature plans to pass as a response to the Gannon school finance decision. With the actions of both chambers over the last few days, it appears they will go into a conference committee with two bills. Senate Bill 142 – passed by the Senate and not even considered by the House – provides an additional $90 million per year to the school finance plan passed over the 2017 and 2018 sessions. House Substitute for Senate Bill 16 – passed by the House and non-concurred in by the Senate – contains the conservative wish list of legislative micro-management policies crafted primarily by Representatives Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita). Somehow the final school finance plan must be crafted out of these two bills.

Just to be clear, here is what the the two bills do:

Senate Bill 142 provides $90 million new dollars to public education and continues that $90 million over four years to reach the level that would have been in place if the Montoy promises had been kept and then adjusted for inflation. All the funding is added to BASE aid to benefit all students. After the phase-in, SB 142 continues the annual CPI adjustments into the future.

House Sub for SB 16 provides no new money to schools. Instead, it puts a number of new accountability regulations in place requiring new reports of student performance and school finances of schools and the Kansas State Department of Education. Also mandated are a study of graduation requirements with the intention of allowing financial literacy and computer science courses to count as math and science credits, the creation of a new IT Commission to study technology in the schools, and a Legislative Post Audit study of unencumbered balances in school districts. This bill puts limits on the number of years a bilingual student can receive funding and removes the requirement that the Legislature reimburse schools for 92% of the excess costs of special education.

KNEA supports Senate Bill 142.

KNEA – and the entire public education community – opposes House Sub for SB 16. Passage of this bill was only achieved by enacting a call of the House and using the time to badger Republican representatives until a 63rd vote could be secured. It was passed on a vote of 63 to 61 – the bare minimum for passage. Click here to see how your Representative voted.

With your Legislators back home for four days, there will be opportunities to communicate with them about the importance of meeting the Gannon school finance decision and getting our school funding system settled and constitutional.

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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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