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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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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Cuts Killed

Mar 16, 2017 by

The Senate considered three amendments to cut state services including K-12 and higher education tonight and defeated all three by large margins.

The first amendment with a 2% across the board cut (requiring the cut to K-12 to be from non-instructional budget lines) was offered by Senator Wagle (R-Wichita). After a lengthy debate, the amendment failed on a roll call vote of 7 – 33. The seven Senators voting in favor of cutting schools were Alley, Fitzgerald, Lynn, Olson, Pyle, Tyson, and Wagle.

The second amendment, offered by Senator Dennis Pyle (R-Hiawatha), was the same but with a cut of 1% across the board. This amendment failed on a roll call vote of 10 – 30. The ten senators voting in favor of cutting schools were Alley, Fitzgerald, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Tyson, and Wagle.

The third and final cut amendment, also offered by Senator Pyle, would have cut schools by 0.5%. This amendment failed on a vote of 6-34. The six Senators voting to cut education were Alley, Olson, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Tyson, and Wagle. You will note that Senator Lynn voted NO on this amendment. She explained her change by saying she had voted for larger cuts.

On an emergency final action vote after 9:00 pm, the rescission bill WITHOUT CUTS TO STATE SERVICES OR EDUCATION passed on a vote of 27-13.


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What About Those Cuts?

Mar 16, 2017 by

The Senate went into session and quickly recessed until “the sound of the gavel.” This would be an indication that something leadership wants to pass is in trouble. We would assume that the Senate President may understand that her cuts amendment will not pass and has recessed to work on persuading members to join her cause.

The Senate reconvened about 4:20 and started work on their list of bills. HB 2052 is down the list and they are engaged in debates and amendments on other bills at this time. We will watch this tonight and report to you tomorrow.

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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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