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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School funding fix? Not important. Attack Teachers? By any means necessary.

Feb 15, 2018 by

Clay Aurand

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand seems content to ignore school funding and allow schools to close, choosing instead to spend his time ensuring teachers are expendable chattel.  

If you’re House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand, you are feeling quite exhausted today.  You’ve spent the last three days trying to slam the door shut on any bill brought before your committee to restore due process for K-12 teachers.

If you’re Aurand, you willfully ignore the ticking clock that will ultimately signal an end to Supreme Court patience and the closing of public schools leaving students to pay the price.

If you’re Aurand you’ve taken no concrete steps to deal with the funding crisis in the K-12 budget committee where you are a member. You haven’t introduced a bill to solve the problem, you haven’t spoken of solutions. Instead, you’ve spent all of your time and energy to ensure that teachers continue to be treated with insult and injury in the House Education Committee where you are the Chair.  You ignore the fact that the full House took a position last year in support of restoring due process when it passed a bill to do just that.  But in your committee, you are judge and jury and when the majority doesn’t bend to your personal will you make it clear that you will not allow any vote contrary to your ideology; you will not permit your committee to show Kansas teachers appreciation and respect. You will not tolerate a bill that protects teachers from arbitrary and capricious terminations even if the majority of members of the House vote for just such a bill.

And then you couch your actions in worry about bullying when you are the biggest bully of them all.

And to be clear on the bullying issue, that bill has already been passed out of the education committee on a unanimous vote. It has been read in on the floor of the House and is ready at any time to be voted on. There is absolutely no need to pass the bill out of committee again today.

If you’re  school board member and Representative Clay Aurand, it’s more important to focus your energy on ensuring teachers have no ability to advocate for students than to make sure schools will open for those students in the next school year.

How did we get here?  Remember that last year, when a bill to restore due process came before his committee Chairman Aurand would not allow the bill to be worked, regardless of the fact that a majority of his own members wanted to debate and vote on the bill.  When it became clear that the committee was ready and willing to overrule him, he simply ended the committee meeting and refused to allow the bill to be worked.  Restoring due process instead came before the full House as a floor amendment and passed last year.  But Clay Aurand is clearly not one to be satisfied with a result passed by a majority of House members when that result defies his own personal will.

This year, Aurand again proclaimed that he would not entertain a bill restoring due process to all Kansas teachers in his committee.  On Monday, Representative Valdenia Winn offered an amendment to a bullying policy bill which would restore due process.  Her motion to amend was seconded by Rep. Good (R-El Dorado) and after trying unsuccessfully for nearly an hour to find some procedural maneuver to kill the amendment, it was adopted on a vote of 9 to 7.   Several Republicans joined Democrats in a bi-partisan show of support for Kansas teachers.  Finally, Aurand could turn his focus to other committee matters and look towards a school funding solution; but instead, he spent the intervening hours conspiring to subvert the democratic majority vote in his own committee.

What did he try to do?  In committee yesterday, Aurand with help from Rep. Willie Dove (who also voted against restoring due process) hatched a scheme to gut another committee bill, insert the bullying policy bill leaving the due process amendment out entirely.  That’s right, the one that was passed by a majority of his own committee.  We can’t help but wonder why Aurand is expending so much energy to continue the insult against teachers while ignoring his responsibilities to work towards a school funding fix.  The answer is that for Aurand keeping schools open must take a back seat to ensuring that teachers can be fired for no reason at all.  And Aurand is trying to do this using the “gut and go” maneuver that is a standard practice of the most secretive legislature in the nation – a practice that has come to be seen as part and parcel of a Legislative desire to hide their actions from the public.

How did he fail (for now)? In their rush to trash the democratic process, Aurand and Dove tried to gut a bill that never had a hearing.  Rules of procedure do not allow a committee to take action on a bill that has never had a hearing.  Aurand and Dove either didn’t know that rule, didn’t care or most likely were too focused on succeeding with their sneak-attack to realize they were running afoul of the rules.  But, Clay Aurand is clearly not one to let small things like democracy or fully funded schools get in his way.  We fully expect that Aurand, Dove, and others are conspiring right now to manufacture a way to end the possibility that K-12 teachers may have due process restored.  What we know- based on their actions- is that they are almost assuredly NOT working on a school funding fix as they should be.

What can you do right now?  Use the contact information below to call AND email committee members and Chairman Aurand.  Let them know that you expect them to be working on a SCHOOL FUNDING FIX and to stop wasting valuable time and energy scheming ways to subvert democracy in an effort to stop the will of the majority who have voted to restore due process for K-12 teachers.  *The vote was a division vote (not recorded, but by raised hands) those who voted aye (yes) are noted by the asterisk.

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Colyer’s “State of the State,” The Annual Dyslexia Debate

Feb 8, 2018 by

Governor Colyer Gives His State of the State Address

He’s not staking out a solid position on school funding

Governor Jeff Colyer addressed a joint meeting of the House and Senate yesterday to outline his vision for Kansas. He addressed seven broad areas that he hopes the state can deal with:

  1. freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace (and particularly in the statehouse),
  2. transparency in government,
  3. abortion,
  4. job creation and in particular the aircraft industry,
  5. the crises in our foster care and mental health systems,
  6. healthcare, and
  7. public education.

On the first two issues, he lauded the efforts being made by the legislature so far in the 2018 legislative session and even suggested that the package of transparency measures introduced by Democrats are deserving of support.

“A group of legislators, led by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and House Minority Leader Jim Ward, have put forth several transparency proposals as well. Many of you are working hard on this issue, and your efforts deserve recognition and support.”

Colyer also announced four transparency measures that his administration will take including no longer charging Kansans for open records requests of less than 100 pages, ensuring the Administration relies on official email accounts to conduct state business, instituting performance metrics for Cabinet Agencies so Kansans can see how they perform, and launching a website to serve as a one-stop-shop for Cabinet Agencies to post open meetings, locations and materials.

The healthcare issue may be most challenging for Colyer – or may be an issue where he departs from his past positions – because he was a leader under former Governor Brownback in the establishment of the troubled KanCare system and refusal to expand Medicaid.

We, of course, were waiting for what he had to say about education and addressing the Gannon decision. We were hoping that he would lead on this issue. The Legislature, as you know, appears to be stalled or simply refusing to seriously talk about the issue while the Court deadline and the deadline set by the Attorney General are rapidly approaching.

Unfortunately, Colyer gave little direction to the Legislature about what he would sign except to provide a “framework” of four broad thoughts he wants to see in the solution. He called upon the legislature to keep our schools open, permanently end school finance litigation, phase-in increased funding, and demand accountability and improved outcomes. Missing in his message was any mention of the level of increased funding he believes is needed.

Here then is the full text of his remarks on education (to read the entire address, click here):

Finally, and perhaps the most pressing question in many of your minds, where will we go on education? And before we get to the elephant in the room, let me first thank you to the legislature for the remarkable investments you have made in early childhood education. Early childhood education works.

On my first day as governor, I had the opportunity to visit a public school in my hometown of Hays. I want you to know that your Governor is a supporter of public education. In Kansas, we invest in our schools, not because a court tells us to, but because we want to invest in our children and our future. We invest in teachers because they invest in our kids. We support things like the Kansans Can Redesign program because we are willing to do hard things for the youth of this state.

And now I want you to think about something. Governor Bob Docking, Governor Bob Bennett, Governor John Carlin, Governor Mike Hayden, Governor Joan Finney, Governor Bill Graves, Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Governor Mark Parkinson, Governor Sam Brownback, and Governor Jeff Colyer. The last ten Governors of Kansas. Five Democrats and Five Republicans. Fifty years and counting. That’s longer than the Cold War. All ten governors have had the specter of education lawsuits overshadowing education. This must end now.

To some in politics, leadership is about being a bully or being the loudest, shrillest voice in the room. To others, it’s about staking out a position and never compromising. To me, leadership is about setting a vision and bringing people together to achieve common goals. And, as a former legislator, I know that you don’t appreciate being told what to do by a governor or anyone else for that matter. And I think the reaction to a recent State of the State address is plenty evidence of that.

What I learned from President Reagan is that we develop principles that allow us to resolve our issues. As the sign on his desk and now mine says, “It can be done.” With that in mind, I will offer a framework that I hope you can see fit to support:

  1. We must keep our schools open.
  2. We need a definitive solution that ends the school finance lawsuits FOR GOOD.
  3. Increased investments in K-12 Education must come through a phased-in approach that doesn’t increase the tax burden on Kansas families and ensures schools can effectively allocate any new funds they receive.
  4. Lastly, and most importantly, we must insist on accountability and improved outcomes.

I will sign school finance legislation that meets these objectives. This will not be easy, but public servants and leaders are not called to make the easy choices. We’re here to do the right thing, and the right thing is never easy.

House Education Committee Hears Bill on Mandatory Dyslexia Screening

The House Education Committee held its annual dyslexia hearing, this time on HB 2602 which would mandate screening all children for dyslexia.

Proponents generally blasted the public schools as knowing little about dyslexia, of refusing to provide support to children with dyslexia, and of not talking to or listening to parents. Opponents including USA, KASB, and Special Education Directors countered with all of the efforts being made on behalf of children under both Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and IDEA.

KNEA testified as neutral on the bill, raising concerns about its vagueness.

The bill seems to suggest that all students shall be screened for dyslexia. There are, however, questions left unanswered.

  • Are all students to be screened annually or is this a screening upon enrollment only? Is there an intent for there to be additional screenings later?
  • If all students are to be screened as a matter of course, are schools prepared to conduct such screenings? Are there enough trained personnel in our schools to handle such screenings in a timely manner?
  • If a school district screening suggests the child has dyslexia and the district then suggests that the student be evaluated by “a licensed physician, psychologist or psychiatrist” does the school district then have any obligation to pay for a follow-up evaluation?

In oral testimony, KNEA also took issue with the proponents’ complaints that schools and teachers do not advocate for children. KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti cited his own experience as both a teacher of 13 years and a parent of four children, one of whom was diagnosed with dyslexia. “Teachers,” said Desetti, “are the best advocates for your children inside the school building. They routinely argue on behalf of struggling students and often butt heads with principals and special education directors in demanding support services for those students.”

Desetti, as well as Rep. Steven Crum (D-Haysville) and Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) noted that teachers in Kansas can now be non-renewed for battling with administration or the school board. Perhaps it is time to restore due process for Kansas teachers so that they can continue to advocate for the needs of their students.

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Courts & Committee Wrestle With Due Process

Jan 24, 2018 by

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas NEA supports full restoration of due process and fair dismissal rights for all Kansas teachers.

Action in the Supreme Court

Today, Kansas NEA General Counsel, David Schauner, argued before the Supreme Court that the action taken by the Kansas Legislature in 2014 effectively took away earned property (due process rights) and did so without any due process and in violation of the 14th Amendment.  Today’s case was brought before the court on behalf of two teachers, KNEA members, who are unwilling to allow their property rights – and ultimately those of thousands of their colleagues – to be taken from them by the government without challenge.  If these teacher members of KNEA prevail and the Supreme Court finds that the state did unlawfully strip them of their rights in 2014, it will not mean a full restoration of due process for all Kansas teachers.  However, with a bill to do just that sitting in the House Education Committee, KNEA and its members are demonstrating absolute resolve and determination to restore these rights for all Kansas teachers.

An attorney for Flinthills USD 492, where one of the teachers worked prior to having been terminated without cause in 2015, argued that the only recourse for citizens challenging an action of the Legislature was to cast a ballot in an election.  One of the Justices asked the school district’s attorney if he believed that a dead-of-night ‘lock-in’ by the legislature represented sufficient due process to pass a bill that had no hearing and was amended to include the elimination of due process for teachers.  He answered in the affirmative.

We can’t help but wonder how the complainant school districts in the ongoing Gannon school funding case reacted to hearing an attorney representing a school district argue that the only remedy for what may be a defective legislative process is a vote on election day.  Apparently, this school district believes that once voted into power, the Kansas Legislature has unlimited authority to pass any law, anytime, and without any opportunity for public input – including the taking of property.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed by anyone with an eye on the current Kansas Legislature that the chambers have a long history of defective and deceptive practices.   An investigation by the Kansas City Star found that the Kansas Legislature has made a practice of working in secret, refusing to identify themselves as bill sponsors and routinely practicing a procedure known as “gut and go” in which bills are stripped of their original contents and filled with completely unrelated policy in order to advance ideas that might find opposition in a public hearing.

Just this week, bills have been introduced to clean up these processes and afford citizens true transparency in order to see clearly what their elected officials are doing in Topeka.  We believe that Senate Substitute for House Bill 2506 passed in 2014 is the living legacy of a legislative defect.  It was the bill that log-rolled the elimination of teacher due process and a number of other controversial issues into it, while most Kansans were sound asleep.

As for today’s case, we’ll have to wait and see if the Supreme Court agrees with KNEA and with many in the Legislature today that defective Legislative processes shouldn’t cost citizens their 14th Amendment property rights.

Action in the House Education Committee

What might have started as a promising hearing in the House Education Committee ended as it did last year with the Chairman, Rep. Aurand (R- Belleville) ignoring the will of the committee.  A bill before the committee (HB 2483) seeks to restore due process only for those teachers who earned it prior to legislative action to eliminate due process in 2014 AND who have also maintained uninterrupted employment in the same district.  No other teachers would have due process rights nor could they earn them.  Effectively, this bill creates a two-class system and as those who would have their rights restored leave the profession, due process would be phased out entirely.

The only proponent of this bill was the committee Chairman Rep. Clay Aurand.  Rep. Aurand first sought to use the tiered KPERS system as an analog for what this bill would accomplish.  KNEA’s lobbyist Mark Desetti pointed out in his comments that the KPERS tiered system came about through many discussions, open hearings and in response to a need to stabilize the system.  However, due process rights were stripped from teachers without any hearing (or even a bill introduction) and in the dark of night in April of 2014 and only after Representatives were locked into the House Chamber to secure a final vote.

Rep. Aurand continued to suggest that compromise is needed in order to craft a new fair dismissal policy for teachers.  What Aurand failed to acknowledge is that a compromise would require one group (KNEA) to forfeit one of its core values.  KASB has already stated a position indicating support for having school boards be the final arbiter in termination disputes. In effect, they have no need to compromise because their position is already assured.  It should be noted that Rep. Aurand is also a sitting school board member in Kansas.

Comments from committee members indicate that a majority support fair dismissal procedures for all Kansas teachers.  As the hearing drew to a close, Rep. Stogsdill (D- Prairie Village) made a motion to bring last year’s bill (HB 2179) which restores due process for all teachers, up for action in the committee.  However, Chairman Aurand ruled the motion out of order.  He then stated that he has no intention of working either bill without substantive compromise.  Rep. Ousley (D- Merriam) then pointed out that Rep. Aurand acknowledged earlier during the hearing that the full House of Representatives passed the bill restoring full due process for all teachers last year, establishing a House position.  Rep. Ousley suggested that Chairman Aurand was directing the House to compromise their own position.  It would appear that Chairman Aurand believes that the will of a committee Chair should supersede the will of the majority of the Kansas House of Representatives.

No further action has been indicated at this time.  We will continue to advocate for the full restoration of due process rights as they existed prior to 2014.  We will keep you informed as the session moves forward.

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School Finance and KPERS Under Discussion in the Statehouse

Dec 5, 2017 by

Rep. Blaine Finch, right, speaks during a meeting of a House-Senate committee starting work on the Legislature’s response to a court order on school funding. At left is Rep. Ed Trimmer.
CELIA LLOPIS-JEPSEN / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

Starting to Talk About a School Finance Fix

The first meeting of the Special Committee on a Comprehensive Response to the School Finance Decision (how’s that for a committee name!) met for the first time yesterday. They will meet again for two days on December 18 and 19 in advance of the 2018 legislative session.

Committee members are Rep. Blaine Finch, Chairman (R-Ottawa), Sen. Molly Baumgardner, Vice-Chair (R-Louisburg), Senators Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka), Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick), and Rick Wilborn (R-McPherson) and Representatives Larry Campbell (R-Olathe), Steven Johnson (R-Assaria), Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield), Troy Waymaster (R-Bunker Hill), and Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City). As Chairman, Finch runs a tight ship, sticking to the agenda and the timelines specified in the agenda.

Yesterday’s meeting was intended to bring everyone up to speed on the status of school finance with the passage of SB 19 (the Kansas School Equity and Enhancement Act or KSEEA) passed at the end of the 2017 session and the subsequent Supreme Court decision of October 2, 2017, in the Gannon school finance lawsuit. (Click here to see the powerpoint presentation used in the meeting.)

SB 19 created a new school finance formula that is very similar to the formula in effect prior to its repeal in favor of the Brownback block grants (the CLASS Act). It increased school funding by about $292 million. KSEEA also made several modifications to the equity provisions in the school finance law.

The Supreme Court on October 2, 2017, ruled that the KSEEA was unconstitutional both in terms of adequacy and equity. The Court noted that structurally, the bill was constitutional on adequacy but in implementation was unconstitutional. It was noted that the $292 million in new funding was an “outlier” when compared to other analyses – the Plaintiffs averaged the two cost studies done for the legislature and came up with a figure of $1.7 billion, the State Board of Education budget request was for $893 million, and the earlier 3-judge panel calculated $819 million. We should note that the original version of SB 19 as drafted by Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) and Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) would have provided $750 million in new funding over three years.

The Court also found that four changes in the bill made funding less equitable. Specifically, they called out

  • a provision expanding the use of capital outlay funds,
  • a provision reinstating the protest petition to reach the maximum LOB,
  • a provision using the prior year’s LOB to determine equalization aid in the current year, and
  • a provision setting a 10% floor for the distribution of at-risk funds.

The Committee spent the morning reviewing all of this Court and legislative history.

In the afternoon, Finch led the committee in a discussion of what remedies might be options available to the legislature and what information the committee members would need to consider those options. Finch made it clear that nothing was off the table. Committee members should feel free to bring any ideas forward and suggesting a possible option would in no way imply an automatic endorsement of that option.

The discussion was guided by a memo from Fiscal Analyst John Hess of the Legislative Research Department (click here to read the memo). It was less about generating alternative options that it was seeking information to guide the committee. Information sought included:

  • how much of increased enrollment in our schools is due to virtual schools and students from out of state,
  • how much would need to be raised in taxes to meet the higher spending goals,
  • if new school funding was not found through revenue increases, what would across the board cuts to other programs look like, and
  • what are the implications/challenges of requiring all LOB increases to have been and continue to be subject to a protest petition?

The new data will be used in guiding discussions at the next meeting.

Challenges to KPERS Discussed in Committee

The Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments and Benefits met on Monday, November 27. On the surface, the committee’s agenda was at best perfunctory and at worse a forecast of another four or five hours listening to and digesting reports regarding Bond Proceeds and Valuation charts while sitting on wooden chairs.

But wait, there is more.

In the background of most any meeting at the Statehouse lurks the issue of school funding. Where will the legislature find the revenue to appropriately fund schools? We know some legislators have taken a stand against raising taxes to increase funding for schools and some are against complying with the Supreme Court ruling at all.  These factors leave the path to solving the school finance problem somewhat murky at best.

So, where does the legislature find additional revenue without raising taxes or cutting other vital programs?

The legislature has already used up the Bank of KDOT (the highway fund). What money could possibly be available to help solve the school finance issue? How about the bank of KPERS?

The legislature cannot legally take money from KPERS that has been deposited in the system, so that money is safe. BUT, they can reduce the funding stream to KPERS to offset money needed to fund schools appropriately. Much like robbing the armored car filled with deposits on the way to the bank, the legislature could take the money BEFORE it is deposited into the system. Appropriations to KPERS can be reduced as they have been in the past. The legislature has a history of reducing KPERS payments to fund government when revenues do not meet expectations. KPERS payments were diminished to help fund government responsibilities during the failed Brownback tax cuts.

Here is what we know from the reports submitted at the committee meeting:

  • Current KPERS retirees and actives will receive their benefits. Current earnings on KPERS accounts are equal to or greater than current payments to KPERS retirees.
  • The State/School statutory employer contribution has been below the actuarially required funding for 24 years – meaning the legislature has underfunded KPERS for 24 years.
  • The payment of the FY 2016 employer (the state) contribution reduction ($97.4 million plus promised interest) that was scheduled to be paid on June 30, 2018, was eliminated.
  • FY 2017 employer (the state) contributions were reduced by $64 million but will be repaid over 20 years starting in FY 2018. The first payment has already been made.
  • FY 2019 employer (the state) contributions are reduced by $194 million but will be repaid over 20 years starting in FY 2020.
  • The state needs to pay $623 million each year to stay even regarding their commitment to funding KPERS and not add to the underfunding of the KPERS system.

The KPERS system is currently in better shape than it has been in past years due to excellent investments and returns by the KPERS staff, the influx of bond money, and the increased contribution rates by the state and current active members.

The question posed by one of the committee members highlights the situation. “What would the legislature’s payment to KPERS be if we had paid our bill?”  Remember, it currently requires $623 million just to stay even and not put KPERS further in debt. The answer is, if the legislature had paid what was owed to KPERS, they would be making a $100 million payment each year instead of something north of $623 million.

We are already currently paying bills due for previous year’s lack of payment to KPERS. A generation is considered to be 20 years. The legislature has underfunded KPERS for the last 24 years. We are the next generation paying the bills for the last generation. We have the clear feeling that this legislature is desperate for money due to the school funding decision. If they kick the KPERS debt can further down the road, it will be our grandchildren and great-grandchildren paying the bill for the current/near future actions of the legislature. Add to that scenario the Brownback tax cuts and we can see upfront and personally the cost of those “cuts”.

Clearly, it is not appropriate for the legislature to reduce their commitment and contributions at a time when the KPERS system is just now returning to fiscal health.

 

 

 

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Senate School Finance Bill Comes Together; Taxes Not So Much

May 18, 2017 by

Senate President Susan Wagle with Governor Brownback

The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance has been holding committee meetings lately to talk about what the House has done so far on an education finance bill. The House bill, Sub for HB 2410, is sitting in limbo, not yet scheduled for debate on the House floor so, in reality, the final House bill is not done. When it does finally reach the floor it will be subject to amendments and most people feel that it very likely to be amended.

So we found it interesting that the Senate Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Denning (R-Shawnee), scheduled hearings on Sub for HB 2410 starting today. This left many of us in a bit of confusion. Denning has been announcing his ideas on school finance – or at least on adjustments to HB 2410 – that will make up a Senate position.

While we (KNEA) wrote our testimony purely on HB 2410 as it came out of the House Committee, we did get a quick look at Denning’s bill (SB 251) and listened to the revisor’s explanation which allowed us to speak to the differences between it and HB 2410.

Senate Bill 251 started with the House bill and made a few adjustments.

  • They kept the at-risk weighting at the lower weight (.454) instead of the .481 in the House bill (KNEA supports the House position),
  • keep the first year base foundation aid at $4006 but then apply a formula to determine the second year based roughly on the successful schools model used in a prior study and set the second year base at $4080 (KNEA believes the original House version prior to the Monday changes is the best of the options proposed),
  • beginning in the third year they propose a formula to raise base funding through a rolling 3-year average of the CPI-U rather than the actual CPI-U as in the House version (KNEA supports an inflation measure going forward and will have to study this proposal more closely),
  • eliminate the mandate for ABA therapy for children with autism (KNEA supports the Senate position), and
  • eliminate the local enhancement fund for schools with the least at-risk students (KNEA supports the Senate position).

Both bills provide for all-day kindergarten, mentor teacher program funding, and professional development funding (KNEA supports all three).

What might be Denning’s most troubling idea is to fund schools through a surcharge on utilities. He proposes putting a $2.25/month charge on all three residential utility bills (gas, electric, and water) and a $10/month charge on those bills for businesses. Every Kansan would pay an additional $6.75/month for utilities to fund a school finance increase. There are other parts to this as well such as a $120 annual charge on farmers who irrigate.

This proposal has already come under widespread disapproval as regressive and unfair. It’s hard to see much support for the idea in either chamber.

Testifying on the bill today were Olathe Schools, City of Olathe, Pratt Schools, Bonner Springs Schools, KASB, Insight Virtual Schools, The Alliance for Childhood Education, Kansas Policy Institute, and of course KNEA.

The hearing will continue tomorrow morning. All testimony is expected to be finished tomorrow and Chairman Denning suggested he might begin working the bill tomorrow. He has also suggested that they may work on Saturday.

No Agreement on Taxes

The Tax Conference Committee met this evening we had hoped that they would produce an agreement on the House proposal to simply repeal the 2012 Brownback tax disaster.

At issue was which chamber would run the proposal first. When the Senate conferees said they would not entertain the idea of both chambers running it simultaneously, the conference committee ended without agreement.

And so we go back to waiting. We’ll see what shakes out tomorrow.

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