Bullying for Vouchers; Re-amortizing KPERS

Feb 14, 2019 by

When is a bullying bill not a bullying bill? When it’s a voucher bill instead!

Today in the K-12 Budget Committee, Chairperson Kristey Williams held a hearing on a bill which purports to help victims of bullying, but which really advances a voucher scheme. According to many advocates who track these bills, this bill was born from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a conservative think-tank and driver of conservative policy and was recently passed and put into law in the “sunshine state” of Florida. Like the Floridian version of the bill, this bill is entitled the “Hope Scholarship Act” and its proponents – including legislative sponsors Renee Erickson (R-Wichita) and Susan Humphries (R-Wichita) – believe that it would give families a choice to transfer bullied students to both public and private schools. Proponents included the bills co-sponsors as well as lobbyists from American’s for Prosperity, the Kansas Policy Institute (both Koch-aligned “think tanks” and the Kansas Catholic Conference.

In its current form the bill, HB 2150, would allow students to receive up to 96% of base aid for the purposes of leaving their current district and moving to a new school. In order to receive this “voucher” students only need to report that they believe bullying has occurred; they don’t actually have to have been the target of a bully. The district where the report was received would have 15 days to offer those students the voucher option. There would be no requirement that the alleged bullying actually took place – the report is sufficient to trigger the voucher.

The opponents of this bill pointed out its many flaws. Chief among them is the fact that the bill does nothing to address the root cause of bullying, leaves the bully in place to victimize others without any intervention services, all while sending the message to the bullied student that the only way to solve their bullying is to ship them out. Ironically, the bill does pay for the victim’s bus fare off campus as there is a provision to include transportation costs for the student to get to the new school.

As the opponents outlined a litany of concerns, other committee members asked the bill co-sponsors if it was possible that a private school could – in fact – tell a bullied child, “we don’t want you,” and deny admission even with a voucher. After responding with a conflated argument about schools’ rights to tell students how they may or may not dress, it was agreed that private schools could – for example – tell bullied LGBTQ kids that they are unwanted.

A very impassioned plea came from Liz Meidl representing the Mainstream Coalition who carries significant expertise in SPED research and the effective application of SPED programs in public schools. She shared a story of a student who was essentially told by a private Catholic school in Wichita that she was no longer welcome as a student at the school. Rep. Brenda Landwher questioned Ms. Meidl first suggesting and then openly accusing her of making an “insulting accusation” about the Wichita Catholic Diocese. Landwher went on to say that she would be shocked if a Catholic school had unfairly treated any children, let alone the child in this particular anecdote.

We would ask our readers to educate yourselves on all bills that impact education policy, because many – like this one – sound good in title, but really carry a different purpose entirely. Hiding a voucher bill within a bill which purports to address issues of bullying where the resolution of the issue is to send the victim away simply empowers the bully and stigmatizes the target.

We support providing adequate and equitable resources for our schools, educators and parents of both the victims of bullying and the bullies themselves rather than shifting more dollars to private schools via another voucher scheme. And if you read about a “school choice” program, remember that this is exactly what it is – the school gets to choose the students they will take, not the parents.

There will be another, more rational bill to address school bullying issues up for a hearing next week.

KNEA was joined in opposing this bill by KASB, United School Administrators, Schools for Quality Education, the PTA, Game on For Kansas Schools, the Mainstream Coalition, Equality Kansas, the Kansas Council for Exceptional Children, Olathe Public Schools, and Basehor-Linwood Public Schools.

KPERS Re-amortization bill killed on the House floor

House Bill 2197, Governor Kelly’s proposal to re-amortize KPERS in order to bring down the required payments by spreading them out over additional years (remember – it’s like refinancing your home loan) was debated on the House floor this morning and defeated on a vote of 36 to 87. All Republicans were joined by Democrats Tom Burroughs (Kansas City), Henry Helgerson (Wichita), Tim Hodge (Newton), and Jeff Pittman (Leavenworth). Elizabeth Bishop (D-Wichita) and Greg Lewis (R-St. John) were absent.

During debate, three amendments were offered, none of which were adopted.

And amendment by Rep. Pittman to add a three-tiered cost of living adjustment for current retirees failed on a vote of 49 to 73, getting 10 Republican and 39 Democratic votes. Another two-tiered cost of living amendment was offered by Rep. Dave Benson (D-Overland Park) but failed on a vote of 48 to 75. A third amendment offered by Rep. Cindy Neighbor (D-Shawnee) would have immediately put $115 million into KPERS as in the recently passed Senate bill but was ruled non-germane on a challenge by Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita).

Republicans voting to support both cost of living amendments were: Ken Corbet (Topeka), Tom Cox (Shawnee), Diana Dierks (Salina), Brenda Dietrich (Topeka), Ronald Ellis (Meriden), Ron Howard (Wichita), Jim Karleskint (Tonganoxie), Fred Patton (Topeka), and Tom Phillips (Manhattan). Democrat Henry Helgerson (Wichita) voted no on both. All other Democrats voted yes (Elizabeth Bishop was absent). Republican Bradley Ralph (Dodge City) voted yes on the first COLA amendment and no on the second. Republican Greg Lewis (St. John) was absent.

Actions by both the House and Senate have put Kansas in a difficult place when it comes to financing the priorities of the state – education funding, Medicaid expansion, repairing the broken foster care and prison systems, and restoring the highway fund. Senate actions on Senate bills 22 and 9 would take about $307 million out of the treasury before the budget has even been considered. Now the House has refused the re-amortization proposal which would have saved money in the treasury.

These issues still have a long way to go before they are finally resolved – luckily we are a bicameral Legislature and it takes action by both chambers to make something happen. Keep watching and be ready to take action when we need you to!

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House Pensions Committee passes out KPERS reamortization bill

Feb 13, 2019 by

The House Financial Institutions and Pensions Committee has decided to send Governor Kelly’s KPERS re-amortization bill to the full chamber for debate. We provided you with an examination of the issue here in Under the Dome earlier; you can re-read that explanation by clicking here.

The motion and second were made by two substitute committee members sent in for the day by Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe), an action that makes one wonder what political tricks are at work here. Cynics in the Statehouse speculate that this is just an attempt to put a bill on the floor that the Governor wants to see passed and then kill it.

So far the Republican leadership in the Legislature seems to be focusing on how best to stop anything the Democratic Governor would like to do. Governor Kelly’s agenda is to fully fund public schools, expand Medicaid to provide health insurance to 150,000 uninsured Kansans, and repair our damaged foster care system. Additionally, the state needs to deal with crisis in our public safety system (the Department of Corrections) and find ways to stop robbing the state highway program as roads continue to crumble.

Despite these needs, Senate Republicans have chosen to give away $192 million in corporate tax breaks and breaks for the wealthiest Kansans, and immediately send $115 million to KPERS. Many have asked why many of these same officials have only recently shown an interest in shoring up KPERS after a decade of supporting Brownback’s policies of raiding KPERS to sustain his failed experiment (CLICK HERE). Taking $307 million out of the treasury will make it all but impossible for the Governor to address the desperate needs of Kansas schools, foster care, health care, corrections, and highways. It appears that Senate leadership is now leveraging the KPERS issues they were complicit in creating in order to simply wreck the budget priorities of their political rival who is now our Governor.

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What’s coming up?

Feb 8, 2019 by

The Reamortization of KPERS remains a hot topic

Many people are wondering and worrying about a proposal to reamortize KPERS and rightfully so. We know how important a secure retirement is to school employees and to all Kansans. KPERS benefits are spent by retirees over and over in our communities supporting local businesses and local economies. So we will do everything to protect your retirement. We are following KPERS issues in the Statehouse and working with our many partners – other labor organizations, state and municipal employees, and current KPERS retirees to make sure the right decisions are made.

But the first question is, “Why are we here?” Well, it’s a long story starting with the continued failure of many legislatures to meet their actuarial obligations to the system. The unfunded liability grew to a point that lawmakers really began to sit up and pay attention a few years prior to the election of Sam Brownback as governor. Legislators increased employer payments, issued bonds and worked with employee groups to restructure retirement plans without ending the defined benefit system.

Then along came Brownback in 2010 and the passage of his reckless tax overhaul in 2012. He and his allies passed tax cuts that put the state on the brink of collapse and drained the state treasury. There was no money for schools, highways, social services, and public safety. And funding for KPERS also suffered. In recent years, the legislature just stopped making payments, offering promises to pay it back but then not doing that.

Today, thanks to actions taken in 2017 to reverse the Brownback tax disaster, our state has been in recovery. Revenues are improving and the fiscal condition of the state is looking better. But Kansas is not yet out of the woods. We need time to finish the work started in 2017. Today we have a new governor and Laura Kelly’s priorities are much different from those of Brownback. She has pledged to fund our schools, repair our damaged foster care system, and secure health care for 150,000 uninsured Kansans through Medicaid expansion.

Governor Kelly proposed a budget that does those things without raising taxes because she believes big tax changes while in this recovery are not wise. In her budget, she proposed reamortization of KPERS in order to bring down the annual cost (much like refinancing your home loan) so that priorities can be met and the state can have an ending balance as a safety net. You can see Governor Kelly’s explanation of this by clicking here.

Everything that is happening now is mixed up with the budget and taxes. And right now there are forces in the Kansas Senate who appear to want to do everything they can to see that Governor Kelly’s priorities are torpedoed. That’s why this week, the Senate passed legislation that takes more than $300 million out of the state treasury before any other decisions are made. Senate Bill 9, sponsored by 18 conservative Republicans, would immediately put $115 million into KPERS. Senate Bill 22, Senate President Susan Wagle’s tax cut bill, will cost the treasury $191 million in mostly cuts for multi-national corporations.

Taking $306 million out of the treasury before deciding what is necessary for a responsible budget is irresponsible legislating! Let’s be clear, we would love to see KPERS repaid the money that was withheld to pay for Brownback’s failed tax policy. There was a plan in place to make those payments. If the state had plenty of money and could repay KPERS in full while also funding our schools AND our highways, AND our public safety programs, AND the foster care system, then making the full payment immediately would be the right thing to do. As the situation is now, passage of SB 9 only makes fixing the Brownback damage more difficult. And that is compounded if SB 22 should pass.

We would be remiss if we did not point out that there is some serious hypocrisy here. The same legislators who have sought to do away with our defined benefit pension, who made the decisions year after year to not meet the actuarial rate in employer payments, and who voted to strip the KPERS payments out of the budget entirely, now seem to have had an epiphany. Frankly, if one really cared about school and state employees, it would be reflected in one’s votes every day of every year and not just when it might help discredit a governor you don’t support.

We at KNEA believe in and support KPERS. We have been unwavering in our advocacy for our teachers, our education support personnel, our school administrators, and our friends working in state and municipal jobs. We will continue to fight this fight and work with our friends to protect the system.

We want to assure you, as KPERS has, that no benefits are in danger if reamortization passes. Yes, it will take longer to pay off the unfunded actuarial liability but you can rest assured that your benefits are safe.

Time for school finance to move?

Governor Kelly’s school finance plan, Senate Bill 44, is in the middle of a hearing in the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance chaired by Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg. The hearing began on Wednesday with many superintendents, Schools for Fair Funding, and the Mainstream Coalition all testifying in favor of the bill.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday of next week with KNEA, KASB, the PTA, and Game On For Kansas Schools – all testifying in favor. The only opponent, also testifying on Tuesday, will be the Kansas Policy Institute.

The most notable testimony came from Schools for Fair Funding (SFFF), representing the Gannon lawsuit districts.

SFFF told the committee that should the legislature pass SB 44 without amendment and with no changes to the school finance formula, they would stipulate to the Kansas Supreme Court that the solution met the funding needs of schools providing the Court retained jurisdiction in order to ensure that future legislatures do not renege on the promises made in this legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, pressed SFFF repeatedly on this issue to make it clear that the bill would be acceptable despite the fact that the inflation factor used in the bill – and recommended by the Kansas State Board of Education – is somewhat lower than the actual Consumer Price Index, or CPI.

Here is what is most important to understand: If SB 44 were to pass the legislature WITHOUT AMENDMENT, if no other changes were made to the school finance formula, and if the Court retains jurisdiction (to make sure promises are not broken in the out years), then the plaintiffs and the state would agree to end the litigation.

In other words, the legislature has the opportunity right now to “end the cycle of litigation.”

Time is of the essence here. The Court hearing is scheduled for this April 15. Both sides must be ready for that day. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, asked Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to weigh in on when he needed the legislature to act in order to be ready.

Schmidt said, “Assuming we can timely obtain from the legislature all necessary documents and explanations regarding legislative history, it would seem to me we could properly prepare the State’s briefing if the new enactment becomes law by March 15, 2019.”

Schmidt went on to say, “On the other hand, if the legislature were to decided to make other material changes in school finance law, or if the legislature and governor were to disagree about the appropriate enactment this year, then I would respectfully request enactment into law by March 1, 2019.”

You can read AG Schmidt’s letter to Senator Hensley by clicking here.

What can you do? This is the time to start contacting your state senators and urging them to support SB 44 without amendment and to move this process forward. Start with email messages to the members of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance – Molly Baumgardner, Jim Denning, Anthony Hensley, Bud Estes, Dan Goddard, Dan Kerschen, Carolyn McGinn, Pat Pettey, and Eric Rucker. You can email them using the format firstname.lastname@senate.ks.gov. After you email those committee members, email your local senator using the same email format.

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On a mission to wreck the Governor’s budget? Pass Brownback 2.0.

Feb 5, 2019 by

Brownback-style tax bill up this week in Senate

Susan Wagle & Sam Brownback

Senate Bill 22, the tax bill created and rammed through committee by Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), will be debated on the Senate floor this week.

If passed, this bill will take Kansas back to the Brownback tax disaster of 2012 – 2017 when revenues to the state treasury plummeted, schools and all other state services were slashed, the state’s credit rating was repeatedly downgraded, and we were on brink of fiscal collapse. Luckily voters sent a new Legislature to Topeka in 2017 and they worked quickly to reverse the so-called “tax experiment.” Since then revenues have been rebounding and Kansas is now at the point where we can begin to rebuild our state.

Wagle’s bill is estimated to reduce revenue by $191.6 million immediately with almost all of the benefits going to corporations. Another part of the bill would allow wealthier individuals to continue itemizing deductions and would provide those individuals with a small tax reduction. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that only about 11% of individual taxpayers earning less than $111,000 would benefit from being able to itemize on their Kansas tax return. Even the section of Senate Bill 22 intended to benefit individual taxpayers is highly skewed to benefit the wealthiest Kansans!

In a recently written op-ed authored by Wagle, she asserts that SB 22 “will return the unexpected windfall from federal tax reform back to Kansas families.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The Kansas Department of Revenue estimates that of the $191.6 million in “returned” taxes, $137.2 million would go to corporations while only $54.4 million would to to individual taxpayers with the vast majority of that money going to the wealthiest individuals. SB 22 is not about helping Kansas families – it is about benefiting large corporations. It’s just the newest version of the Brownback tax experiment.

Senate advances bill to send $115 million to KPERS

On Monday, the Senate advanced SB 9 to final action on a voice vote. The bill was adopted on final action on Tuesday and now goes to the House for consideration.

Senate Bill 9 would repay $115 million to KPERS this year – money that was withheld by the Legislature in an attempt to balance the budget in a prior session.

While we are happy to see legislators who have willingly voted to decrease and withhold KPERS contributions over the years suddenly come to the conclusion that those actions were wrong and need to be rectified, it is hard to see this action as anything more than an attempt to remove as much money as possible from the state treasury in order to prevent Governor Laura Kelly from achieving her budget prioriteis.

Kelly’s budget includes money to satisfy the Supreme Court order on school finance, to expand Medicaid in order to provide health care to 150,000 uninsured Kansans, repair and restore the state’s disastrous foster care system, and give state employees a long overdue pay increase. By depleting the treasury, her goals become far more difficult. It will make it much easier for conservatives to argue that Medicaid, pay raises, and hiring more case workers at the Department for Children and Families are unaffordable. (We assume they still want to address the school funding fix, but we’ll see!)

Just to put this in a little historical context, in FY 2015, 2016, and 2017, the Legislature reduced the statutory rate for KPERS payments, putting less into the system. In FY 2016 they reduced payments to KPERS by $97 million, promising to pay it back with interest and then reneging on that promise. In FY 2017 they reduced payments to KPERS by $64.1 million and scheduled the repayment over 20 years. In FY 2019 they reduced KPERS school contributions by $194 million and scheduled repayment over 20 years.

So again, while we are glad to see that so many conservatives who repeatedly voted to under-fund KPERS have suddenly had an epiphany, we remain skeptical of their motives.

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Of Taxes and Torpedoes

Feb 1, 2019 by

A Tale of Two Tax Committees

Senate President, Susan Wagle

If you’ve been reading our reports, you know that we are focused for the time being on the tax discussion in the House and Senate where the latter is grappling with Senate leadership’s desire to give away hundreds of millions of tax dollars before we figure out how to finally fund our schools, expand Medicaid, restore our highway department, and fix our damaged foster care system. It almost feels like the plan is to give away as much revenue as possible so it won’t be possible to do those things. Partisan politics where Senate leadership is willing to risk returning to Brownback-style policies appears to be the prevailing strategy to torpedo Governor Kelly’s budget.

The House is taking a different approach to dealing with the unintended consequences of President Trump’s tax policy- which has been derided by Republican leadership in the Kansas Senate but willingly supported by the six Kansas Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate when the bill came to them.

In the Senate, Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) has taken the matter into her own hands, stripping authority for tax issues from Tax Committee Chair Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) and forming her own committee with herself as chair, the Senate Select Committee on Federal Tax Implementation.

Wagle’s Committee held a hearing on SB 22, a bill to decouple the Kansas income tax from the federal income tax in order to allow individuals to continue itemizing and to assist corporations in not paying taxes on their overseas earnings.

In the days of discussion – first in Tyson’s Assessment and Taxation Committee and now in Wagle’s Senate Select Committee – the conferee time has been handed over to the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the chamber has happily filled that time bringing in corporate tax accountants to wail about the unfairness of it all while making veiled threats about leaving the state if they don’t get what they want. Department of Revenue staff- whose jobs are to provide careful and reasoned analysis of these issues- sit in the committee room waiting patiently to be asked to what seems to be a party they’ve clearly not been invited to.

With about six minutes left in the meeting today, Wagle pushed the bill out of committee on a voice vote. It will now go to the full Senate for debate, probably next week.

Then there’s the House Committee on Taxation chaired by Steven Johnson (R-Assaria). In contrast to the Senate, Johnson has not brought a bill forward. Instead he is holding briefings by the Department of Revenue on how the various issues play out in reality. They spent one day on itemized deductions diving into how many Kansans actually did itemize before the change and what the impact is on those taxpayers who can no longer itemize. They even reviewed hypothetical scenarios to reveal the impact on middle class taxpayers.

They had another day to dive into the two corporate provisions – GILTI and Repatriation – to find out how these provisions work in the real world, again looking at how a typical corporate entity would be taxed with and without the changes sought by the Chamber.

The Chamber will have their time before the committee but not until a bill is scheduled for a hearing. The difference is that in the Senate, the Chamber has essentially been given the spotlight before the committee while the Department of Revenue waits silently in the wings.

It’s a rhetorical question, but we must ask; which chamber is interested in ramming a corporate wish list through the process and which is working deliberately and thoughtfully?

So back to cynical, partisan politics. There are some who believe that Wagle and her allies in the Senate want to ram as many revenue slashing bills through the Senate as they can simply to deny Governor Kelly the ability to responsibly deal with the State’s budgetary obligations – schools, highways, health care, and the crumbling foster care system. In that way, Wagle and her supporters can criticize the Governor for not solving those problems. It’s kind of like a similar strategy used against public schools. Defund them so they’ll struggle, label schools a failure and enact policies that benefit a select few while calling it all “reform.” The Kansas City Star has hypothesized that this is all about Senator Susan Wagle and her desire to run for the United States Senate now that Pat Roberts is retiring. The Star noted, “It’s a deeply cynical, hyper-partisan approach to tax policy.” To read the Star’s take, click here. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out in the coming weeks.

Governor’s school finance bill to get a hearing next week- A CALL TO ACTION.

Senate Bill 44, Governor Kelly’s school finance bill that would enact the State Board of Education’s finance recommendation in response to the latest Supreme Court ruling in the Gannon lawsuit, will get a hearing in the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance next Wednesday.

The bill will provide for the inflationary funding increase called for in the Supreme Court ruling without making any other changes to the school finance formula. If adopted as is, most education advocates believe that it will finally result in a fully constitutional school funding system – the first such system in about a decade!

We hope that the Senate will approve the bill with no changes and do so quickly. With the deadlines set by the Supreme Court, the Legislature’s response should be done by March 1. That would allow time for the Attorney General to prepare for the April Court hearing.

We would urge you to contact Senators and let them know how important this issue is. Kansas school employees want to be assured that their schools will open on time for the 2019-20 school year. The time for games and posturing is over. Kansas is close to closing the book on the Gannon suit and ensuring our school finance system is constitutional.

Members of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance are; Molly Baumgardner, Jim Denning, Anthony Hensley, Bud Estes, Dan Goddard, Dan Kerschen, Carolyn McGinn, Pat Pettey, and Eric Rucker. You can email them using firstname.lastname@senate.ks.gov. Ask them to support Senate Bill 44 without amendment.


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Windfall? Not Really. & Kansas Teacher of the Year Team Visits Legislators

Jan 29, 2019 by

Fiscal note on SB 22, tax cut bill, is out … and it’s a doozy!

The fiscal note for SB 22, the so-called “windfall” tax bill being pushed by Senate President Wagle (R-Wichita) is out and it’s big. Passage of SB 22 would strip about $400 million out of the state treasury in three years – $191 million in 2020 alone.

The issue is relatively simple to understand. When Congress, with the full support of all six conservative Republican members of the Kansas delegation, passed the Trump tax bill they simply ignored the fact that their huge tax break for the wealthy would result in a state tax hike for average Kansans. By raising the standard deduction in the federal tax code, they wiped out itemization for most middle-income taxpayers. And since the state and federal codes are “coupled,” that means that if you can’t itemize on your federal taxes, you can’t itemize on your state taxes. Thus state taxes for most middle-income earners went up.

The Department of Revenue released three hypothetical Kansas taxpayers (married filing jointly with 2 children and a federal adjusted gross income of $120,000; married filing jointly with no children and a federal AGI of $60,000; and married filing jointly with one child and a federal AGI of $60,000). In those three scenarios, the first taxpayer with the AGI of $120,000 saw an increase of $39 in state taxes due to the federal law while the other two saw an increase of $12. That state tax increase was not passed by the Kansas legislature but instead by Trump and the congressional Republicans.

Kansas Republicans are aghast and seek to immediately decouple from the federal tax code to prevent this increase. Wagle wants to do this so quickly that she formed a special committee in the Senate naming herself as chair to get it out of committee this week. Today the Kansas Chamber and some corporate tax advisers talked to the committee about provisions in the bill that would exempt corporations from paying state taxes on overseas earnings that are “repatriated” to the U.S.

KNEA is neutral on the policy – whether or not to adjust the Kansas tax code to deal with the unintended consequences of rushed tax changes by Congress is a decision the Legislature should debate. But we are not neutral on the impact. If a bill is passed that strips nearly $200 million out of the treasury in one year with more than $100 million per year lost in the following two years, how does the Legislature plan to pass a responsible budget that funds our schools and restores service cuts across agencies? And perhaps that is the point.

We all know what happens when tax policy is done in a rush! Trump and his supporters in the House and Senate in Congress rammed through their tax bill without having any idea of its impact and the harm it might do to middle income taxpayers. Sam Brownback and his allies rammed through a tax bill in 2012 that brought Kansas to the brink of collapse.

So here’s our plea. Stop the rush! Be deliberate; consider the consequences of each change; look for alternative ways to address the issue without decoupling. Try exercising a little restraint. SB 22 will strip too much money out of the Kansas treasury while we are still in recovery from the Brownback disaster.

Kansas Teacher of the Year Team 2019

KTOY Team 2019

As today was “Kansas Day,” it was a perfect time to celebrate all that makes our state great, including the dedicated professionals who work so hard to make sure our kids are safe, learning and growing in our public school classrooms. The 2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year team is recognized for its members’ outstanding contributions to their students, but also works to be a strong voice for educators during the year. Today, the team addressed a joint House and Senate Education Committee to bring both their optimism and concerns before our state representatives.

2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year, Whitney Morgan

The 2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year, Whitney Morgan shared some of what she believes would be beneficial for students including embracing diversity, targeted interventions, smaller class sizes and professional development. Whitney teaches English and English for speakers of other languages in Kansas City, Kansas.

Team member Sharon Kuchinski, a high school social studies teacher from Leavenworth, gave some very strong testimony over concerns for the difficulty our state is facing attracting new teachers to the profession, particularly when many teachers- but certainly early career educators- are faced with working multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.

We applaud the Kansas Teacher of the Year team for their efforts and advocacy. The team will continue to meet with various groups throughout the state, including Kansas NEA, to share their insights throughout the coming days and weeks. We look forward to hearing and learning from them.

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