Budget Conference Committee Okays Taking from KPERS
It didn’t take long after both chambers passed a budget bill for a conference committee to hammer out an agreement.
One of the most important issues in the budget that we are tracking is the Governor’s desire to use KPERS money to balance his budget on paper.
The House bill allowed a delay in payments to KPERS into the next fiscal year. In essence, this action would make the state appear to have more money at the end of this fiscal year and give the illusion of a balanced budget.
The House had amended the bill such that the money would be required to be given to KPERS in the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest. The Senate budget bill removed the delay in KPERS funding so that KPERS payments would be made on time. It didn’t take long for the conference committee to take the House position.
With this action, it is looking more likely that the KPERS payments will be delayed and members of KPERS will have to keep their fingers crossed hoping the legislature and Governor do not renege on the promise to make the payment with interest.
The real problem in all of this is that the budget does not work. The delay balances the budget on paper only. Nothing is being done in either chamber to address the root cause of the problem – a series of reckless tax cuts that have turned the state’s revenue stream into a trickle. And nothing has been done or is even been talked about openly about dealing with the Supreme Court’s equity decision in the Gannon school finance lawsuit.
School Finance and Sex Education in House Committee
The House Education Committee held a hearing today on a classroom based school finance bill proposed by Rep. Scott Schwab (R-Olathe). Schwab’s bill, HB 2596, would require the legislative post audit division to calculate the cost of education on a per classroom basis for each congressional district. Based on that calculation, a district would get a certain amount of funding per classroom with additional funding for administration and capital costs.
In the first year, this plan would be piloted in one district from each congressional district and then apply to all districts the next year. Every year, an increase in funding based on the consumer price index would be applied and every 10 years costs would be analyzed again to make additional adjustments.
Schwab told the committee that his bill was “not ready for the floor.” He was providing a framework for a committee discussion. He urged the committee to listen to others and consider changes. “If you like the premise and want to make amendments, go ahead and do so. If you don’t like the premise, then okay, don’t do it,” he told the committee.
Chairman Highland (R-Wamego) left the hearing open in case they want to hear from others on the idea.
In a surprise move, Highland suggested they turn their attention to HB 2199. This bill from last year changes participation in human sexuality education from district choice on student opt in or opt out to mandating opt in. In addition, it would require district policies that guarantee any student who has not opted in will not be exposed to any of the materials from the class.
The bill was a response to a complaint from a parent in the Shawnee Mission School District. His daughter had taken a photo of a poster from the district’s adopted curriculum that she and her parents found offensive.
This bill would things very difficult for teachers in human sexuality programs. Essentially no materials could be out in a classroom that is used for classes other than human sexuality. Additionally districts would have to ensure that students who had opted in to the program did not share and materials with their friends who had not.
At the time of the original incident, the Shawnee Mission School District took action to ensure that the poster would not be used in the program, addressing the parental complaint. Not satisfied, the parent sought legislation.
The bill had passed out of committee last year and was never taken to the full House for debate. It was referred to an exempt committee at the tail end of the session and so was alive for reconsideration this year.
Representative Tony Barton (R-Leavenworth) made the motion to pass the bill out favorable. The motion passed and the bill now goes back to the full House for consideration.
House Ed Committee to Hear from Tea Party Darling, Duke Pesta
Duke Pesta, and English professor from the University of Wisconsin at Osh Kosh, is the invited guest of the House Education Committee for their meeting tomorrow.
Pesta is revered in Tea Party circles for his vitriolic attacks on the common core standards. He is the Academic Director of Freedom Project Education, an on-line high school providing a “K – 12 classical education with a Biblical foundation and Americanist perspective.”