School Finance is the Hot Topic of the Day

Jun 2, 2017 by

School Funding Conference Committee, Photo: Celia Llopis Jepsen Twitter @Celia_LJ

The House/Senate Conference Committee on school finance met several times today, exchanging offers to bridge the differences between HB 2410 (the House position) and HB 2186 (the Senate position). They have been making good progress, and most items have been resolved. Of course, the biggies are how much money and the details of said money distribution.

They will be meeting over the weekend (well, at least Saturday) and we will have a summary of the final conference committee report hopefully on Sunday.

Understand, though, that the final bill will not be bigger money-wise than either of the options on the table today. The opportunity to dramatically increase funding in this bill has passed.

In looking at these bills and the negotiations happening now, we believe that the final bill will contain a good finance formula. The policy relating to the distribution of funds, targeting those funds to different populations, addressing the needs of the lowest quartile of student performance, and maintaining equity appear to us to be very good generally. We believe the Court will approve of this formula.

Unfortunately, we continue to believe that the overall funding level is woefully inadequate and for that reason, we believe the Court will find the funding to be inadequate to resolve the Gannon case.

KNEA’s top priority for this session continues to be the passage of a new school finance formula that is constitutional in the adequacy of funding, the equity in fund distribution, and the policy governing the distribution and targeting of education funding.

The bottom line is, schools must open on time under a new and constitutional school funding formula. Nothing should be done to jeopardize constitutionality.

Secondly, we want the legislature to restore fiscal sanity to our income tax policies. This demands the restoration of the third income tax bracket, the repeal of the LLC income tax loophole, and the end of the glide path to zero income tax. These three items are essential if Kansas is ever to recover from Brownback’s disastrous experiment. A revenue system must be established that puts Kansas back on the path to stability, balances the budget without further cuts to state services, and funds a new school finance system approved by the Court.

It will take many years to undo the damage caused by Brownback’s tax disaster. The legislature must start now.

It’s time to address both of those priorities. Today is June 2. The Court has given the Legislature until June 30 to fix our school funding system. We do not believe HB 2186 will meet constitutional muster, but something has to get over to the Court for review. If the Court rejects it, the Legislature will still have time to work before school starts in August. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to meet that deadline.

We are encouraged by the progress of the school finance conference committee. It looks like we are very close to getting that bill done. We hope the tax committee can get a new package together quickly for review.

Let’s get it to the Court and let’s hear if we are going to have a July special session.


When is Due Process NOT Due Process?

KNEA has been appealing to legislators to restore due process for Kansas teachers ever since it was repealed in a deceitful act in the wee hours of an April morning in 2014. We’ve fought for it in court and the Statehouse.

Early this year, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment by Rep. Jerry Stogsdill (R-Prairie Village) that would have enacted a full restoration of due process rights for all Kansas teachers just as they existed prior to repeal. The bill that would have done that passed the House with a strong majority – 72 votes – on February 22. Sadly, it never moved in the Senate.

Today as we sat in the conference committee on HB 2186, the school finance bill, we were thrown for a loop when Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) brought out what he called a “thought balloon” during the discussion. Explaining that the House had passed a due process restoration bill, he suggested the conference committee consider his thought balloon. The balloon would restore due process rights to those teachers eligible prior to the 2014 repeal. The due process procedures would be the same as before.

BUT… (there’s always a “but,” isn’t there) the whole provision would sunset in 2019. In other words, due process would be restored for some teachers for just two years.

Aurand asserted that this would give the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB), United School Administrators (USA), and KNEA two years to negotiate a new due process law that would be acceptable to all. Unfortunately, this provision shows a serious lack of understanding of the word “negotiate.” In a real negotiation two parties with equal power come together to seek compromise and find common ground. When one party is given all the power, there is no negotiation. Under the Aurand construct, one party¬†could simply throw up roadblocks to compromise for two years. At that time due process is lost for all teachers and that party did not have to even consider any concessions. It’s not a negotiation when one party holds the other dangling at the edge of a deadly cliff.

KNEA does not support the Aurand “thought balloon” for several reasons;

  1. it does not restore due process for all teachers and would codify new teachers as second-class citizens lacking full professional rights,
  2. it is a temporary restoration sunsetting in two years,
  3. if it is intended to encourage negotiation, it does not since it gives all power to one side, and
  4. the House position is full restoration of due process.
Watch for more on these topics tomorrow.