Oops! We Missed it Again!

Mar 1, 2016 by

New revenue figures just out showed that the state missed revenue projections yet again – this time by $53 million. Kansas was down significantly in both income tax and sales tax receipts.

The budget bill passed by the legislature and not yet signed by Governor Brownback, left the state with a $6 million balance so the figures in today put Kansas once again in the hole. And yet we still have not heard a whisper from House or Senate leadership or the Governor about how to stop the bleeding.

Months and months of continual losses have jeopardized all state services from highways to public safety to education and everything in between. Still leadership refuses to acknowledge what most Kansans have already figured out – the disastrous and reckless tax cuts of 2013-13 have bankrupted the state. How they can continue to cut rates and allow more than 330,000 businesses to pay no income taxes at all and expect revenues to increase boggles the mind.

None of the figures accounts for the requirement that the legislature restore equity to the school finance system. This has been estimated to be somewhere between $54 and $100 million.

Brownback has the authority to line-item veto portions of the budget bill to make up some of the deficit. The bill also gives him permission to use up to $100 in KPERS payments to shore up the budget but this money is required to be paid back to KPERS with 8% interest by September. Such a payback would certainly require a big turnaround in collections.

This is the atmosphere in which the legislature returns to Topeka tomorrow after their turnaround break.

 

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KPERS Sweep; School Finance & Sex Ed; Anti-Common Core Guru

Feb 16, 2016 by

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.”

 

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New Common Core Ban Bill; House Passes Budget

Feb 11, 2016 by

New House Bill Would Essentially Ban Education

Today’s bill releases includes HB 2676. This is a rehash of a Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) bill from last year that prohibits the use of any standards related to the Common Core or developed by any consortium or any other organization. As we reported on last year’s version, this bill would ban AP, IB, SAT and ACT, all of which are aligned to common core standards. It would also end participation in the Lexia reading program – a program singled out by conservatives in the legislature as a preferred reading intervention program. Lexia too is aligned with the common core standards.

This bill includes another proposal from last year dealing with a requirement for prior written consent from every parent before any data can be collected on a student.

“’Prior written consent’ means that a parent or legal guardian’s signature is required on a written document that notifies the parent or legal guardian what data will be collected, how the data will be collected, how the data will be used, what person or entity the data will be shared with and the dates over which the disclosed data will be used.”

Wow. You might want to read this one! Click here for a copy.

Sponsors of the bill, in addition to John Bradford, are Republicans Joe Scapa, Tony Barton, Blake Carpenter, JR Claeys, Pete DeGraaf, Willie Dove, Estes, Randy Garber, Mario Goico, Houser, Becky Hutchins, Dick Jones, Kevin Jones, Mike Kiegerl, Jerry Lunn, Macheers, Connie O’Brien, Jan Pauls, Virgil Peck, Randy Powell, Rahjes, Read, Marc Rhoades, Rubin, Seiwert, Sutton, Jene Vickrey, Weber, and Whitmer.


House Passes Budget Bill on Final Action

The House passed SB 161, the budget bill debated yesterday on a vote of 68 to 56. There was some thought that the Gannon decision handed down this morning might impact the vote since the ruling will require approximately $50 million in additional funding for K-12 schools.

A number of traditional Republicans and Democrats explained their NO votes, decrying the failure of the legislature to address the real issue – tax breaks that have eaten away at the state’s ability to fund services.

The bill also delays payments to KPERS. While an amendment offered by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Asaria) were adopted that would require KPERS to be paid within the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest, it does not ease the concerns of hard-working teachers and other public employees who have watched as the legislature drained funds from the highway fund. There is little faith outside of the statehouse that revenues will recover sufficiently to meet state needs.

The roll call vote is as follows:

YEA: Anthimides, Barker, Barton, Billinger, Boldra, Bradford, Campbell, B. Carpenter, W. Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, E. Davis, Dove, Esau, Estes, Ewy, Garber, Goico, Gonzalez, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Hemsley, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Hutchins, Hutton, Johnson, D. Jones, K. Jones, Kahrs, Kelly, Kiegerl, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mason, Mast, McPherson, Merrick, O’Brien, Osterman, Pauls, R. Powell, Prroehl, Rahjes, Read, Rhoades, Rubin, Ryckman, Ryckman Sr, Scapa, Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, C. Smith, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber, Whitmer, K. Williams.

NAY: Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Becker, Bollier, Bruchman, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Curtis, DeGraaf, Dierks, Doll, Edmonds, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Helgerson, Henderson, Henry, Hibbard, Highberger, Hill, Hineman, Houston, Jennings, Kelley, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Moxley, Ousley, F. Patton, Peck, Phillips, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Scott, Sloan, S. Swanson, Thompson, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, Wolfe Moore.

The Senate is debating a similar budget bill today. They began general orders debate at 3:00. The budget bill is third up and after a debate on a gun bill. We’re looking for a long night and so will report on the outcome tomorrow.


Education Committee Actions

The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2532, a bill putting financial literacy into the Rose Standards. The bill was supported by Committee Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego), KNEA, KASB, the Kansas Chamber, and State Treasurer Ron Estes. Walt Chappell was listed as a proponent but asked the committee to replace this bill with one that would mandate a course in financial literacy as a graduation requirement. No action was taken on the bill.

The Senate Education Committee worked Senate Bill 323, the Jason Flatt Act on suicide prevention. The bill would require training for teachers and principals on recognizing signs of potential suicide. KNEA support the bill while asking the Committee to ensure that teachers could not be held liable should a child actually commit suicide. The bill was amended so that the required training is one hour each year. They also added the liability protection and parental notification. The bill will now go to the full Senate.

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Taxes, Bonds, and a Budget

Feb 10, 2016 by

Taxing Authority for Community/Tech Colleges?

The House Vision 2020 Committee today held a hearing on three bills that would raise taxes for Community Colleges and Technical Colleges.

House Bill 2568 would allow community colleges to levy a property tax of up to two mills for a five year period in counties where they have satellite campuses.

House Bill 2569 raises a five mill statewide property tax levy to provide for the educational building fund to support construction at community and technical colleges.

House Bill 2570 would allow technical colleges to levy a property tax of up to two mills for a five year period in their home counties.

Representative Rooker (R-Fairway) wondered why tax bills were being heard in this committee when the House has a standing Tax Committee. That’s a good question! It could be because leadership did not want the bills in the Tax Committee and the only way they would get talked about is if they were introduced in a committee made up of almost exclusively moderate Republicans and Democrats.

The bills were not worked today. Committee Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) said that he intended to work the bills unless Committee members told him they had no interest. We’ll watch and see what happens next week.


Senate Education Hears Bond and Interest Review Board Bill

Senate Bill 356 is the Senate’s version of House Bill 2486 with both bills establishing a board to review bond issues for school districts that get bond and interest state aid. The bills also limit such aid to areas in a project that are specifically for the direct instruction of students.

The bill was supported by Walt Chappell, Dave Trabert, and Mike O’Neal. KNEA spoke against the bill, telling the committee that facilities have a direct relationship to student learning and teacher morale. Additionally, KNEA asked the committee to not approach a new school finance formula piecemeal but instead put off this discussion until they gather to craft a comprehensive school finance plan.

No action was taken on the bill.


House Ed Cancelled Today: CC/TC Due Process Debate Scheduled

Due to the long budget debate on the House floor, the afternoon committees were cancelled. The Committee will meet tomorrow but we do not know what the agenda will be at this time.

Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego) did announce that the committee will work HB 2531, the bill stripping community college and technical college instructors of due process protections next Thursday, February 18.


Budget Debate On-Going; KPERS Issue Amended

The House began debate on SB 161, the budget bill, shortly after 11:00 am and it is still debating as we write.

The first amendments, both of which passed, were offered by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Asaria), Chairman of the House Pensions Committee. Johnson’s first amendment would require that the state pay KPERS back in the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest. His second amendment would prohibit the Governor from applying allotments (mid-year cuts) to KPERS in the next fiscal year.

While both amendments improve the KPERS situation, they do not reverse it. The budget still uses KPERS payments to balance the budget on paper – a very bad precedent.

It will also require the appropriation of enough money to provide the reimbursement and the interest. It’s hard to imagine that being possible given the dire conditions of the state’s revenue stream. Thanks to the reckless and failed tax policy of Governor Brownback, the state continues to bleed revenue forcing the legislature to struggle just like they are today to balance the budget. Or at least to balance the budget on paper. This budget doesn’t solve any problems; it kicks the can down the road.

We will report tomorrow on the outcome of this budget debate.

 

Best quote in the floor debate today: “If Eisenhower were a member of this legislature, he could not get himself appointed chairman of the Vision 2020 Committee.”

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Budget Goes After KPERS; House Goes After Due Process

Feb 9, 2016 by

Debt Hypocrisy

While Governor Brownback and his allies in the Kansas legislature are quick to blast the federal government for taking on debt, they are very quiet about their own policies that are putting future generations of Kansans on the debt hook to pay for a failed tax policy.

Technically, the state cannot deficit spend. The state budget must be balanced constitutionally. But to pay for a reckless tax policy that removes hundreds of thousands of Kansas businesses from income tax rolls entirely, they have robbed the state highway fund to the point where the fund had to issue millions of dollars in bonds in order to keep working.

They then passed legislation issuing millions in bonds to shore up KPERS.

And now that those bonds have been sold, the budget committee is recommending using KPERS money to balance the budget. Their recent action would stop state KPERS payments now with the intent to reimburse the money next year.

How confident are you that tax cuts that have bankrupted the state are suddenly going to turn around and bring in the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be needed to maintain current services, pay off the bonds, and reimburse KPERS for the pilfered funds?

We’ve been waiting for the Governor’s promised “shot of adrenaline to the heart of the Kansas economy” since 2012 and all we’ve seen is a continuing downward spiral in revenue collections, cuts to state services, and a stagnant economy.

Make no mistake about it. The Governor’s tax cuts have slowed revenue collections to a trickle, forcing the legislature to rob from other funds, forcing those funds to issue bonds (debt) to stay afloat. The budget may be balanced on paper but future generations are up to their eyeballs in bonded indebtedness. How is this different from federal deficit spending?

This bill will be debated on the House floor tomorrow. It is also ready in the Senate.

Contact your legislators! Tell them NO RAIDING KPERS! 


Expanded Tax Credit Bill Likely Up This Week in House

House Bill 2457, the radical expansion of the corporate tax credit bill approved by the House Education Committee could be up for a floor vote as early as Thursday.

This bill takes the current corporate tax credit that goes to corporations who recruit at-risk students from Title I Priority and Focus schools to go to private schools and makes the “scholarships” available to any child in any public school whose family income is less than $44,000. No longer would the student need to be at risk, no longer would the student have to come from a Title I school. And the tax credit would be available to individuals as well as corporations.

While there is a $10 million cap in place for now, if $9 million were to be spent, the allocation for the next year would automatically increase – no legislative action would be needed. The Department of Revenue has set the expenditure estimate at $8.5 million. They believe that making the credit available to individuals would dramatically increase participation.

Tax money used for these credits would be available to all private schools – accredited or non-accredited – as well as home schools. Millions of tax dollars going to schools that have no accountability, administer no assessments, and report nothing to the State Department of Education.

Call your Representative and tell him/her to vote NO on HB 2457 – tax dollars are for public schools. Click here for the House roster with links to emails and phones.


House Ed Committee Hears Bill Stripping Due Process from Community College/Tech College Instructors

The House, having stripped due process from K-12 teachers in 2014 and from state employees in 2015, has now turned its attention to Community College and Technical College instructors. HB 2531 strips post-secondary instructors of due process rights.

Three instructors from Johnson County Community College – Deb Williams, Vin Clark, and Melanie Harvey – and Kathy Mendenhall from Hutchinson Community College testified in opposition to the bill. Brian Koon of Kansas Families for Education also opposed the bill.

Testifying in favor were the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees, the Kansas Association for Technical Education, and Garden City Community College President Herbert Swender.

Swender took heat from Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City), an instructor at Kansas City, Kansas Community College. Swender asserted that all 19 presidents were in favor of this bill. Winn pointed out that the President of her college was in the room and perhaps she’d ask. Swender was silent.

The committee took no action on the bill. It will likely be taken up later. We’ll be watching for committee action.


Gifted Education Bill Withdrawn

A bill introduced yesterday that would have removed gifted and talented students from the state’s special education statutes was withdrawn today by Rep. Sue Boldra (R-Hays). Committee Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego) announced that the bill was withdrawn and will not be heard this year.

Parent groups had immediately alerted their members to the bill who were sending emails to legislators.

Boldra had intended to put gifted and talented students in a separate funding stream but that part of the proposal was not in the bill.

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