Turnaround! The Halfway Point is here.

Mar 1, 2019 by

ALERT: Stop a Dangerous New Tax Plan
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At the halfway point, a lot of stuff goes away

Turnaround was Thursday, February 28. That was the day by which bills had to have passed their chamber of origin in order to be considered by the second chamber. Unless…

There’s always an “unless,” isn’t there?

Most committees are subject to strict timelines. For example, the Kansas House and Senate Education Committees (and actually most committees) stopped work on Monday, Feb. 25, because the 26th through the 28th were reserved for time on the floor in order to pass as many bills as possible. But all of this means that if a bill did not come out of one of the four education committees (House Ed, Senate Ed, House K-12 budget, and Senate Select School Finance) on Monday, there was no way it would be considered on the floor and so no way it could pass the chamber of origin. Since those committees are subject to the timelines, any bills not passed technically die.

But House or Senate leadership could “bless” a bill – keep it alive for the second half by referring it to a timeline exempt committee – like Appropriations in the House or Ways and Means in the Senate – before adjourning for the turnaround break. And one should never forget that anything can be resurrected in the form of an amendment either on a bill that is now being considered by a committee of the second chamber or on the floor of either chamber.

What bills have passed and head across the rotunda?

The House has passed and sent to the Senate two bills of interest to KNEA.

House Bill 2144 is the community college reporting bill. This started out as a terrible bill placing all kinds of restrictions and requirements on community colleges relating to reporting, tax limitations, and limitations on capital spending. The House Education Committee amended out all the worst stuff and then further amended it with some language requests from the community colleges. The bill now requires demographics reporting by the Board of Regents and public notice of what courses transfer to all regents institutions. You can read the amended bill here. It now goes to the Senate.

Senate Bill 9 requires the state to repay $115 million in previously withheld employer contributions to KPERS. The last two years employer contributions to KPERS were withheld in order to balance the budget in the aftermath of the Brownback tax disaster with promises to pay them back over time. This bill has also passed the Senate and is now on the Governor’s desk.

The Senate has passed and sent to the House six bills of interest to KNEA.

Senate Bill 7 allows school boards to change the timing of the election of school board officers to adjust to the change of school board elections from April to November.

Senate Bill 9, repaying $115 million to KPERS (See above).

Senate Bill 16 allows at-risk money to be used for evidence-based programs including Jobs for America’s Graduates, or JAG, and Boys & Girls Clubs. We believe this is already allowed and wonder why it is necessary.

Senate Bill 71 eliminates the expiration of the postsecondary technical education authority and requires a report to the Kansas Legislature.

Senate Bill 128 changes the number of required fire, tornado and crisis drills. Monthly fire drills would drop to at least four per year, tornado drills would drop to at least two per year with one in September and another in March, and at least three crisis drills would be required per year during school hours.

Senate Bill 199 creates the AO-K to Work program allowing certain adults without high school diplomas or GEDs to earn a “high school equivalency credential” by participating in career pathways and earning an industry accepted credential.

What bills did not make it out of committee?

House bills of interest to KNEA that did not go to the floor.

  • House Bill 2071 creating the Proud Educator license plate. This bill was on the House floor for debate but passed over and did not return to debate.
  • House Bill 2166 requiring a financial literacy course for high school graduation (committee actually voted no on a motion to pass it out).
  • House Bill 2183 requiring a computer science course for high school graduation.
  • House Bill 2233 requiring school districts to give every teacher $500 to purchase school supplies.
  • House Bill 2256 establishing the community leadership service act.
  • House Bill 2287 restoring due process for Kansas teachers.
  • House Bill 2288 establishing the student and educator religious freedom of speech act.
  • House Bill 2330, a bullying bill based on one written by Walt Chappell.
  • House Bill 2078, Governor Kelly’s school finance bill responding to Gannon.
  • House Bill 2106, Rep. Jim Ward’s school finance bill responding to Gannon.
  • House Bill 2108 allowing at-risk funds to be used for evidence-based programs (the same bill was passed by the Senate as SB 16).
  • House Bill 2145 re-appropriating unspent special education funds to special education.
  • House Bill 2150 granting a private school voucher to any student who alleges bullying happened.
  • House Bill 2207 putting limits on requirements districts might place on contractors bidding on school construction/repair/remodeling.
  • House Bill 2257, the bullying bill proposed by Equality Kansas.

Senate bills of interest to KNEA that did not go to the floor.

  • Senate Bill 47 creating the Student Opportunity Scholarship Act and creating a post-secondary scholarship for a student who graduates from high school at the end of the junior year.
  • Senate Bill 52 restoring due process for Kansas teachers.
  • Senate Bill 148 putting limits on requirements districts might place on contractors bidding on school construction/repair/remodeling.
  • Senate Bill 44, Governor Kelly’s school finance bill responding to Gannon.
  • Senate Bill 142, a two-year school funding fix in response to Gannon.
  • Senate Bill 156, a school finance bill increasing the at-risk weighting.

The status of Senate Bill 22, the multi-national corporation tax cut bill

As we have reported here before, SB 22 passed the full Senate on a vote of 26 to 14 and was sent to the House. The Senate version of this bill provides nearly $190 million in tax cuts, most of which go to multi-national corporations. About 25% of the cut in this bill goes to a few individual taxpayers who will be allowed to itemize deductions on their Kansas income tax form even if they can’t on their federal form.

Under the Trump tax cuts, many people who used to itemize can no longer do so because of the increase in the standard deduction on the federal tax form. This could result in some Kansas taxpayers paying more in state income taxes.

During floor debate, Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) said the bill benefits “working Kansans” but in reality it does not. Wagle noted in debate that without this bill about 9% of Kansas individuals are wealthy enough that they can still itemize under the new federal law. If SB 22 were to pass, another 9% of Kansas individuals would benefit from itemizing on their Kansas taxes. Those individuals would be a higher income levels. In other words, 82% of Kansans would get no benefit at all while multi-national corporations would.

The bill was amended in the House Tax Committee to include a one-cent reduction in the food sales tax and a new provision that would require all online vendors to collect and remit Kansas sales tax once they hit a threshold of $100,000 in sales in Kansas. This amended version of SB 22 now goes to the House floor and will likely be taken up shortly after legislators return on March 6.

KNEA strongly opposes Senate Bill 22. Kansas is now on the road to recovery after the disastrous impact of the Brownback tax policies. This is not the time to be considering another massive corporate tax giveaway.

We urge all Kansans to contact their representatives and tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 22. Use the link below to contact your legislator. Let’s balance the budget, fund our schools, fix our foster care system, mend our corrections department, and fund our highway program. These are our shared priorities.

ALERT: Stop a Dangerous New Tax Plan
CLICK Here to contact your legislator
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Bullying and Budgeting

Feb 20, 2019 by

A solid week of bullying bills!

This is turning out to be the week of the bully under the dome. It started with a Valentine’s Day hearing on HB 2150, a bill that allowed any child who reported bullying – just reported it; it didn’t have to happen to him/her and it didn’t actually have to happen at all – to be offered a voucher to attend a private school where, we guess, bullying must not happen.

Okay, it wasn’t a bill to address bullying, it was a bill to create vouchers. Now this week, we have hearings on two more bullying bills.

One, HB 2257, was drafted by Equality Kansas, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ Kansans. Equality Kansas took the time to confer on their draft with education organizations including KNEA and was receptive to suggestions resulting in a bill that is generally considered the best one out there at this time.

The second bill is HB 2330. This bill was based on the infamous Walt Chappell drafted bill that was so much overkill that even advocates for stronger bullying laws opposed it. The bill was given to freshman Representative Mark Samsel (R-Wellsville) who worked to purge it of some of the more onerous provisions. Samsel has also reached out to KNEA, KASB, and USA for input in the hope of creating something that everyone can agree to – perhaps a melding of HB 2257 and HB 2330. Complicating the problem is that the bills are having hearings in two different committees!

Bullying legislation is a perennial issue in the statehouse with education organizations looking for local control on the issue and other organizations seeking statutes with “more teeth.”

KNEA opposed HB 2150 for what it is – a voucher bill. We are appearing neutral on the other two and encouraging legislators to deal with this issue as they did with the other perennial issue, dyslexia. Last year, with the leadership of Rep. Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka), a controversial dyslexia bill was transformed into the establishment of a task force made up of teachers, administrators, State Board members, parents, legislators, and advocacy organizations.

The Dyslexia Task Force met over the summer and fall and managed to collaboratively develop a set of recommendations – unanimously adopted by the members of the task force – that will hopefully satisfy all of the interested parties. We believe the same process should be used to come up with a solution to bullying that helps schools, protects students, and deals with the underlying issues.

HB 2257 had a hearing today; HB 2330 will get a hearing tomorrow. And that voucher bill, HB 2150? It is scheduled for a vote in committee tomorrow.

Money mess

Since budgeting, spending, and taxes are all intertwined, we thought it best to let you know where things are as of today.

The mostly corporate tax giveaway, SB 22, has passed the Senate with 26 votes and is getting a hearing in the House Tax Committee today and tomorrow. It reduces revenue by nearly $190 million.

Both the Senate and House Tax Committees are hearing bills this week to lower the food sales tax rate. Lowering the rate by one cent, from 6.5% to 5.5% would cost the state about $60 million.

The Senate has also passed SB 9 which would require the state to immediately pay back $115 million in funds delayed to KPERS. This bill has had a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee and was voted out of committee favorably. It awaits action in the full House probably this week. It represents a reduction of $115 million from the treasury which would make the budget harder to balance.

Governor Kelly had recommended the re-amortization of KPERS in order to lower the immediate costs and help balance the budget. Her re-amortization bill was soundly defeated on the House floor.

So lots of things are happening that will make it more difficult to balance the budget and meet the priorities for Kansas that Governor Kelly highlighted in her state of the state address – funding schools, repairing the foster care system, hiring correctional officers to end the crisis in Kansas prisons, and expand Medicaid to provide health insurance to 150,000 uninsured working Kansans.

We are approaching the half-way point of the session. There is much still to be done!

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Some Finance Talk but What about Due Process & Bullying?

Mar 12, 2018 by

What About Bullying and Due Process?

The Due Process Bill (HB 2757) and Bullying Policy Bill (HB 2758) have both been passed by the House and are not sitting in the Senate Education Committee. There has been no word yet as to whether or not Committee Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) will schedule hearings on the bills.

KNEA supports both bills and has asked the Chair to consider holding hearings.

We urge our members to contact Committee Chair Baumgardner and Vice Chair Larry Alley (R-Winfield) and politely ask them to hold a hearing on these bills. They are both important to our teachers and our students.

CLICK HERE to send a message to Senate Ed Committee Chairpersons encouraging them to hear both bills.

Beginning to Talk About School Finance…Kind Of

The House K-12 Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance both held bill hearings today that are beginning to sound like addressing school funding issues.

In the House Committee, Chairman Fred Patton (R-Topeka) held a hearing on HB 2636, a bill repealing some provisions of a law passed in SB 19, last year’s school finance bill. These provisions had the State Board of Education reviewing bond proposals if those bonds would be in excess of 14% of the district’s assessed valuation. The bill put a number of restrictions on the SBOE in those reviews – most specifically that the applications for additional bond authority do not exceed the total principal amount of general obligation bonds retired in the immediately preceding school year. And if total applications exceed that amount, the SBOE must prioritize applications.

HB 2636 would repeal all of these restrictions.

Proponents of the bill including KASB, USA, KSSA, a number of school districts, two large construction groups, and two investment banking groups. The only opponent was Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute.

No action was taken on the bill today.

Later, in the Senate committee, Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) held a hearing on SB 423 which would repeal two provisions of SB 19 that the Supreme Court found to be violations of equity.

The first of those provisions was the 10% at-risk floor under which a district that had fewer than 10% of its students eligible for free lunch would receive at-risk funding as if they did have 10%. There are only two school districts in the state that would have qualified.

The discussion indicated that some Senators still cannot seem to understand that poverty is used as a proxy for at-risk because there is a significant correlation between living in poverty and the potential for not finishing school. The money, while generated by poverty, does not follow the child. It is used to provide at-risk program support for any student who meets factors for at-risk behaviors regardless of the student’s wealth.

The second issue being repealed in the bill is the expansion of uses of capital outlay funds. SB 19 allows school districts to use capital outlay funds for utilities and property and casualty insurance. Prior to this year, this was not allowed. The Supreme Court determined that this too violated equity.

Passage of the bill would address two of the four equity issues the Court flagged.

No action was taken today.

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Schools Can Make Use of More Funding Effectively & Teachers Can Use Due Process

Feb 12, 2018 by

 

Due Process Restoration is Adopted in House Education Committee

It was a contentious debate but by the end of the House Education Committee meeting today, statutory due process for Kansas teachers was adopted. It will now go to the full House for consideration.

While working HB 2578 dealing with bullying policies, Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) moved to amend the contents of HB 2179 into the bill. This was not a “gut and go;” it was an addition. HB 2179 had a hearing last year but Committee Chair Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) adjourned the committee without working the bill. It later passed the full House as an amendment to another bill but was not taken up by the Senate.
Aurand was taken by surprise by the Winn amendment which was seconded by Rep. Mary Martha Good (R-El Dorado). A lot of discussion ensued with opponents of due process trying to stop the amendment through parliamentary maneuvers, none of which worked.

Rep. Steven Crum (D-Haysville) asked Chairman Aurand if he would consider taking up HB 2179 on its own later this week and then holding a vote immediately after on HB 2578. Without saying yes or no, Aurand went on to take a vote on the Winn Amendment. It was adopted on a vote of 9 to 7.

Rep. Willie Dove then offered an amendment to the underlying bullying bill that would further enumerate what district bullying policies should address. The Dove amendment was adopted.

Rep. Jene Vickrey tried offering a motion to pass the original bill (HB 2578) without amendments but was ruled out of order.

HB 2578, bullying policies and teacher due process, was then passed out of committee favorably for passage on a motion by Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway). It must now be considered by the full House of Representatives.

K-12 Budget Committee Hears from Superintendents – Lots of Uses for Additional Funds

Superintendents from Olathe, El Dorado, and Garden City appeared before the K-12 Budget Committee to fill in the members on how they would use an additional (perhaps) $200 million per year.

Their responses were almost identical despite their geographic differences. First and foremost – money would be used for personnel. All expressed the urgent need to raise teaching salaries but also salaries of licensed support personnel and hourly employees including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians. The point is they just can’t compete. Personnel costs would also include efforts to hire more counselors, social workers, psychologists, and classroom teachers to reduce class sizes.

Also brought up was the cost of health insurance with one superintendent saying that a beginning teacher would be left with only $2000 per month after paying for her share of the family health insurance premium. Superintendent John Allison of Olathe indicated that the KPERS retirement system for new teachers was a deterrent to recruiting teachers from other states but that the fact that his teachers have due process protections in their contract is a draw.

In summary, all the superintendents knew exactly how to put additional funds to work to improve schools, teaching, and learning.

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Keeping Students Safe from Harm

Feb 9, 2018 by

COUNTDOWN TO MARCH 1, ATTY GENERAL DEADLINE FOR SCHOOL FUNDING FIX

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It was a quiet day under the dome today with no floor action and almost no committee meetings.

Yesterday afternoon, there were hearings in both the House and Senate Education Committees. Both committees dealt with legislation intended to keep students safe from harm.

The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on SB 333, amendments to the Jason Flatt Act. The Jason Flatt Act was passed in 2016 and requires all school district employees to receive one hour of training per year in recognizing the signs of potential suicide.

SB 333 would amend the act so that school districts would have more flexibility in determining how much training, how often that training would be, and who would be required to have the training. Opponents of the amendments included family members who had experienced a suicide in their family and mental health providers who work with individuals in crisis. Senators Lynn Rogers (D-Wichita) and Bruce Givens (R-El Dorado) both spoke as proponents. United School Administrators also spoke as a proponent. KNEA spoke as a proponent with some concerns about the extent of the changes. While KNEA supports some flexibility in the selection of training programs, we asked that the legislation continue to require all school personnel receive such training. We did not support allowing a school district to choose not to provide the training to all employees who come into contact with students. Often a custodian, bus driver, or lunch server have positive relationships with students and might be an actual life-saver in a crisis.

KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti also suggested the committee remember that the state’s mental health system is in crisis due to a lack of funding and that this legislation ignores the many other places where students interact with adults such as youth sports leagues and community youth development programs.

The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2578 which would amend the statutes on bullying policies to require school districts to post such policies on their websites with a prominent link on the homepage, distribute the policies to parents and guardians of students, and file a copy of the policy with the State Department of Education.

Proponents of the bill argued that it was important for parents and students to understand how the district would deal with bullying, what the consequences for bullying behavior would be, how the adults would work with students to understand and counteract bullying. By reading the plans, parents would know how incidents would be handled and might be better able to advocate for stronger plans.

Currently, bullying policies are required but whether or not they are readily accessible to patrons is all across the board. Some policies are not on websites at all, others are buried deep in those websites and hard to find. Still, some school districts have comprehensive policies that are easily accessible.

KNEA supports this legislation.

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