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.

 

 

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House Pulls Tax Bill; Advances School Finance

May 24, 2017 by

The House was expected to debate a new tax plan today that had been put together in a conference committee last night. After convening this morning, the full House recessed until 1:00 to allow the tax conference committee to meet yet again to make some tweaks to said bill (SB 30). Those tweaks were agreed to and the report was set to go but when the House returned, it seems that a decision had been made to pull it yet again. It was perhaps clear that there were not enough votes to pass it and so it was unceremoniously set aside.

The House did, however, take up Sub for HB 2410, the school finance bill. It was rumored that there were more than 80 amendments prepared for the debate so we settled in for a long night.

Here’s a run-down of amendments:

  • An Aurand amendment to remove the Autism ABA therapy mandate was adopted. (KNEA supported),
  • A Trimmer amendment to strip out the local enrichment budget, transfer the money budgeted for that to a fund for schools losing money with the end of the block grants, and reinstate the cost of living levy was adopted. (KNEA supported),
  • A Trimmer amendment to change the name of the local foundation budget (LFB) back to the local option budget (LOB) was adopted. (KNEA supported)
  • A Trimmer amendment to strike the 10% at-risk floor and put the savings on the base ($2/student) failed. (KNEA did not support striking the 10% floor),
  • A Trimmer amendment to count all-day K enrollment for funding purposes in the current year for the first year of the new law was adopted (KNEA supported),
  • A Trimmer amendment to increase the funding in the bill to provide for $200 million new dollars per year for three years failed (KNEA supported),
  • A Highland amendment to put in a number of very bad policy pieces including high deductible health care plans for school employees, grading schools, merit pay, and more failed (KNEA opposed),
  • A Trevor Jacobs amendment on “bathroom privacy” – mandating use of bathrooms in schools according to the gender on one’s birth certificate – was ruled not germane and so was not voted on (KNEA opposed the amendment),
  • A Sutton amendment to end funding for out-of-state children (most of these are employee’s children, children whose parents work in Kansas, or children whose families own property that spans both sides of the border) failed (KNEA opposed the amendment),
  • A Clark amendment to stabilize funding in school districts impacted by military deployments and transfers was adopted (KNEA supported),
  • A Stogsdill amendment to restore due process for Kansas teachers was ruled non-germane and so was not voted on (KNEA supported the amendment),
  • A Whitmer amendment to have firearms safety training in schools based on the NRA “Eddie Eagle” program was ruled non-germane and so was not voted on (KNEA has never testified on this issue), and
  • An Ousley amendment to phase out the corporate tuition tax credit program failed (KNEA supported the amendment).

At this point Rep. Campbell was called upon to close on the bill. Apparently a lot of amendments were either duplicates or were pulled because the Rules Committee was strictly ruling any amendment that was policy alone as non-germane. According to the rules, there must be two points of nexus between the bill and an amendment. In the case of the three ruled non-germane, they were education policy only and did not touch on the second part of the bill, school finance.

While we are disappointed in the failure to get due process attached to the bill, the Rules Committee did interpret the rules correctly and applied their rulings fairly.

The bill was advanced to final action on a vote of 81 to 40. There will be a final action vote tomorrow morning.

 

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War on Teachers is Not Over Yet

Mar 28, 2017 by

More Disrespect for Kansas Teachers

Senators Susan Wagle and Jim Denning

Once again the anti-teacher conservative extremists have abused their power to punish Kansas teachers.

Today leadership in the Senate – Jim Denning, specifically and with the support of Susan Wagle – abruptly withdrew a bill from the debate calendar when they realized an amendment that would restore due process was going to be offered and would almost certainly pass.  We’ve seen this before, this session (click here).  Remember it was Denning and Wagle who sided with Governor Brownback choosing to vote against a veto override on badly needed tax reform, and only after assuring others that they wouldn’t.  Today it was crystal clear that Denning and Wagle are perfectly happy to continue their war on teachers.

Wagle led the effort to repeal due process at 4:00 am back in 2014 through a series of floor amendments on a school funding bill. Wagle and Denning, who have worked for years to diminish the teaching profession took it upon themselves today to once again demonstrate their disrespect for the men and women who teach our children.

Wagle and Denning are the primary advocates of the anti-teacher agenda in Topeka and have personally been leading a war on teachers for years. It is thanks to actions like pulling a bill that was almost certain to pass, just to spite teachers, that the teacher shortage in Kansas has become worse with each passing year.  We know that teachers are retiring in droves while enrollment in teacher preparation programs is in sharp decline.  Education Commissioner Randy Watson has told the education committees that teachers in Kansas feel under attack and disrespected by legislators and that teacher morale is at an all-time low. Wagle, Denning, and their allies are the reason why.

Subverting the democratic process, is subverting due process.  There is no darker irony than purposely muting due process by withholding a bill meant to restore due process for teachers.

You can weigh in on this abuse of the democratic process. Jim Denning serves as the majority leader in the Kansas Senate. He knows that the amendment was coming; he also knows the amendment was likely to pass. Rather than letting there be a vote, he chose to shut down the process. You can let Senator Denning know that you are watching this behavior and that you expect better. Email or call Senator Denning. Tell him to bring HB 2126 back up for debate and amendment.

Email is  Jim.denning@senate.ks.gov. His office phone number is 785-296-2497. As always, be respectful but remember that Denning, like all elected officials, works for you.

Read more about Jim Denning’s attacks on public education here:  http://www.standupbluevalley.org/kansas-senate-district-8


K-12 Budget Committee Cancelled for Today

We had expected the K-12 Education Budget Committee to begin working HB 2410, a school finance bill, this afternoon but the committee meeting was cancelled. Why? We can only speculate.

Support for the bill seems rather weak and it may be that leadership is trying to come up with a strategy to pursue in getting it – or something very like it – passed. It might also be that the Chairman is simply allowing his committee members and the revisor, Jason Long, more time to write amendments. We expect there will be a lot of amendments.

This is when you should all keep people like Jason in your thoughts! He will be at work writing amendments almost 24/7! Lobbyists and legislators alike are very appreciative of the efforts of the hardworking legislative research staff and the office of the Revisor of Statutes.


Senate Approves Medicaid Expansion; Now It’s Up to the Governor

The Senate today gave final action approval to HB 2044, the bill which expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It was approved on a vote of 25-14. Yesterday, five amendments offered by Mary Pilcher-Cook and Dennis Pyle that would have done everything from prohibiting Medicaid expenditures for family planning to denying Medicaid to anyone living in a town that has adopted a “sanctuary city” were all defeated.

The bill then was approved by the Senate in the same form in which it passed the House. That means the bill will not be subject to a conference committee and instead go directly to the Governor.

A statement issued by the Governor’s office indicates his opposition to Medicaid expansion but stopped short of saying he would veto the bill. We’ll see.

 

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House Fights for Kansans; Senate Bows to Brownback

Feb 22, 2017 by

House Stands Up for Kansas, Overrides Tax Veto

The excitement under the dome this morning was a motion to override the Governor’s veto of HB 2178, the tax reform bill that ends Brownback’s disastrous tax policies first enacted in 2012. The bill represents the first effort to reverse course and restore stability and prosperity to Kansas.

We are exceedingly proud of the strong bipartisan majority who worked to first create the bill and then to override the veto.

Voting to override the veto were Alcala, Alford, Aurand, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Eplee, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hineman, Hodge, Holscher, Jennings, Johnson, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kelly Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Patton, Phelps, Phillips, Pittman, Proehl, Rahjes, Ralph, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Schroeder, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans in bold italic.)

Voting NO on the override were (all Republicans) Representatives Arnberger, Awerkamp, Barker, Blex, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Davis, DeGraaf, Delperdang, Dove, Ellis, Esau, Garber, Hawkins, Highland, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Humphries, Jacobs, Jones, Lakin, Landwehr, Mason, Osterman, Powell, Rafie, Resman, Ryckman, Schwab, Seiwert, A. Smith, E. Smith, Sutton, Thimesch, Vickrey, Weber, Whitmer, and Williams.


16 Senators Fail Kansans

Sadly, the Senate had other ideas. Senate leadership (President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning) joined the Brownback allies in blocking the override of the Governor’s veto of HB 2178. Their refusal to join their House colleagues in overriding the veto means that we are back to square one where the majority of legislators try to pass responsible tax reform, the Governor vetoes it while clinging to his delusional confidence in a plan that has done nothing but bankrupt the state.

Brownback will veto any bill that challenges his delusion. His plan is to rob KPERS and Highways and early childhood education programs; his plan is to do nothing and continue in the belief that some magic will occur to save him. And sadly his allies continue to give him anything he wants.

Until the Senate stands up to Brownback, there is little hope that Kansas can get back on the track to stability and prosperity.

The motion to override the veto failed on a vote of 24-16. Those 16 who voted to support the Governor’s program (all Republicans) dismantling Kansas services were: Alley, Baumgardner, Denning, Estes, Fitzgerald, LaTurner, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Suellentrop, Tyson, Wagle, and Wilborn.


House Passes Due Process Restoration; Sends it to the Senate

The House this morning to approve HB 2186, the arbitration bill that includes the Stogsdill amendment restoring due process for Kansas teachers. The amendment inserted the contents of HB 2179 into HB 2186. The bill passed on a vote of 72-53. The vote is as follows:

Voting AYE were Representatives Alcala, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Ellis, Finney, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hodge, Holscher, Jennings, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Ousley, Parker, Phelps, Pittman, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans are in bold ilatics.)

All other Representatives voted NO. There were no absences.

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Due Process Moves on House Floor

Feb 21, 2017 by

House Takes Preliminary Vote on Due Process and It Passes!

When Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) cancelled the education committee meeting yesterday, it was done with the intent of ending the possibility that due process rights for Kansas teachers would be restored. Instead, he got the supporters for HB 2179 looking for another way forward. They found that other path this morning.

With the full House on general orders, a bill dealing with dispute arbitration came up for debate, HB 2186. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill (R-Prairie Village) offered an amendment that would restore due process rights for Kansas teachers exactly as it was to be done in HB 2179.

Aurand tried to block the amendment by challenging whether the amendment was germane or related to the underlying bill. The rules committee considered the challenge and ruled that the amendment was indeed germane and that debate could continue.

Much of the debate focused on “local control,” the idea of letting every local school board decide whether or not they would choose to grant due process protections to their teachers. While some school districts have done this, a large majority of school boards simply refuse to even bargain the issue. Teachers in districts that have not bargained due process rights, those teachers may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all, typically aren’t told the reason for the termination, and have no recourse to a hearing to determine if they were treated justly or capriciously.

One freshman legislator, Trevor Jacobs (R-Fort Scott), called upon Stogsdill to give him proof that any teachers have been fired for having a bad day since 2014. Of course, no one can be certain of the answer since school districts don’t give reasons for termination unless that has been bargained into the contract.

After a long floor debate, the amendment was adopted on a vote of 66 to 59 as moderate Republicans joined Democrats in voting AYE.

Voting AYE were Representatives Alcala, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Ellis, Finney, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Highberger, Hodge, Holscher, Judd-Jenkins, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Phelps, Pittman, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans are in bold ilatics.)

All other Representatives voted NO. There were no absences.

Following that vote, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby), decided to get one dig in at teachers and offered an amendment he called “merit pay.” The amendment was not a merit pay amendment but called for the creation of a mandatory state-wide evaluation system for teachers and school administrators. Additionally, it would direct the State Board of Education to set compensation for teachers and administrators.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) challenged the germaneness of this amendment. The rules committee determined that the amendment was not germane and so it was not debated or voted upon.

The bill was then advanced to final action with 68 votes. That final action vote will likely come tomorrow.


Your call to action tonight!

If your Representative voted AYE on the Stogsdill amendment, take the time to let him/her know that you appreciate the support for Kansas teachers. If your Representative voted NO on the amendment, ask him/her to reconsider and vote AYE on final action on HB 2186.

Find a roster of Representatives with a link to their email addresses by clicking here.


Changes to Working After Retirement (WAR) Get Preliminary OK

HB 2268 passed a preliminary vote in the House today by voice vote.  If the bill passes on Final Action in the House it will then proceed to the Senate.

The bill, as amended makes numerous changes to KPERS in relationship to Working After Retirement.

The current rules for Working After Retirement, as applied to newly retired individuals, caps an individual’s annual earnings at $25,000. Once the cap is reached an individual must either quit working or stop receiving KPERS benefits for the rest of the year.

Also, the current rules for certain groups in KPERS exempt them from the $25,000 cap. This includes nurses at certain state institutions, those in KP&F, those in the Judges Retirement System, local government officials and those employed with a participating KPERS employer prior to May 1, 2015.

Additionally the current rules make an exemption for certain types of licensed school district employees from the $25,000 cap. Importantly participating employers who hire retired licenses school employees are required to contribute to KPERS at rates varying up to 30% of the employee’s salary.

The current exemptions for licensed school district employees include those hired for emergency vacancies, special education teachers, and those who are hired under the hard-to-fill provisions of the current law.

HB 2268 combines all the current special exemptions into a single special working after retirement exemption. The bill also continues the existing provisions of the WAR rules regarding a bona fide separation period, employer assurance protocols, maximum period of employment-three years plus a one year extension-and the current contribution to KPERS rates. Retirees working under the current law would continue to be exempt, subject to the time limits in HB 2268.

Additionally starting on July 1, 2017, those who retire at age 62 or older and who are re-employed by a school district would also be exempt from the earnings cap. The district would be required to contribute to KPERS equal to 30% of the retiree’s compensation.

The bill also exempts those who are re-employed by the Board of Regents and covered by the Regents Retirement Plan from the earnings cap. The Regents Retirement Plan is not administered by KPERS.

 

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