Early Childhood Investments and Property Taxes

Mar 6, 2018 by

K-12 Budget Committee Reviews ECE Programs

The K-12 Budget Committee held the first of two days of presentations on early childhood education programs today.

The first part of today’s agenda looked at programs offered under the leadership of the Children’s Cabinet. The Children’s Cabinet oversees the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement monies Kansas receives and which has been targeted to pre-school programs. These programs serve at-risk populations. Among the many programs are Child Care Assistance, Early Childhood Block Grants, Family Preservation, and Tobacco Use Prevention.

Kansas Action for Children reports that an investment in quality child care for one child could save the state $243,810 over the life of the child. At-risk children who don’t’ receive a high-quality early childhood education are 25% more likely to drop out of school, 40% more likely to become a teen parent, 50% more likely to be placed in special education, 60% more likely to never attend college, and 70% more likely to be rested for a violent crime. Strong evidence for the importance of investments in early childhood education!

The second part of today’s meeting was a presentation on the Attachment Bio-behavioral Catch-up program (ABC). This program aims to serve children in homes where they are more likely to receive adverse childhood experiences. These are stressful experiences in a child’s life that prevent or limit bonding with parent or caregiver and lead to negative behaviors throughout life.

The ABC program was developed at the University of Delaware and provides in-home training for parents with children as young as six months. Its intent is to train these parents on how to interact with their child in positive ways through play and everyday activities. The Committee heard from both researchers and individuals who provide the training to parents.

Tomorrow the Committee will hear about early childhood education programs service pre-school populations in the public schools.

House Tax Committee Holds a Hearing a Bill Raising the School Property Tax Mill Levy

House Bill 2740 would raise the statewide mill levy for schools from the current 20 mills to 38.43 mills over three years. While such an action would raise a significant amount of money for public education ($659.9 million), when coupled with LOB levies, the property tax burden would be crippling. Chairman Johnson (R-Assaria) indicated the bill was crafted to get the amount of money that the SBOE indicated would be needed.

While we believe this would likely raise enough money to satisfy the adequacy ruling the Gannon, we remain unconvinced that this is the best way go. Kansas NEA continues to believe that comprehensive tax reform that balances the three primary sources (income, sales, property) establishing a three-legged stool is the best way to both fund schools and other important state services including public safety, highways, and the social service safety net.

There were no proponents of the bill but plenty of opponents.

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Mostly quiet today… mostly.

May 8, 2017 by

As legislators returned to the statehouse today, most were looking forward to a week of steady, but not necessarily frantic work.  The full House gathered briefly this morning, but our attention was drawn to the Old Supreme Court room where the House K-12 Budget Committee was to meet.  And meet they did, for about 2.5 hours to work on Proposed Substitute for House Bill 2410.  This is the bill the committee is working to amend, tighten, and present as the fix to school funding that will hopefully pass court muster.

Last week, former Senator Jeff King who has been hired as legal counsel, basically said that it is time for gamesmanship to end and that the Supreme Court ruling on adequacy was a very direct charge to provide full constitutional funding for all public schools and that particular attention should be given to students identified as “at-risk.”  King’s remarks essentially shut down the argument brought by some staunch conservatives that adequacy was only about at-risk students and not about providing full constitutional funding for all public schools.

Still, some ideologies are hard to break, to whit, Rep. Brenda Landwehr was one of the first to speak at the opening of the committee meeting.  Landwehr expressed- in no uncertain terms- her belief that the current bill up for consideration failed to deliver mechanisms for accountability and the consequences necessary to punish districts who did not meet new accreditation requirements due to lack of adequate academic progress.  It seems that the “test and punish” culture of “no child left behind” is something Landwehr refuses to leave behind.  Others like Rep. Scott Schwab agreed with Landwehr.  “We’re in a catch 22” Schwab lamented, stating that new accreditation requirements fail to address individual failing schools within a district (although he admitted there are few), and that the cycle would eventually mean “I’m back in court.”  Rep. Melissa Rooker, one of the bill’s chief architects, was able to assure the committee that there are mechanisms in place to ensure accountability while also providing for paths to success and improvement.

More amendments followed, all were carried favorably, although some after vigorous discussion.  Chief among them were:

  • Provision to “grandfather” districts such that none lose transportation funding under a move to a new transportation formula.
  • Amendment by Rep Rooker to count pre-k at risk students in current year rather than previous year so that more can access a special pool of state funding for building new early childhood, at-risk programs.  Rooker suggested that although the pool of money was relatively small $2 million, it was one more step the legislature could take to show that it recognizes how “extraordinarily important” early childhood and at-risk programs are.
  • Another Rooker amendment seeks to tighten language under the current definition of “at-risk.”  (See a draft of proposed changes here).

One final amendment proposed by Rep Landwehr, but ultimately withdrawn, sought to impose upon the KSDE to create a new report to the legislature.  This report would be a “quick look” style report of information gathered from other existing reports.  Several committee members were opposed to adding this unfunded responsibility to KSDE, citing increased pressure on staff and resources to create a report that essentially duplicates other reports.  KSDE’s venerable Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis responded in his typical endearing and folksy way to a committee member who asked if this would present an increased workload on already stretched staff.  “I’ll be shot if I say yes, but I’d be lying if I say no.”  Landwehr ultimately withdrew the amendment but promised to revise it and bring it back to the committee.

No announcement was made for the next committee meeting time, although legislative schedules show a standing meeting throughout the week.

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