A Couple Big Days for Education

Mar 24, 2017 by

Yesterday’s work under the dome went longer than usual because, both the House K-12 Budget Committee and the House Education Committee both met and conducted hearings on important bills.

In the K-12 Budget Committee, the hearing on HB 2410 began. HB 2410 is the Chairman’s Bill on school finance. We explained the components of this bill earlier this week. This hearing will run for three days, ending on Monday, after which the Committee will begin the process of “working” the bill. We anticipate many amendments being offered at that time.

On the first day, testimony was offered by KASB and a number of school superintendents. Today, KNEA was one of a long list of organizations offering testimony. KNEA suggested that there were a number of points in the bill that we support but we cannot support replacing the LOB with three funds, much of which would be restricted. We also testified that the funding in the bill – $75 million in new money – is woefully inadequate and would be rejected by the Supreme Court.

Today, the same concerns brought forth by KNEA were shared in testimony from the Kansas PTA, Game On for Kansas Schools, the Eudora Superintendent, the Pratt Superintendent, and the Central Heights Superintendent.

Later yesterday, the House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2374, a bill which would radically expand the tuition tax credit program that drains up to $10 million from the state budget to send children to private schools including unaccredited private schools. HB 2374 would expand who is eligible to get a “scholarship” and expand tax breaks by giving individuals the ability to contribute to a scholarship granting organization (SGO) and get a tax break. Currently, only corporations can get the tax break.

The bill was supported by the Kansas Policy Institute and the Kansas Chamber – two organizations working overtime to drain funding from public schools – and the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. Opposing the bill were KNEA, KASB, the League of Women Voters, Game on for Kansas Schools, Kansas Families for Education, the Mainstream Coalition, and the Kansas PTA.

Committee Chairman Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) announced at the beginning of the meeting that he would not be working bill. This means that the bill is dead for this year as a stand-alone bill. The Committee will not meet again this year.

There is a version of the bill in HB 2410 but the expansion there, while changing the definition of eligible students, does not expand the tax breaks and limits the scholarships to students attending accredited schools that do better than the trendline for post-secondary success or have an ACT performance above the state average.


The following is republished from”Walk to Restore the Revenue” Facebook Event Page:

We walk for three days (Fri 24 – Sun 26), and arrive in Topeka on Monday, March 27th. Join us for all or part, but most importantly join us Monday at 10:30 am in front of the Kansas Supreme Court Building (South of the Capitol) for our final steps into the Capitol for a rally demanding reform.

Share the Event: bit.ly/Kwalk2017

For the last four years, Kansans have walked to raise awareness of the need to fund public education. This year, education supporters are coming together with roadworkers, social workers, and other concerned citizens to support real revenue reform.

A sustainable tax policy was passed by both the House and Senate, but the Governor vetoed the policy. The House managed to override the veto, but the Senate was shy just three votes to override the veto.

Kansas is three votes away from a tax policy that will provide the structure required to sustain solid infrastructure, to provide support for vulnerable Kansans, and to invest in the education of our children.

This year the walk will again begin from three locations: Merriam, Emporia, and Manhattan.

Register to Participate/Support: bit.ly/Kwalk17
Order a t-Shirt: bit.ly/KwalkShirt

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Guns on Campus & The Misunderstood Legend of Bernard P. Fife, Tuition Tax Credits, Pensions and more…

Mar 9, 2017 by

Guns on Campus Gets Another Hearing

The issue of allowing firearms on college and university campuses is a hot topic this year as post-secondary institutions approach a July 1, 2017, deadline by which they must install security measures (metal detectors and staff) at every entrance if they plan to prohibit concealed weapons on campus. As you can imagine, the cost of such security would be prohibitive making it almost a certainty that campuses will be open to guns beginning in July.

Bills have been introduced to repeal the deadline essentially allowing each institution to decide how to handle weapons on campus for themselves. Those bills had hearings earlier in the session and went nowhere.

But today the House Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing on HB 2220 which would prohibit post- secondary institutions from adopting any policies about firearms at all. Under this bill, anyone could carry a weapon anywhere on campus at any time – a kind of wild west approach to college campuses. And despite the fact that the institutions oppose the bill, student and faculty groups oppose the bill, and parent groups oppose the bill, the fact that the NRA was there to support it appears to carry more weight.

Rep. Ken Corbet (R-Topeka) tried to crack jokes about the situation saying that if Barney Fife had been allowed to keep his bullet in the chamber instead of his pocket, he could have stopped more crime.  Of course, most know that the bumbling but lovable character played by the late Don Knotts was prohibited from keeping a loaded weapon due to his penchant for misfiring his pistol.

No action was taken on the bill today.


Tuition Tax Credit (Voucher) Bill Hearing Postponed

The hearing on HB 2374, the expansion of the tuition tax credit or voucher bill, was canceled for tomorrow. It will be moved to Wednesday of next week. KNEA will be there to oppose the bill.


Senate Committee Working on Pensions

The Senate begins work on pensions in the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee chaired by Senator Jeff Longbine. The committee has begun pension work by hearing testimony from the Executive Director of KPERS Alan Conroy who reviewed the KPERS System with the committee (KPERS 101) and a review of Working After Retirement issues. The Senate committee will hear testimony next Wednesday regarding HB 2268 which is the House version of updates to Working After Retirement. The Senate committee will hear testimony on Tuesday of next week regarding their version of an update of Working After Retirement covered in SB 138. Look for summaries and current information next week in Under the Dome.


Long-time Education Research Staffer, Sharon Wenger, Retires

We are sad to say that Sharon Wenger, the Legislative Research Department’s staff member assigned to the education committees will be retiring after tomorrow. Anyone of you who has ever attended an education committee meeting in the statehouse would have seen Sharon answering questions and providing resource materials for committee members. It’s not only the legislators who love and admire Sharon, we lobbyists do as well. Her expertise, her demeanor, and her smile will be missed. And as jealous as we are, we can still manage to wish her well and thank her for her years of service to education in Kansas.

Sharon was honored today by the House Education and K-12 Education Budget Committee members.

 

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Senate Kills Gov’s Tax Bill; Then There’s Guns, Vouchers, and Efficiencies

Mar 8, 2017 by

Brownback’s Tax Bill Goes Down in Flames

The Senate yesterday debated Governor Brownback’s tax proposal (SB 175) which would simply raise alcohol and tobacco taxes and increase registration fees on businesses in a hopeless attempt to get out of the massive budget hole created by his reckless tax cuts.

The Senate clearly recognized this and killed the bill by passing an amendment to strike the enacting clause on a vote of 37 -1. The enacting clause indicates when the bill would become law and by removing the clause, the underlying bill can never become law. The motion is the equivalent of killing the bill.

One would think that this action would send a clear message to the Governor that the Senate, like the House, wants tax reform that brings Kansas back from the edge. Of course, the Governor is sticking to his failed policies like a pit bull on a rib bone.

This vote moves the Senate to consideration of a better tax reform bill and that’s the good news.


House Committee to Talk Guns on Campus Tomorrow

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee will be hearing HB 2220, a bill that would prohibit post-secondary institutions from adopting any policies governing concealed weapons on campus. This is the opposite of earlier attempts to allow those institutions to prohibit firearms on campus.

HB 2220 essentially makes college campuses wild west institutions where anyone can do whatever they want with firearms. Under this bill, no campus could restrict where guns were permitted or who could carry them. Campuses would be completely unregulated when it came to firearms.

KNEA opposes this bill and has called for the passage of legislation to allow colleges to make these decisions.


K-12 Budget Committee to Take Up Radical Expansion of Tuition Tax Credits (i.e. Vouchers)

On Friday, the K-12 Education Budget Committee will hold a hearing on HB 2374, a bill expanding the corporate tuition tax credit program. Under current law the state allows corporations to pay the tuition of at-risk children in Title 1 schools to attend a private school. The corporation gets a 90% tax credit for this. That means the state is giving away $10 million in taxpayer money to send a few kids to unaccountable private school.

We are always fascinated by legislators and lobbyists like Dave Trabert who continually demand more and more accountability and testing in public schools but are perfectly okay sending millions of dollars to unaccredited private schools that report no results to the state at all. But then, we’ve been here a long time and hypocrisy should not surprise us.

At a time when the Court has determined that our public schools are not adequately funded and that many in the legislature are still calling for cuts to public education; at a time when the state faces a two-year budget hole of over $800 million, it is irresponsible to continue to give away tax money for which there is no accountability whatsoever. The best thing for the legislature to do at this time is to simply repeal the program entirely and put that $10 million back in the budget where it belongs to serve all Kansans.


School District Purchasing, Health Care Consolidation Discussion

Last week Secretary of Administration Sarah Shipman called together education stakeholder groups to discuss two of the “efficiency” recommendations that were included as part of the Governor’s budget this year.

Brownback included a requirement that all school districts centralize purchasing through the Department of Administration. State agencies currently use this system and the Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study had suggested that there would be significant savings to the state if school districts joined.

He also included an A&M recommendation that school districts consolidate into one health insurance plan like the State Employees Health Plan.

Bills were filed that would accomplish both of these requirements.

The K-12 Education Budget Committee was skeptical about the potential savings and asked Secretary Shipman to bring people together to discuss both issues and come up with recommendations.

KNEA joined KASB, USA/Kansas, the Wichita schools, and Greenbush at the meeting. Also present was the anti-government Kansas Policy Institute.

Today Secretary Shipman reported on the results of the meeting to the committee. In short, the recommendation was that the negatives far outweighed the positives and that there was no way to deliver any savings in 2018 even if the bills were passed.

Committee Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) announced that he would not work the bills but instead let them lie until next year. He will also report to the Appropriations Committee that the bills would not have saved any revenue in 2018.

Representative Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) also pointed out that neither bill would provide a penny of savings to the state unless the legislature reduced school funding by an amount equivalent to the savings instead of letting any savings be redirected to classroom programs.

 

 

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