What about now? And what happens next?

Oct 5, 2017 by

If SB 19 is unconstitutional, what about the new funding our schools are getting?

“Within These Walls the Balance of Justice Weighs Equal.”

You may be wondering what immediate impact Monday’s Kansas Supreme Court ruling will have on your school and district. We’ll try to clear things up as much as possible.

First, you may wonder about how this impacts the new money received under SB 19 now that SB 19 has been found to not meet constitutional requirements. There should be no significant impact on funding. The Court has not stopped the state from providing the funding specified in SB 19 and schools should continue to be funded just as they have been from the start of this school year.

There will also be no impact for this school year based on the four equity issues raised as unconstitutional by the Court. For example, if your district has already shifted some insurance payments to the capital outlay fund thereby freeing up a few dollars for other purposes, that may continue until June 30, 2018. The 10% floor for at-risk funding which has been ruled unconstitutional will also continue for this school year but not into the next. This would only impact two districts in the state so will have no effect on most of you.

If your local association and board of education are still seeking a contract settlement, the funding in SB 19 should not be holding up such a settlement – your district has the funding promised in SB 19 for this school year. But since the Court has ruled the overall level of funding to be inadequate, it is safe to assume that there will be more money in the next school year than was provided in SB 19.

Was this a unanimous decision? Was there no dissent?

This was indeed a unanimous decision on both issues of adequacy and equity, however, there were dissenting opinions on the timelines within the decision.

The Court majority has determined that the Legislature will have the 2018 regular legislative session in which to resolve the issues raised in the decision. As we reported Monday, they will not allow the Legislature to drag its feet and set specific early dates for briefs to be filed and oral arguments to be presented. The Legislature will not be able to string out the process until the very end of the session.

Justices Johnson and Rosen, while agreeing with the rulings on both adequacy and equity, dissented on the timeline preferring that the Court would require a remedy by the end of 2017. Justice Biles also agreed with the rulings on both adequacy and equity but dissented on allowing the unconstitutional equity provisions to continue until the end of the school year preferring that those issues be blocked from implementation immediately.

So, what happens next?

For right now, schools can operate “business as usual.” Nothing is being stopped or taken away; the Court specifically stayed their order until June 30, 2018.

The Court has directed the Legislators and Plaintiffs in the case to submit concurrent briefs by April 30 and response briefs by May 10. This means that the legislative remedy needs to be created, passed, and signed into law in time to meet the April 30 deadline. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for May 22, 2018, and the Court will issue a ruling on or before June 30, 2018.

The Court justified their hard deadlines by saying,

With that regrettable history in mind, [that the K-12 system has been underfunded for many years] while we stay the issuance of today’s mandate through June 30, 2018, after that date we will not allow ourselves to be placed in the position of being complicit actors in the continuing deprivation of a constitutionally adequate and equitable education owed to hundreds of thousands of Kansas school children. Cf. Campbell County School Dist., 32 P.3d at 332-33 (cited in Gannon II, 303 Kan. at 739). See Gannon IV, 305 Kan. at 919.

They are saying, in essence, that a delay that makes rendering a new decision prior to June 30 impossible, will not be tolerated. They expect to be given time to consider the new remedy, hear arguments, and deliberate and not be put in a position like this year when the bill was finished so late, they had little choice but to let it go into effect pending the Court hearing.

We would expect that between now and the start of the 2018 legislative session, legislators on all sides of the issue will take an opportunity to attack someone for the position they’ve put themselves in. Some will berate the Court for imposing its will on the Legislature; others will go after Brownback and his legislative allies for crippling the state’s revenue stream so there was no money for schools, and some will say that this is exactly what they expected.

We hope the posturing will be finished soon (you’re probably reading all about it in your local paper now) and that cooler heads will start thinking about solutions. SB 19, in the form first drafted by Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) and Senator Laura Kelly (D-Topeka), represented a bipartisan effort and was an excellent start that was eventually whittled down and then loaded up with inequitable policy provisions. We know there are legislators on both sides of the aisle willing to meet their constitutional obligation.

It’s going to take work and courage.   We’ve stated previously that any solution would require the Legislature to address the state’s revenue crisis and that solving the school funding problem requires sensible tax policy.  While we’ve made significant strides in the right direction, we need to understand that fixing the mess left by Governor Brownback and his allies will be a marathon and not a sprint.  Yet, the framework for a solution is there and a solution can be crafted. It will take additional revenue and it will take a desire to stay away from inequitable policies. We look forward to working with legislators to get the job done. Kansas simply cannot afford to delay any longer.

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Supreme Court: Schools May Open Under New Finance Bill

Jun 20, 2017 by

http://www.workingjournalistpress.com/articles/170302/Gannon-Case-Supreme-Court-opinion-released.php

The Kansas Supreme Court yesterday announced that Kansas public schools will be allowed to open under the finance plan passed by the Legislature in Senate Bill 19. This is not, however, to mean that they believe the new formula to be adequate or constitutional. That decision will be made later.

In making the announcement, the Court set July 18 as the hearing day for the new formula. The State will argue that SB 19 fully complies with the Gannon decision, while the plaintiffs will argue that it is inadequate in funding and contains a number of provisions that jeopardize equity. After hearing arguments from both sides, the Court will deliberate before making a ruling on the issues at hand. While the Court has said they will expedite this case, there is no telling how long their deliberations might take before a decision is reached.

Obviously, this means that there will not be a July special legislative session. If the Court rules against the State, there is still the possibility of a fall special session or the Legislature could be given the 2018 regular legislative session to address any shortcomings.

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Engage at home!

Jun 15, 2016 by

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 6.13.19 PMWith the special session of the Kansas Legislature just about a week away, now is the time for you to engage your representatives if you have not done so already.  Once they are under the dome, legislators tend to be focused on the politics within the building.  Most- not all- will take your calls, but in large part they are swimming in the ebb and flow of policy debate.

We recommend that you call your legislator right now.  As always, emails from personal accounts are okay, but personal contact is best.  Remember that KS Republican Party Director, Clay Barker has cast a dragnet to catch educators (and only educators) who exercise their right to free speech and who do so by voicing a dissenting opinion by using their school email or school devices.  Don’t succumb to their attempts to secure your silence through intimidation and fear.  Instead, take action now before the week ends and try to convey the following:

Click Here to find out who your reps are and contact info.
  • You have an expectation that the Legislature will finally do their duty according to the state Constitution and fund public schools equitably and adequately.
  • You expect them to steer clear of the political wrangling based upon the desire of some of the Governor’s closest allies to punish the Courts for doing their duty.
  • The Supreme Court does not seek out cases.  They take cases brought before the court by complaint of citizens and they rule on the constitutionality of the laws at the basis of the complaint.
  • The Court’s rulings in this case reflect the nature of the three branches of government system our state and nation were built upon to provide checks and balances against abuse of power.
  • The Legislature led by the Governor’s closest allies have created the conditions of inequity and inadequacy in school funding and it is the Legislature that is responsible for correcting these conditions so that schools will open in the fall.
  • You expect your representatives to have a single focus during this special session.  They should correct the conditions of inequity that exist without engaging in additional policy attacks in order to conclude the session quickly and ensure that schools open this fall.
  • Tell your story.  How does the actions of your representatives translate to you in your community.  Give examples.

 

School Funding Poll Results


Over a period of about one week, we conducted a non-scientific opinion poll.  The poll was modeled after a recent poll published in the Kansas City Star.  Our goal was to publish the poll publicly via social media and engage respondents statewide.  While we make no claims about the scientific nature of the poll, we did take some very specific measures to ensure validity.  The results reflect only responses from unique I.P. (internet protocol) addresses. Basically, this means that responses which were likely to have originated from the same device were excluded from the results.  We published the poll within our organization’s social media properties, but we also published the poll through promoted posts statewide.  After filtering the results as mentioned above, we ended up with nearly 2,400 responses and over 1,800 “valid” responses.  The results are displayed below along with a map displaying the general locations of respondents who completed the survey.  Click the images to view full size.

Poll Results

Poll Results

 

 

Location Analytics

Location Analytics

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We Refuse To Give In!

Feb 23, 2016 by

The Kansas Supreme Court has indicated that if equity in school funding is not addressed by the Legislature before June 30, schools will not be able to open in August.

Should we expect that to happen?

Well, the Court could do that but the real question is why would the Legislature not deal with the order appropriately?

Does anyone really believe that Kansas citizens are going to let their legislators off the hook? Are they going to forgive a legislator that allows that to happen?

While some folks appear to be paralyzed by fear, we have more faith in the process and in the people of Kansas. Failure to address the court order and allowing our schools to close is the last thing any responsible legislator would want. And we can darn well be sure that the citizens of Kansas – the parents and taxpayers – aren’t going to stand by while their elected officials dismantle their schools.

Allowing the schools to close would be an economic disaster for Kansas communities. In many counties the public schools account for as much or more than 25% of payroll. What happens to local businesses when that amount of economic activity goes away?

What can you say about a legislator who would jeopardize the chances that a Kansas high school senior has to get into college? What would such a legislator say to the parents of a five-year-old excited for that first day of kindergarten?

Yes, some legislators – maybe many – may not be happy with the court decision. Yes, they may seek their pound of flesh in some kind of standoff. And maybe they want to test the court; to push them to the brink. But if they did and the schools were to close, how would those legislators be able to walk door to door in their quest to be re-elected? Show us the legislator who would sacrifice small businesses, force school employees onto unemployment, and deny educational opportunities to our children. What legislator wants to look into the eyes of a child’s parents and talk about “activist judges?”

Some people – even some in the education community – want us all to shake our heads, wring our hands, and cry “woe is me.” Kansas NEA is not among them.

We are planning for schools to be open. We are counting on the legislators – regardless of their ideology – to face their obligations responsibly. And we fully expect every Kansan to hold accountable any legislator who fails to stand up for our children, our schools, and our communities.

Readers should look for a mid-session review in Under the Dome tomorrow.

Click Here to TAKE ACTION NOW!

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Happy Birthday Kansas!

Jan 29, 2015 by

Fiscal issues dominate

Money is the big issue under the dome as Kansas continues to get bad news on the effects of the Brownback tax cuts.

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan announced that Kansas would have a “cash flow” problem come February and that payments to school districts due in February would need to be held off until June.

The cost of last year’s school finance equity provisions has come in higher than expected, causing a number of legislators to complain and openly advocate not meeting the equity need. This is a not unexpected event; every year there must be adjustments in school funding based on actual data that comes in the fall. Bills passed in the spring are best estimates but usually require adjustment in the form of a supplemental appropriations bill.

This has caused Schools for Fair Funding (SFF) to file a new motion with the Supreme Court to reopen the equity portion of the school finance lawsuit known as “Gannon.” In their announcement, SFF said, “In response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s March decision, the Kansas Legislature adopted State’s Senate Substitute for House Bill 2506 (“H.B. 2506”), purportedly restoring approximately $129 million in funding to Kansas schools. Now,the State has revealed it is approximately $63 million short of fully funding equalization aid for FY15. As seems to happen all too frequently in school finance litigation, the Legislature once again adopted legislation that would allow it to meet its constitutional obligations, but then chose to fund that legislation at unconstitutional levels.

Senate Bill 71 which would change the way LOB aid (supplemental general state aid) would be calculated has raised alarms around the state as it would reduce aid for most school districts. The bill had been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee today but the hearing was abruptly canceled.

Little is happening in the Legislature today and tomorrow as we move into the celebration of Kansas statehood.

 

The Blame Game

Governor Brownback loves his tax cutting. He hired Arthur Laffer – the architect of supply-side, trickle-down economics – to help him craft tax cuts and he campaigned on a tax cutting message. Once elected he called for massive tax cuts and set Kansas on his “glide path to zero” income taxes.

Brownback said we’d have a “real live experiment” and promised his tax plans would be like a “shot of adrenaline in the heart of the Kansas economy. Thousands of new jobs would be created and the state population would grow.

Unfortunately for Brownback, tax revenues began a rapid decline leading to mega-budget problems. But when the first evidence of revenue collapse came in, Brownback said it wasn’t his policies, it was Barack Obama.

And now as the mess becomes ever bigger, Brownback breaks his campaign promises and puts out a budget cutting $127 million from education. He boasted of how he put KPERS back on sound financial footing and then reneged on those promises.

He’s not getting very good press and so this past weekend, he went back to his old standby: blame someone else.

This time, speaking to Topeka business leaders, he said the problems we are facing lie with the legislature.

Well, the legislature does share in the blame but they only passed what the Governor begged them to pass. It was Governor Brownback who came up with the idea of ending the income tax. When moderate Republicans joined with Democrats in the Senate to stop the madness, it was Governor Brownback who promised them the bill would be changed in conference if they would just change their votes and approve the bill.

A few of them believed Brownback’s promises and changed their votes. The bill passed the Senate, went to the House where it was quickly approved unchanged, and dropped on Brownback’s desk. The Governor lauded it, picked up a pen, and signed it into law. It was his idea; he persuaded the Senate to reverse course and pass it, his allies in the House handed it to him, and he signed it.

But today, he says it’s not his fault schools will be cut, highway programs delayed, social services trimmed. The Legislature did it.

We wonder if anyone is buying it.

Click here to read the report on Brownback’s blame remarks in the Topeka Capital Journal.

Click here to read what the Garden City Telegram had to say about this blame shifting.

 

Senate Education Committee holds hearing on multi-year contract bill

The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 2 which would allow school districts to grant 2-year contracts to teachers with 10 or fewer years of experience and 3-year contracts to those with more than 10 years of experience.

KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti told the committee that while KNEA did not have any problem with the concept of multi-year contracts as they would give a modest level of job security to teachers, the devil is in the implementation.

If it is left to the individual principal to determine, what happens when a principal in one school gives multi-year contracts to all the teachers and the principal in a neighboring school gives none? What happens when there are arbitrary limits on how many teachers may have multi-year contracts? What happens when no one understands how individual teachers are chosen in the granting of multi-year contracts?

“These issues create morale problems that do tremendous harm,” said Desetti.

KASB also brought forth a number of concerns about the implementation of the proposal.

Senator Jacob LaTurner (R-Pittsburg) proposed the bill No action was taken on the bill today.

 

Pensions discussions on-going

In House Pensions this week the topic was selling $1.5 billion dollars of Pension Obligation Bonds. The hearing on this bill started today and will continue next week.

There are both up and down sides to bonding.

One important piece of information regards the state’s bond rating. The Kansas bond rating has been downgraded since the passage of the Brownback income tax cuts by multiple rating agencies. The bond rating is re-evaluated when a state makes an application to sell bonds.

Kansas could face another downgrade in our bond rating if the legislature approves the sale and the Governor signs the bill and an application is made to sell bonds. The cost estimates take another downgrade into consideration given that the state has not addressed the reasons why the bond ratings were downgraded previously and the state would be taking on more debt with the sale of new bonds.

Look for us to report more on this issue as it moves forward.

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