Thank a Legislator! Considering Fixes to Equity

Mar 13, 2018 by

What’s a Great Way to Say “Thank You” to Representatives Who Support Kansas Teachers?

Last week, 73 members of the Kansas House of Representatives voted to restore due process rights to Kansas teachers, sending the bill over to the Senate where it awaits a hearing now.

Recent news has revealed that while Kansas teachers are 42nd in the nation in teacher salaries, they are dead last in pay when compared to private sector workers in their own state. For every dollar earned in the private sector in Kansas, a Kansas teacher earns 71 cents. On top of that, the retirement system for new Kansas teachers is significantly worse than that provided in our neighboring states. And then, to add insult to injury, the Kansas Legislative Research Department reported that Kansas is one of only two states in the nation that have no job security measures – such as due process – for teachers. These are three big reasons why Kansas is struggling to find teachers to staff our classrooms and why young Kansans are choosing alternative occupations.

So we should be thanking those legislators who are trying to turn this around every chance we get.

If your Representative is one of the 73, you can click here to find a thank you note to post on your social media feeds – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, any and all channels.

Looking at Solving the Equity Issues

In Gannon, the Supreme Court found four provisions of SB 19 that violate equity in the school finance formula.

  • The 10% at-risk floor,
  • The expansion of capital outlay to include utilities and property and casualty insurance,
  • The election provisions on LOB increases, and
  • Basing LOB funding on the prior year’s LOB.

HB 2445 would repeal the first two and make changes to the other two to bring the formula into compliance.

The bill provides that LOB increase elections would be subject to protest petition and possible election. Schools for Fair Funding suggested that it would be more equitable to allow LOB increases based solely on a resolution and vote of the school board. The Kansas City, KS schools brought compelling evidence that school districts with a low assessed valuation per pupil have a significantly greater challenge in winning an LOB election than communities with a high AVPP.

The bill would base LOB payments on current year levels but would require districts to notify the state by April 1 of their intent to seek a higher LOB. The intent of this provision is to give the state legislature more predictability in funding needs.

The bill also would codify into law the current practice in distributing transportation aid on a “curve of best fit.” This was a recommendation of the Legislative Post Audit.

The Kansas Policy Institute testified in opposition to the bill but had no alternative ways to meet the Court’s ruling. In fact, when asked by Rep. Steve Huebert (R-Valley Center) asked what Dave Trabert’s advice would be in addressing the Court, Trabert responded that he would tell the Court, “Thank you for your opinion, we’ll take it under advisement.” In other words, just defy the Court and let our schools close. What great advice!


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Your Action Needed Now!

Feb 6, 2015 by

House Ed Committee to debate changes to PNA!

Take action now!

On Tuesday of next week, the House Education Committee is set to debate and possibly vote on HB 2034, the “minority report” bill changing collective bargaining for teachers.

This bill is opposed by KNEA, the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators/KS, and the Kansas School Superintendents Association.

The four educational organizations have offered a separate bill with suggested improvements to the Professional Negotiations Act that would make bargaining more efficient, more effective, and more focused.

Contact the members of the House Education Committee and urge them to reject HB 2034 and instead adopt the agreement offered by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA.

The members of the committee are listed below. Their names are linked to their email addresses.

Ron Highland

Jerry Lunn

Valdenia Winn

John Barker

Tony Barton

Sue Boldra

John Bradford

Carolyn Bridges

Rob Bruchman

Diana Dierks

Willie Dove

John Ewy

Amanda Grosserode

Dennis Hedke

Nancy Lusk

Charles Macheers

Marc Rhoades

Chuck Smith

Ed Trimmer



Governor Brownback and the Kansas Legislature are ramping up their attacks on the education community in the hopes that Kansans will “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Yesterday Brownback announced $44.5 million in cuts to education ($28.3 million from K-12; $16.2 million from higher ed) to take effect in March. The cuts are needed thanks to the reckless income tax cuts passed at the Governor’s behest. Revenue continues to plummet and the promised “shot of adrenaline to the heart of the Kansas economy” has not materialized. Yet still, Brownback insists that his plan is working and he will “stay the course.”

The legislature is also considering changes to LOB state aid calculations that would reduce school funding by $39 million and they will be delaying capital outlay payments to schools to address a “cash flow” problem.

The cuts announced yesterday include a 1.5% across the board cut to K-12 schools (about $42 off of Base State Aid Per Pupil this year) and a 2% cut to higher education. Specified were cuts to each of the Regents 4-year institutions and an additional $4.5 million to be cut from community colleges and tech colleges.


But apparently part of the problem is that the KNEA is controlling school board elections. That’s why Sen. Mitch Holmes needed to introduce legislation moving school board elections to November. Said Holmes, “The teachers unions do not want to give up the majority they currently enjoy in low turnout, off-cycle elections,” (Read more here:

We suppose Holmes wants you to believe that teachers unions control the school boards and that’s why school spending goes up – you know, to cover the enormous salary increases being granted by the union-controlled school boards.

In reality, moving school board elections to November and making them partisan will simply result in turning local elections into the kind of election circus one sees with state and federal elections. Imagine the kind of mail you’ll be getting for school board candidates!


Another big part of the problem in Kansas today is apparently being caused by liberal elite college professors writing in our newspapers. Sen. Forrest Knox has introduced a bill to require that the Regents universities adopt policies prohibiting professors from identifying themselves as professors when writing editorials or op-eds. We wouldn’t want readers to know that the writer might be educated or knowledgeable on the topic of the editorial especially if that editorial might be critical of Governor Brownback or the Kansas Legislature.

There is speculation that this bill is directed at a group of Kansas professors writing as Insight Kansas. Included in Insight Kansas are political science professors like Burdett Loomis at KU and Chapman Rackaway at Fort Hays State. (Read more here:


And now we need to stop that piano! It seems that the Kansas City, Kansas School District purchased a grand piano for $48,000. The Governor cited this purchase in his press release announcing his education cuts. Brownback said the district should have hired a teacher instead.

Facts conveniently ignored by critics of the purchase:

  • The piano replaces one that is at least 40 years old.
  • The piano was for Sumner Academy, a nationally recognized high school that has an arts focus.
  • The piano is used to help students prepare for concerts and auditions when applying for prestigious post-secondary music programs.
  • Sumner Academy and the KCK Schools serve predominantly low-income students who would otherwise not have access to such an instrument.

But we should not be surprised. This is the Governor that made a name for himself early in his first term by ending the Kansas Arts Commission.

So, pay no attention to the “men” behind the curtain. The first string they pulled dismantled the state’s revenue stream. Now they’re dismantling state services, silencing dissent, and hiding behind straw pianos.

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LOB Cuts, PNA Hearing, Bi-Partisan Bill to Restore Due Process

Feb 3, 2015 by

Ways & Means considers LOB aid cut

The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 71, a bill that would change the way LOB state aid is calculated and reduce LOB funding to schools by more than $39 million.

Here’s how Budget Director Shawn Sullivan explains the bill in a report to Committee Chair Ty Masterson:

Under current law, the amount of state aid that a school district is entitled for its Local Option Budget (LOB) is based on its assessed valuation per pupil (AVPP) and what the statewide AVPP is at the 81.2 percentile. If a district’s AVPP is above the 81.2 percentile, the district receives no LOB State Aid, also known as Supplemental General State Aid. If a district’s AVPP is below the 81.2 percentile, the district is entitled to LOB State Aid, based on how far the district’s AVPP is from the 81.2 percentile. SB 71 would change the calculation of LOB State Aid from using the 81.2 percentile to using the district with the highest total valuation of taxable tangible property for the preceding year.

LOB State Aid expenditures totaling $482,755,000 from the State General Fund have been included in The FY 2016 Governor’s Budget Report. According to the Kansas Department of Education, enactment of SB 71 would reduce LOB State Aid expenditures by $39,098,023.

The Committee room was packed with parents and public school employees testifying in opposition to the bill. It comes on the heels of the last Supreme Court ruling that found the legislature unconstitutionally underfunded equity provisions (LOB and Capital Outlay) in the school finance formula. The Legislature last year boosted those aid payments to address the court ruling.

Senator Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) blasted the proposal as “flying the face of Gannon.” Passage of the bill would almost certainly put the state in jeopardy in the ongoing school finance litigation.

Senate Education Committee working bills

The Senate Education Committee was set to work Senate Bill 2, a bill allowing school districts to offer teachers two or three-year contracts based on their number of years of experience.

The bill had been introduced by Senator Jake LaTurner (R-Pittsburg) at the request of constituents.

During the hearing, KNEA and KASB both testified as neutral on the bill raising a number of concerns about how it might be implemented and what the impact might be on morale.

The committee today chose to take no action on the bill.

The committee then took up Senate Bill 32 from the Efficiency Commission. This bill would require annual efficiency audits of school districts and set up a commission to determine efficiency standards. The committee first amended the bill to ensure that the minority party had representation on the commission. Then, when it appeared the bill was moving along, Sen. Tyson asked about the $2.8 million fiscal note. In the discussion, it was determined that funding the audits was based on a demand transfer – something the legislature often does not do.

Sen. Schmidt noted that if the demand transfer did not get made, then school districts would have to pay for the audits out of their budgets. The bill was pulled back and an amendment will be drawn up that ensures school districts will not have to conduct the audits if the state does not foot the bill.

Finally, they took up Senate Bill 33 which sets up a Commission to set standards aligned with the Rose Capacities. This bill also came from the Efficiency Commission.

Senator Abrams immediately indicated his discomfort with the bill noting that it appeared to interfere with the State Board of Education’s constitutional responsibility for the general supervision of schools. Senators Schmidt and Pettey agreed with Abrams position and it was decided to let the bill lie on the agenda in case they should decide to take it up at a later time.

PNA hearing tomorrow

The House Education Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on House Bill 2034, the minority report bill that would gut collective bargaining rights.

The bill came from a minority of members of the K-12 Efficiency Commission. The majority recommended no changes in PNA pending the completion of on-going talks among education groups to find ways to make collective bargaining more efficient, effective, and focused.

Those talks concluded on January 21 with an agreement signed onto by KNEA, KASB, USA-KS, and KSSA. A bill reflecting the agreement has been introduced in the Senate Education Committee.

All four organizations will testify in opposition to HB 2034 tomorrow and ask the Committee to instead adopt their recommendations.

Bi-partisan bill to restore teacher due process introduced

Rep. Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) introduced a bill that would restore due process rights to teachers. These rights were stripped in dead of night legislative maneuvering last April.

The bill is not yet printed but will be House Bill 2220.

When it is available we will have the names of co-sponsors to share with you. Several Republican legislators made a point of telling us today that they had signed on as co-sponsors.

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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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