School Finance Action!

Apr 2, 2018 by

House Defeats Their First School Finance Bill

The House of Representatives today debated HB 2445, the first school finance bill to emerge from and Committee this year, and after a long debate, failed to advance it to final action on a vote of 55 to 65. This was not a roll call vote so there is no record of how individual legislators voted.

The bill added about $500 million additional dollars to education over five years and provided fixes to all four equity provisions challenged by the Court in the last Gannon decision. It also revised the transportation formula to codify a “curve of best fit” in the distribution of funding and increased the transportation multiplier to .5 as recommended by the Legislative Post Audit.

Some legislators argued that the funding in the bill was too low and attempts were made by Representatives Ed Trimmer and Jeff Pittman to increase some aid provisions. A motion by Trimmer to increase funding by the CPI applied to the Montoy levels of funding was defeated on a vote of 46 to 76. Pittman tried to increase funding for special education over the four years to meet the 92% reimbursement in statute (failed 45-68) and then to increase the funding to meet the 92% reimbursement level next year only (failed 45-73).

Rep. Brenda Landwehr tried two amendments, one of which passed on a vote of 107 to 14. This amendment added a pilot program of mental health cooperation between school districts and community mental health providers. She also tried a so-called “Kansas School Closure Contingency Plan” which would have created individual student accounts in the treasurer’s office such that if schools were closed, parents could tap the accounts to send their children to private schools. This voucher amendment failed on a vote of 40 to 81.

Two “gotcha” amendments were offered in an attempt to garner “postcard votes.” The first was proposed by Rep. Blake Carpenter who tried to radically increase the statewide local property tax levy for education and call it the “Kansas Supreme Court Education Tax.” Rep. Melissa Rooker challenged the germaneness of the amendment and it was tossed out as not germane.

The next one came from Rep. John Whitmer. He tried to take $45 million out of K-12 funding (payback for what he deems to have been illegal transportation funding) and transfer it to the Board of Regents. He proposed attaching a one-year tuition freeze on higher ed as well. Rooker again challenged the germaneness of the amendment and again it was found to be not germane. The amendment was thrown out.

Rep. Sean Tarwater offered his “safe routes to school” transportation proposal that was taken up in Committee and not acted upon. Tarwater’s amendment would prohibit school districts from charging for transportation if there was no safe route for the child to walk to school. The issue was originally raised to assist some constituents of Tarwater who were charged for transportation after their school district opened a new building and moved their children into that school. The amendment failed on a vote of 56 to 64.

With no further amendments being offered, Rep. Fred Patton who was carrying the bill on the floor moved to report the bill favorably for passage. The voice vote being unclear to the chair, the roll was open and the motion failed on a vote of 55 to 65.

Had the motion passed, a final action vote would take place tomorrow but, having failed, the bill simply sits on the calendar. It is possible to have a motion to reconsider tomorrow but in a surprise move, before adjourning Majority Leader Don Hineman announced the debate calendar for tomorrow – one bill. HB 2445.

Something is afoot!

Senate Now Has a School Finance Bill

While all this was going on in the House, the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance was meeting and assembling their own school finance bill.

This bill, SB 423, will be available in the morning and we will review it here tomorrow.

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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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