Senate: Fund Schools; House: Micromanage Schools

Mar 27, 2019 by

The first week of April is the time reserved to reconcile the differences between House and Senate versions of bills and to pass conference committee reports with the final compromise bills.

Of greatest interest to educators, naturally, is what the Legislature plans to pass as a response to the Gannon school finance decision. With the actions of both chambers over the last few days, it appears they will go into a conference committee with two bills. Senate Bill 142 – passed by the Senate and not even considered by the House – provides an additional $90 million per year to the school finance plan passed over the 2017 and 2018 sessions. House Substitute for Senate Bill 16 – passed by the House and non-concurred in by the Senate – contains the conservative wish list of legislative micro-management policies crafted primarily by Representatives Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita). Somehow the final school finance plan must be crafted out of these two bills.

Just to be clear, here is what the the two bills do:

Senate Bill 142 provides $90 million new dollars to public education and continues that $90 million over four years to reach the level that would have been in place if the Montoy promises had been kept and then adjusted for inflation. All the funding is added to BASE aid to benefit all students. After the phase-in, SB 142 continues the annual CPI adjustments into the future.

House Sub for SB 16 provides no new money to schools. Instead, it puts a number of new accountability regulations in place requiring new reports of student performance and school finances of schools and the Kansas State Department of Education. Also mandated are a study of graduation requirements with the intention of allowing financial literacy and computer science courses to count as math and science credits, the creation of a new IT Commission to study technology in the schools, and a Legislative Post Audit study of unencumbered balances in school districts. This bill puts limits on the number of years a bilingual student can receive funding and removes the requirement that the Legislature reimburse schools for 92% of the excess costs of special education.

KNEA supports Senate Bill 142.

KNEA – and the entire public education community – opposes House Sub for SB 16. Passage of this bill was only achieved by enacting a call of the House and using the time to badger Republican representatives until a 63rd vote could be secured. It was passed on a vote of 63 to 61 – the bare minimum for passage. Click here to see how your Representative voted.

With your Legislators back home for four days, there will be opportunities to communicate with them about the importance of meeting the Gannon school finance decision and getting our school funding system settled and constitutional.

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ACTION ALERT: BAD SCHOOL FINANCE!

Mar 26, 2019 by

This morning the Kansas House gave final action approval to Sub for Senate Bill 16, the bill packed chock full of terrible school policies. The bill passed 63 to 61 but only after a call of the House which enabled Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) to strongarm folks into changing votes. The deciding vote was cast by Ronald Ellis (R-Meriden) giving the bill the one vote needed for passage.

  • SB 16 removes the requirement to fund 92% of the excess costs of special education, allowing future legislatures to reduce funding;
  • Limits bilingual weighting, cutting off children who don’t become fluent English speakers on schedule;
  • Requires a study of graduation requirements with the intention of allowing financial literacy and computer science to count as math or science credits;
  • Creates an IT Commission to advise on technology issues in schools with no educators serving on it;
  • Establishes but does not fund a bullying hotline;
  • Layers multiple new reporting requirements on schools; and
  • Provides no funding to meet the Gannon school finance decision.

A motion to amend the bill to reinstate due process for teachers failed last night on a vote of 55 to 68. All Democrats were joined by 14 Republicans in supporting teachers.

Debate on the House school funding bill, Sub for HB 2395, is expected to take place later today.

  • HB 2395 eliminates two years from the current school finance plan;
  • Eliminates a requirement to fund a CPI adjustment annually into the future;
  • Cuts in half the dollars going to BASE state aid (from the Senate position); and
  • Creates a new behavioral mental health weighting that will not be available to all schools.

This bill will not meet the Gannon decision and should be voted down.

TAKE ACTION NOW!


Sub for HB 2395 is irresponsible and should be defeated. We urge all supporters of our public schools to contact their state representatives now. CLICK Here to contact your Representative. Ask him/her to vote NO on Sub for HB 2395 and to pass SB 142 instead. It is time to move a responsible bill to the Kansas Supreme Court – that bill is SB 142.

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Big issues front and center! Your Action Needed!

Mar 22, 2019 by

House Ed Budget Committee sends two bills to the floor

Two bills were moved out of the House K-12 Budget Committee last night – one dealing with funding, the other with policy. Both bills will now go to the full House for debate next week. And both bills are opposed by KNEA and the education community generally.

But the first action was to deal with SB 142, the Senate’s school finance bill that represents the best response available at this time to the Gannon school finance decision. A motion by Jim Ward (D-Wichita) to pass the bill out favorably was defeated on a 5 to 7 vote – a number which would be repeated several times during the meeting.

Next up was Senate Bill 16 which dealt with naming evidence-based programs that could be paid for with at-risk funds. The bill was brought by Mike O’Neal on behalf of JAG-K (Jobs for America’s Graduates). The Senate added Boys and Girls Clubs to the bill and sent it over to the House.

On a motion by Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater), the bill was gutted and a new bill created. House Sub for SB 16 now contains nearly all of the education policy changes sought by House K-12 Budget Committee Chair Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and the conservative legislators on the committee. There are no funding pieces in the bill at all.

Pieces that were removed from the bill include the bullying task force, the vouchers for targets of bullying, and the restrictions on roofing contracts. The limit on funding bilingual students is changed from four years to five. The 15% cap on unencumbered balances is removed and replaced with an audit of unencumbered balances by the Division of Legislative Post Audit.

The bill still removes the requirement that 92% of the excess costs of special education be reimbursed. It keeps all the new accountability reporting, the study of graduation requirements in the hope of letting financial literacy and computer science count as math or science credits, the establishment of an IT Commission, the extension of the Dyslexia Task Force, and O’Neal’s JAG-K language but without Boys and Girls Clubs. The bill also creates a new bullying hotline.

Also included is a change to the tuition tax credit scholarship (voucher) program that will tend to concentrate vouchers in urban areas. Currently these vouchers are available to students in the 100 lowest performing schools in the state. The change in this bill is to limit the vouchers to the 100 lowest performing elementary schools in the state.

The amendment creating Sub for SB 16 was adopted on a vote of 7 to 5 and the bill was subsequently passed out of committee on a party line vote of 8 to 4.

Sub for SB 16 will do nothing to address the Gannon decision and parts of it could jeopardize equity in our current formula created additional legal problems in the Courts. KNEA opposes Sub for SB 16.

This action was followed by a new Hoffman motion to amend HB 2395, Williams’ school finance plan, to take out all the policy pieces that are now contained in Sub for SB 16.

As amended, HB 2395 (now Sub for HB 2395) would provide about $90 million in new funding but splits that funding essentially half and half between BASE increases and two weightings – a slight increase in at-risk weighting and the creation of new “behavioral health intervention weighting.” The Senate plan in SB 142 would apply the full $90 million increase to the BASE without messing about with a formula that has been deemed to be constitutional.

But there are other very significant and very troubling changes. First, instead of honoring the promises of the 2017 and 2018 school finance actions, this bill repeals entirely the BASE increases in the last two years. SB 142 has all four years funded. This new bill also deletes the current provision that calls for an annual CPI increase to school funding once the Montoy Safe Harbor is reached. Sub for HB 2395 ends all commitments to school funding before reaching the Montoy Safe Harbor and beyond.

If Sub for HB 2395 were to become that Legislature’s response to Gannon, we will likely remain in court far into the future. The best hope for bringing Gannon to an end is to pass SB 142. KNEA opposes Sub for HB 2395.

TAKE ACTION NOW!

Both of these bills (Sub for SB 16 and Sub for HB 2395) will be available next week for debate on the House floor. We urge all supporters of our public schools to contact their state representatives now. CLICK Here to contact your Representative. Ask him/her to vote NO on Sub for SB 16 and Sub for HB 2395 and to pass SB 142 instead. It is time to move a responsible bill to the Supreme Court – that bill is SB 142.

Will the Senate take action on Medicaid expansion?

Thursday, on a vote of 69 to 54, the House passed KanCare expansion, an action that could bring health insurance coverage to as many as 150,000 currently uninsured Kansans. KanCare is the state’s Medicaid program. The expansion is allowed under the Affordable Care Act. The state will pay 10% of the cost while the federal government is required to pay 90%.

Both the House and Senate have voted previously to expand KanCare only to have the action vetoed by then-Governor Sam Brownback. A motion to override Brownback’s veto passed the House but fell a vote short in the Senate.

House leadership has been determined to stop to KanCare expansion but the majority of members have been just as determined to pass it. And on Wednesday, when HB 2066 came to the floor, they got their chance. Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-Kansas City) made a motion to gut the bill and replace the contents with KanCare expansion. This action was necessary because Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita), the chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee and a hardcore opponent of expansion refused to give a hearing to a bill on expansion.

The amendment was ruled not germane by the House Rules Committee Chair but the ruling was overturned by the members on a vote of 55 to sustain the ruling and 62 to overturn. After a long debate, the Wolfe Moore amendment passed on a vote of 69 to 53 and the bill advanced to final action on a vote of 70 to 54.

Now the bill goes to the Senate but time is almost up for consideration. KanCare expansion is needed in Kansas. We have already seen four rural hospitals close (Independence, Fort Scott, Oswego, and Horton) with many more on the verge of closing. Expansion will help them by paying for more preventative care and limiting the practice of using the emergency room for care. Expansion will help many working Kansans caught in the gap between KanCare eligibility and eligibility for ACA health insurance subsidies. They earn too much to qualify for KanCare but not enough to be eligible to get financial help to buy private insurance.

KanCare expansion will create jobs, protect hospitals and communities, and improve health and financial security for 150,000 Kansans. Here’s what some legislators had to say about why they voted YES on expansion:

  • “I discerningly vote “yes” on HB 2066… Rural hospitals, mental health, and the working poor are losing. While imperfect, today’s decision gives them a chance. Healthcare cannot be solved exclusively in Kansas; let’s resoundingly IMPLORE FEDERAL dialogue, action, and results.” MARK SAMSEL
  • “I vote yes on HB 2066. It ensures that thousands of Kansans can look forward to a healthier and more productive future. And at a time when 86% of Kansas hospitals have negative operating margins, this proposal will provide immediate help for their bottom line, stabilizing operations, aiding in staff recruitment, and providing a lifeline to much-needed retooling and reconfiguring of health care delivery. It has been said that in Kansas a person’s zip code is a greater determinant of health outcomes than genetics. For rural Kansans, HB 2066 gives hope that it need not always be so.” DON HINEMAN, BRAD RALPH, JOHN P. WHEELER, JR., JIM KARLESKINT, SUZI CARLSON, SUSAN CONCANNON, LEONARD A. MASTRONI
  • “Expanding accessibility to preventative healthcare will alleviate crisis health situations, reduce hospital operating losses, and ultimately lead to healthier rural communities. I vote YES on HB 2066.” ADAM SMITH

TAKE ACTION NOW!

CLICK Here to contact your Senator now. Ask them to take action on House Bill 2066 and expand KanCare. It is time to help working Kansans get the health care they deserve; time to step up for our rural hospitals; time to do the right thing. Ask them to call HB 2066 to the floor of the Senate for action.

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