First School Finance Bill Passes; Four Day Weekend

May 25, 2017 by

The House this morning passed Sub for HB 2410 on final action on a vote of 84 to 39, moving it on to the Senate.

The Senate meanwhile has crafted their own school finance bill which was originally in SB 251 but on moving it out of committee, it was put into HB 2186.

We now know what’s in HB 2410 and can report that we believe the policy in the bill makes for a good school finance plan and will likely be found to be constitutional. The bad news is that the funding in the bill remains low and we expect the Court to call it inadequate.

Sub for HB 2410 contains many important policy pieces including:

  • Full funding of All Day Kindergarten and funding for 4-year-old at-risk,
  • A higher level of at-risk funding and a floor of 10% for districts with fewer than 10% free lunch students,
  • High-density at-risk weighting, low enrollment, and high enrollment weightings,
  • Enrollment count provisions to protect districts impacted by military deployments/transfers, and
  • Funding for mentor teacher and professional development programs.

The bill contains many provisions that re-enact elements of the school finance formula that was in place before its repeal and replacement by the unconstitutional block grant system.

The bill also makes changes to the corporate tuition tax credit scholarship program. The bill would require that private schools receiving students under the program be accredited by the State Board of Education. Eligible students would have to be in one of the 100 lowest performing schools as determined by the Kansas State Department of Education and be free lunch eligible. 50% of those students would also have to be directly certified by the Department of Children and Families. While KNEA still opposes the payment of state monies either directly or indirectly to private schools, HB 2410 makes significant improvements to the program.

The Senate Bill, contained in Sub for HB 2186, is perhaps a different animal altogether.

While it started out similar to HB 2410, there are a number of significant differences including an even lower funding level.

In crafting the bill, while legislators had a copy of SB 251 as drawn up for Senator Denning, very few amendments were submitted in written form. They were offered and debated as “conceptual” amendments all of which were further amended by more conceptual amendments. With nothing in writing it was very difficult to determine the impact of most of the amendments ultimately adopted.

As of today, the amended bill was not available for review. So we apologize, but we will have to wait to report to you on the specifics of the bill until we have had the chance to read it. The word under the dome is that the Senate will caucus on HB 2186 on Tuesday with a vote to follow on Wednesday. If this bill passes, it is possible that the two chambers will go directly to conference with their two versions of school finance as the guides.

And just remember – we have a long way to go before this is done. The Senate must deal with a school finance bill and then a House/Senate Conference Committee will need to hammer out the differences before a final bill can be submitted to the Governor and ultimately the Supreme Court.

It Still Has to be Funded

Yes, funding is needed. Something the state does not have right now.

A tax plan that restores revenue to the state and allows for an increase in school funding has yet to be passed.

On Monday, the House defeated a tax conference committee report in SB 30 that would have restored three income tax brackets, repealed the glide path to zero, and ended the LLC tax loophole. The no votes came from conservatives who don’t believe there is a revenue problem or that schools need more money and from Democrats who pointed out that the bill was not big enough to fund the current budget and increase school funding.

Like HB 2410, KNEA believes that SB 30 (the Monday version) was the right policy but we agreed that more would need to be done to fund schools. We supported the bill because it would have put the income tax system back on firm ground but we agreed that a second bill would be necessary to cover school funding increases.

The House put SB 30 back in committee and the next version to come out was a smaller, more anemic bill. This time we opposed SB 30. And apparently, a lot of legislators did as well because it was pulled before it hit the floor.

Okay, so here’s the problem in following along – SB 30 is the tax bill. It is the tax bill over and over (Groundhog Day?) and each time it emerges out of its hole, it’s different. Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s bad. The next tax bill is likely to be SB 30 and we don’t know if it will be a good SB 30 or a bad SB 30. But look for it on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Should We Be Mad That There is a Four-Day Weekend?

We know, it seems somehow wrong that as soon as they hit 101 days, they decided to take a four-day weekend.

But this has been an extraordinary week under the dome. They have been building tax plans, debating them, arguing about them. The House has finally passed a school finance plan that was the result of a lot of hard work and long hours. This week they’ve been meeting late into the evening and it has been trying.

We know we are exhausted and we also know that they are exhausted. And knowing that good work is seldom done by the unrested, we hope that they will use the long weekend to relax and refresh. That’s what we will do.

But here’s the big thing – we are fully expecting them to come back on Tuesday rested and ready to roll up their sleeves. There’s still a lot to be done and we’re about out of time. There will be long days and night work ahead.

 

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House Pulls Tax Bill; Advances School Finance

May 24, 2017 by

The House was expected to debate a new tax plan today that had been put together in a conference committee last night. After convening this morning, the full House recessed until 1:00 to allow the tax conference committee to meet yet again to make some tweaks to said bill (SB 30). Those tweaks were agreed to and the report was set to go but when the House returned, it seems that a decision had been made to pull it yet again. It was perhaps clear that there were not enough votes to pass it and so it was unceremoniously set aside.

The House did, however, take up Sub for HB 2410, the school finance bill. It was rumored that there were more than 80 amendments prepared for the debate so we settled in for a long night.

Here’s a run-down of amendments:

  • An Aurand amendment to remove the Autism ABA therapy mandate was adopted. (KNEA supported),
  • A Trimmer amendment to strip out the local enrichment budget, transfer the money budgeted for that to a fund for schools losing money with the end of the block grants, and reinstate the cost of living levy was adopted. (KNEA supported),
  • A Trimmer amendment to change the name of the local foundation budget (LFB) back to the local option budget (LOB) was adopted. (KNEA supported)
  • A Trimmer amendment to strike the 10% at-risk floor and put the savings on the base ($2/student) failed. (KNEA did not support striking the 10% floor),
  • A Trimmer amendment to count all-day K enrollment for funding purposes in the current year for the first year of the new law was adopted (KNEA supported),
  • A Trimmer amendment to increase the funding in the bill to provide for $200 million new dollars per year for three years failed (KNEA supported),
  • A Highland amendment to put in a number of very bad policy pieces including high deductible health care plans for school employees, grading schools, merit pay, and more failed (KNEA opposed),
  • A Trevor Jacobs amendment on “bathroom privacy” – mandating use of bathrooms in schools according to the gender on one’s birth certificate – was ruled not germane and so was not voted on (KNEA opposed the amendment),
  • A Sutton amendment to end funding for out-of-state children (most of these are employee’s children, children whose parents work in Kansas, or children whose families own property that spans both sides of the border) failed (KNEA opposed the amendment),
  • A Clark amendment to stabilize funding in school districts impacted by military deployments and transfers was adopted (KNEA supported),
  • A Stogsdill amendment to restore due process for Kansas teachers was ruled non-germane and so was not voted on (KNEA supported the amendment),
  • A Whitmer amendment to have firearms safety training in schools based on the NRA “Eddie Eagle” program was ruled non-germane and so was not voted on (KNEA has never testified on this issue), and
  • An Ousley amendment to phase out the corporate tuition tax credit program failed (KNEA supported the amendment).

At this point Rep. Campbell was called upon to close on the bill. Apparently a lot of amendments were either duplicates or were pulled because the Rules Committee was strictly ruling any amendment that was policy alone as non-germane. According to the rules, there must be two points of nexus between the bill and an amendment. In the case of the three ruled non-germane, they were education policy only and did not touch on the second part of the bill, school finance.

While we are disappointed in the failure to get due process attached to the bill, the Rules Committee did interpret the rules correctly and applied their rulings fairly.

The bill was advanced to final action on a vote of 81 to 40. There will be a final action vote tomorrow morning.

 

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Week Four Begins

May 22, 2017 by

Both chambers were on the floor at 10:00 this morning for very brief meetings before recessing until late afternoon.

The House this morning did adopt the conference committee report (CCR) on SB 21, the KPERS working after retirement changes that we reported here on May 17 (CLICK HERE).  The Senate will likely vote on the report late today or tomorrow.

We made sure we had seats for the noon meeting of House/Senate Conference Committee on Taxes. Word was that they were close to agreeing on some changes to the CCR on SB 30. This was a plan that was not run earlier when it was found that they did not have the votes to pass it.

SB 30 would enact some very good policy changes that are widely supported. It would restore three income tax brackets somewhat higher than they are now, it would end the Brownback glide path to zero, and it would repeal the LLC business income tax loophole. Passage would restore common sense tax policy to the Kansas income tax and set the path on the right path going forward but unfortunately would not raise enough revenue to provide for significant school funding increases to meet Gannon. If SB 30 were to be adopted, a second bill would be required to fund K-21 education.

The conference committee did convene at noon but only to say they weren’t yet prepared and then agreed to return at 2:30. At a later meeting, they did agree to send the report to the House floor in SB 30. The Rise Up Coalition, of which KNEA is a member, supports this bill. It is the first step in saving Kansas from the Brownback experiment.

The House was scheduled to reconvene at 7:00 tonight and we are now waiting for the vote. If it passes the House, it may go to the Senate late tonight.

Major Opposition to Denning’s Utility Surcharge Likely to Lead to Changes

Senator Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) included an education “pay for” in SB 251, his school finance overhaul. Denning proposed a surcharge of $2.25/month/utility for residential customers; $10/month/utility for business customers; and a $120 annual fee for agricultural irrigation. Needless to say, there was heavy opposition from agricultural interests and utility companies. Word today was that there would be consideration of changing from a surcharge to a sales tax on utilities such that the more gas or electricity or water one uses, the more one will pay in taxes.

Look for a follow-up report late tonight or tomorrow morning!

 

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No Finance Bill Yet; Tax Debate in Senate

May 10, 2017 by

TAKE A 1-QUESTION OPINION SURVEY ON THE SENATE TAX PLAN BELOW

The K-12 Budget Committee met again today continuing to work on HB 2410. They started by adopting the Communities in Schools amendment from Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) that simply eliminates some old language that is no longer applicable to the program.

Rooker then offered a motion to reconsider the amendment adopted yesterday on requiring schools to pay for ABA therapy for a child with autism if requested by the parent and supported by a medical recommendation. The Committee reviewed a letter from a KSDE attorney informing them that the requirement would violate the federal IDEA law by removing the IEP team from decision-making. The motion angered the maker of the amendment, Scott Schwab (R-Olathe), who said he was not going to act based on the opinion of one lawyer. It was Schwab who yesterday asserted that schools were sending children with autism to pet shops to pet puppies as therapy. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita) then weighed in declaring that our public schools were failing children with autism. When the vote was taken, it was eight to eight to reconsider. Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) cast a NAY vote breaking the tie and defeating the motion.

Next was an amendment by Landwehr that would require the State Department to present an annual report on accreditation to the Legislature and Governor. The amendment was adopted.

Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) returned to his amendment from yesterday on the corporate tuition tax credit program. Yesterday the amendment would have removed the requirement that private schools receiving students would have to out-perform the trend data on post-secondary success or the statewide average ACT scores. He withdrew the motion yesterday to rework it so that high schools accepting students would still have to meet those requirements but elementary schools would not. The new motion was adopted.

Another Aurand amendment on the corporate tuition tax credit program changed the definition of an eligible student from one direct certified by the Department of Children and Families back to an at-risk student (defined as on free lunch). He then added that 50% of those children would have to be direct certified by DCF. The amendment passed.

Jim Karleskint (R-Tonganoxie) expressed concern about language in the bill directing the SBOE to create an accreditation system based on student performance. He noted that the SBOE has just completed that work. The Revisor was directed to seek language that puts that section of the bill in the present tense and bring it back tomorrow.

The final amendment offered came again from Aurand. This one would repeal the Cost of Living weighting and replace it with a Local Enhancement Budget. This LEB is intended to allow districts to raise local property taxes to get money to spend on non-at-risk students for enrichment opportunities beyond the required curriculum. Schwab asked that the motion be divided. Part A of the motion would be establishing the LEB; part B would be repealing the Cost of Living weighting.

There was plenty of back and forth of this amendment raising many concerns. So many in fact that the committee ran out of time.

They will meet again tomorrow with the intent of addressing the Karleskint concerns, voting on the LEB motion, and giving Schwab the chance see if he can rework the ABA amendment to address the concerns of the KSDE legal team. Campbell hopes to vote on the bill on Friday.

Senate Takes Up a Tax Bill

It came as a surprise to everyone today that the Senate would take up a tax bill. House Bill 2067 was put together by the Tax Conference Committee and it was decided that it would be voted on today.

HB 2067 is a match of SB 30, the tax bill that was pulled from consideration in the House when it was found that it did not have enough support to pass.

HB 2067/SB 30 is a good policy bill in that it reverses the most damaging parts of the disastrous Brownback tax policy. It would restore the three income tax brackets, repeal the LLC income tax exemption, and end the glide path to zero. But unfortunately, while the bill would fill the holes in the budget, it would not provide the funds necessary to pay for HB 2410, the school finance plan crafted in the House. And one thing Legislative Counsel Jeff King told both the House K-12 Committee and all the Senate is that in order to pass Court muster, the state must show that the money is there. It is not there in HB 2067/SB30.

Passage of the bill would mean that they would be forced to develop yet another tax increase to address school finance. There are no promises or plans from Senate leadership on what that “trailer bill” would be or what tax it would raise.

Initially, the Senate voted the bill down on a vote of 18 – 22. They then reconsidered the action and voted to not adopt the bill, sending it back to conference where it can be used as the shell of a new tax plan.

Here’s what former State Budget Director Duane Goossen had to say to legislators about the plan:

Before you lend your support to something short of a full fix, I urge you to request the following of legislative leadership:

    1. Assurances of support. Legislative leaders should commit to upholding the position of the chamber. If they are unwilling to do that for a compromise similar to Senate Bill 30, it should serve as a red flag for legislators that it may not be a compromise at all. Rather, it is more likely a maneuver to lower the bar for negotiations and push through something much smaller that fails to restore stability to the state’s budget.
    2. A plan for schools. Failure to comply with a Supreme Court order to adequately fund public education will put schools in high danger of closing in August. If a tax package does not produce enough revenue to cover this, another funding source for schools should be clearly identified before voting on tax reform. As former Senator Jeff King stated in addressing the House K12 Budget Committee on Thursday, “if you promise to put in money, you have to have the money.”

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