Sex, Equity, Bonding, and Procurement…Lots Going On Under the Dome!

Mar 16, 2016 by

House Passes Over Sex Ed Bill for Today

HB 2199, the bill requiring that human sexuality education be offered only on an “opt-in” basis, was up for debate today on the House floor. After debating three other bills, a motion was made to rise and report meaning that the bill was not debated today. It remains on the calendar and is available for debate later.

Under current law, local school boards can make a determination whether to offer human sexuality education on an opt-in or opt-out basis depending on their own community. This bill would disallow the opt-out option.

There is general agreement that opt-in programs have lower participation than opt-out. Many worry that without human sexuality education, some students will not get age appropriate education. As a result, it is possible that there could be an increase in sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies.

The bill went further in that it would prohibit a school district from exposing any child who had not opted in to the program to any program materials. This provision stemmed from a parent complaint in the Shawnee Mission School District. One child photographed a controversial poster in a classroom that was part of the adopted human sexuality program.

If passed as is, the district would have to ensure that no child who is not in the program cannot see any program materials. The district would have to ensure that, if a classroom is used for both human sexuality and another subject, no materials from the human sexuality program could be seen. Additionally, the district would have to find a way to keep students in the program from sharing anything from the program with others. This would be impossible to enforce.

KNEA opposes this bill and believes school districts and boards will make the appropriate decisions for their own communities.


Ways and Means Takes Up Masterson Equity Bill

The Senate Ways and Means Committee today held a hearing on SB 512, Senator Masterson’s (R-Andover) bill intended to address the equity ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court.

While the bill shares some similarities to the Ryckman bill (HB 2731) heard in the House yesterday, it differs in one pretty significant way. Both bills return to the equity formula provisions in place before passage of the block grant bill (SB 7) and both bills repeal the extraordinary needs fund in order to find some money for fix. But while the House Bill looks to spend an additional $23 million, the Senate Bill simply rearranges some existing school funding to bridge the gap between the $17 million from the extraordinary needs fund and the actual cost of restoring equity.

Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute expressed some support for the Senate Bill because it provides no additional funding to schools.

Problems with both bills are that 1) they eliminated the extraordinary needs fund which is the only place districts can go in the event of large changes in property values or student demographics/enrollment and 2) they create winners and losers, something that is especially problematic at a time when schools have been flat funded.

And while the block grant would allegedly let schools know what they would get in funding for its duration, they would actually cut funding to some districts. One also wonders what impact the elimination of the extraordinary needs fund would have on the adequacy case still pending in the Courts.

No action has been taken as of yet on either bill.


Bond & Interest Review Panel Bill in Senate

The bill creating the Bond and Interest Review Panel was taken up once again in the Senate Education Committee today. Senate Bill 356 as introduced was very similar to House Bill 2456, worked in the House Education Committee yesterday.

While the bill was up to be worked today in Committee, no action was yet taken. Senator Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) has proposed an amendment to the bill changing the review panel structure which has been floating in committee since the bill was first debated. And today, Senator Vickie Schmidt (R-Topeka) has offered to amend the bill to match the changes made yesterday to HB 2456 with the Trimmer and Bradford amendments.

The Senate Committee will need to return to the bill later to determine which way to go.


Education Budget Committee Considers Procurement Restrictions for Schools

The House Education Budget Committee today is discussing HB 2729, a bill crafted based on a recommendation from the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Study.

The first section of the bill would require school districts to make purchases through the Department of Administration’s Procurement List. This list is agreements for bulk purchasing that saves the state money.

The bill provides a few exceptions the requirement:

  • Such items or services may be procured locally in an amount within 1% of total procurement cost of the amount the department is able to procure the same items or services;
  • such items or services may be procured through an education service center;
  • (such board of education determines in writing that such items have a material quality difference that would negatively impact student performance or outcomes as long as the secretary agrees with such determination in writing; or
  • prior to July 1, 2018, a contract for the procurement of such items or services in existence on July 1, 2016, is still in existence.

There is concern in school districts with a provision in section 2 that would make the above apply to the purchase of any services over $20,000. There are services that a district might purchase that cost over $20,000 such as attorney representation that, under current law, would be exempt from the standard bid procedure. Current law requires bidding and the selection of the lowest bid for “construction, reconstruction or remodeling or for the purchase of materials, goods or wares…” It specifically exempts services.

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Senate Approves Budget; Looming Deadline; KPERS

Feb 12, 2016 by

Senate Approves Budget; On to Conference

The House approved their version of the budget on Thursday morning, the Senate did so Thursday night.

The House budget includes the delay in payments to KPERS with “promises” to pay the money back next year. On a motion of Rep. Johnson (R-Asaria), the House amended the KPERS provision to require the payback in the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest. The Senate, on the other hand, removed the delay of KPERS funding requiring the state to go ahead and fund KPERS as scheduled.

Both chambers also ignored the Supreme Court decision on school funding equity that came out Thursday morning. The Court decision found SB 7 (block grants) to be unconstitutional in that it does not provide for equity. There had been some thought that votes on the budget would be postponed. A motion to refer the budget back to committee failed on the House floor.

We will now be interested in seeing how the Legislature plans to respond to the Court’s ruling.

The roll call vote on the budget in the Senate (HB 2365) is as follows:

YEA: Abrams, Arpke, Bowers, Bruce, Denning, Donovan, Fitzgerald, Holmes, Kerschen, King, Knox, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, O’Donnell, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Smith, Wagle, and Wilborn.

NAY: Baumgardner, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, LaTurner, Longbine, Pettey, Pyle, V. Schmidt, Tyson, and Wolf.

McGinn was absent.


The June 30 Deadline Looms!

You’ve been reading that the Supreme Court has given the Legislature until June 30 to address the equity issues in school funding. Yet to be decided is whether or not overall funding is adequate.

The Court clearly said that if the order is not addressed by that date, then schools would be closed because the state would be prohibited from providing funding in an unconstitutional manner.

This order has led to plenty of posturing and chest-pounding on the part of some in the Legislature.

But we are confident that, when the dust settles, the Legislature will get back to work and address the situation. There is still plenty of time between now and June 30 for the Legislature to take the appropriate action and that is our expectation. No one on either side of the aisle and of any ideology really wants schools to close. KNEA, along with all other advocates for the education of Kansas kids will be working in any way we can to keep the process moving forward until a reasonable solution is found.


KPERS Capers

The House Pension Committee has been quite busy the last couple of days. First during Wednesday’s regularly meeting they heard testimony regarding HB 2542 known as the COLA bill. There were 5 proponents and no opponents nor was there any neutral testimony regarding the bill. There was some spirited discussion during the testimony, but in the end we would be surprised if the committee works the bill.  During yesterday’s questions and statements legislators expressed sympathy, but also asserted that there is no money to support such an effort. Given those statements from the legislators yesterday and the ruling against the state by the Supreme Court regarding the equity portion of the Gannon Case which puts the state’s budget in turmoil, we do not believe there is much hope for the bill.

After the regular committee meeting the subcommittee on Working after Retirement (WAR) met. They discussed certain aspects of WAR regulations during a brief meeting. The subcommittee met again today to begin finalizing recommendations to a bill modifying the WAR regulations.

The subcommittee is considering the following WAR recommendations for submission to the House Pensions Committee:

Using one bill to put together HB 2656, HB 2654, and HB 2653 with balloons that address the discussions of the subcommittee. HB 2656 is Rep. Trimmers bill regarding working until 62 at which time a person would be able to choose WAR options that resemble the regulations that recently sunset. HB 2654 addresses nurses and WAR. HB 2653 addresses grandfathering in folks into WAR for 2 more years, grant the hardship cases a 3 year extension rather than a year by year extension. Next they also discussed that the hardship cases not go through the legislative committee for approval.

Consideration of how to implement Representative Edmonds’ request for a signed document declaring that no previous discussions had occurred for a position that a person applies for under WAR regulations. The document would be signed by the employee and in the case of school districts the board president.

 

 

 

 

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Supreme Court Issues Equity Ruling in Gannon!

Feb 11, 2016 by

Supreme Court Issues Equity Ruling in Gannon!

In an opinion issued at 9:30 this morning, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the equity portion of the Gannon School Finance Lawsuit.

The Court upheld the lower court’s ruling that found the block grant school funding scheme (SB 7) violated the equity provisions that once provided state aid for capital outlay and local option budgets.

The Court gives the legislature until the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2016) to solve the issue suggesting that they could do so via a new formula or by restoring the equity provisions of the prior school finance formula within the block grant.

The Court asserted that the constitution represented the will of the people and as such had to be respected by the legislature. The Court said that while the legislature has the responsibility to pass laws and appropriate funds, the Courts exist to ensure that the will of the people as expressed in the constitution is paramount. Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution deals specifically with public education.

While the lower court had ruled SB 7 unconstitutional, the Supreme Court issued a stay of that court’s order to overturn SB 7. In this decision that stay is not lifted. Schools will continue to be funded for the 2015-16 school year under the block grant program while the legislature is given the opportunity to restore equity to the funding of schools.

Your questions answered:

Is my job in jeopardy?

Your job is secure. The Court’s decision does not negatively impact school districts’ ability to meet their contractual obligations for the 2015-16 school year.

When will the legislature decide?

The Legislature has been given a deadline of June 30, 2016 to restore equity to school funding. We would expect there to be a brief time in the session for statements and positioning before they get to work on the issue. We are not yet half way through the 2016 legislative session, so they have time to get this done.

How much money are we talking about?

The equity portion would cost approximately $50 million.

Where will that money come from?

This is the most difficult question to answer. The Governor’s reckless tax policies have bankrupted the state treasury and right now there appears to be little interest in restoring the state’s revenue stream. It is hard to imagine a way to fund this requirement without directly harming some other critical part of the state budget. The legislature has nearly drained the highway fund and the budget bill advanced by the House yesterday delays payments to KPERS to keep it balanced. One would hope the legislature would address the fact that they have exempted over 300,000 Kansas businesses from paying income taxes entirely.

Does this have an impact on bargaining?

It could if the issue is resolved quickly. If not, districts will be left wondering how much money they will ultimately get for the next school year.

What does the June 30 deadline mean?

It means that the Legislature must make a decision that is acceptable to the Court. The decision should not wait until that day since the Court will review the remedy and determine if it is constitutional.

If they fix this, is the Gannon case finally resolved?

No. There is a second part to the case that has yet to be argued. The Court will consider adequacy at a later date.

The decision, while long, makes for very interesting reading. You can read all 80 pages for yourself by clicking here.

Kansas NEA will continue to maintain an active presence as the state’s largest professional association of educators. We will continually review developments in this case in order to provide reasoned analysis on behalf of our members. 

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The Longest Ever Session is Finally Over

Jun 15, 2015 by

What is the sign of good policy?

A number of years ago, there was a bill proposed that would require a 2/3 majority vote for the legislature to approve any tax increase. During the debate way back then, Rep. John Edmonds (R-Great Bend) took to the floor with an amendment. He told his fellow legislators that this would be such a good idea, he wanted to apply the rule to all votes – nothing could become law without a 2/3 majority. Edmonds argued that if something was a really good policy, it ought to be easy to get 2/3 of one’s colleagues to agree.

The 2/3 majority bill did not pass. And Rep. Edmonds made some very good points that should speak to us as we watch this legislature, the 2014 legislature and future legislatures.

In 2014, the school finance bill that eliminated due process for teachers and enacted a $10 million corporate give away voucher program was passed by 63 votes in the wee hours of the morning after a long call of the House. Just like the tax bill in the 2015 session.

If one’s policy can only garner the minimum 63 votes after 3:00 am when legislators have been locked in the chamber, bullied, threatened, and sleep deprived, does one really think it’s a good policy?

We do not advocate for a 2/3 majority rule. But we question the benefit of policies that can only get to the minimum vote necessary after bully tactics are implemented. If the Legislature can’t get to a majority on the merits of the argument, then perhaps they shouldn’t.

Tax Policy

Majority rules.

That’s true. And in the House a majority is 63; in the Senate it is 21. Often under the dome people speculate on “what will get 63 and 21.”

That was certainly the way things worked with tax policy this year.

What was known coming into the session last January and became more clear with every revenue report moving forward was that the state was in dire straits when it came to revenue.

The tax plan passed in 2012 at the command of Governor Brownback – his “real live experiment” – three years later has proven to be a failed experiment. And yet the Governor and his cronies hold on to it with a death grip.

Both chambers split into multiple camps when it came to tax policy changes. Democrats and moderate Republicans saw no benefit to helping pass a plan that balanced the budget on the backs of working people and left the worst parts of the Brownback plan in place. Center-right Republicans wanted to spread the pain of a tax increase, bringing businesses back on the tax rolls and increasing consumption taxes. Brownback supporters opposed bringing businesses back on the tax rolls but were happy to enact a large increase in sales and other consumption taxes like cigarettes, gasoline, and liquor. And then there was the hard core right. This group opposes all tax increases all the time and insists that the budget should just be cut.

The governor vowed to veto any bill that imposed taxes on the 330,000 Kansas businesses that his 2012 plan exempted or rolled back his “glide path to zero” plan to end the income tax entirely. He and his budget director Shawn Sullivan threatened to strike out post-secondary education funding, cut nearly $200 million from K-12, reduce social services, and lay off public safety personnel if the legislature did not balance the budget with consumption taxes only.

The legislature repeatedly fought back, bringing plan after plan to the floor and watching them go down in defeat. As the governor and House leadership tried to force legislators to adopt bad tax policies, they even suspended a call of the House for eight hours, keeping a vote in limbo over night.

As the session dragged on, more and more legislators checked out. Whether for vacations or returning to work, attending weddings, or dealing with family emergencies, numbers thinned out over the last couple of weeks.

In the end, as the last tax plan came to the House floor, it appeared to fail having gained only 61 votes. And that’s when the doors were locked, House members forced to sit in their seats, and the brow-beating, fear-mongering, and threats began in earnest. At about 4:00 am a 63rd vote was secured, the call was lifted and the bill passed.

It also received the minimum votes necessary in the Senate.

The bill raises the state sales tax in Kansas to 6.5%. Some parts of the state will see their sales tax as high as 10% when the state rate is combined with the local rate. The bill also raises cigarette taxes by 50 cents/pack. Kansas will now have one of the highest food sales tax rates in the nation. And 330,000 Kansas businesses still pay no income tax at all.

Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining for public employees in Kansas is contained in two statutes – the Professional Negotiations Act (PNA) for K-12, community college and technical college professional employees and the Public Employer Employee Relations Act (PEERA) applying to all other public employees including education support personnel in public schools.

There were legislative attacks on both the PNA and PEERA during this legislative session as conservatives sought to severely restrict or even deny collective bargaining rights for public employees.

For the PNA, there were bills to abolish exclusive representation and allow every employee to bargain a contract individually. There were proposals to restrict negotiations to only minimum salaries. But there was also a bill crafted by consensus of KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA at the request of the 2013 legislature.

The consensus bill was introduced but ignored by the House Education Committee in favor of a proposal by a minority of the School Efficiency Commission (Dave Trabert, Mike O’Neal, Sam Williams, and Dennis DePew). The same thing happened in the Senate Education Committee where they worked anti-collective bargaining proposals from Senator Jeff Melcher (R-Leawood).

When those proposals hit the floor of each chamber, there was a move to gut them and replace the contents with the education community’s consensus plan. In the House, on a motion by Rep. Sue Boldra (R-Hays), the consensus bill was adopted in its entirety. Over in the Senate, on a motion by Sen. Tom Arpke (R-Salina) with support from Sen. Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) and Sen. Molly Baumgardner (R-Lousiburg), a bill almost identical to that in the House was approved. Both bills were then supported by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA.

There things sat for some time with neither chamber taking up the other’s bill.

Late in the session, the legislature was considering some necessary amendments to Senate Bill 7, the school finance bill passed earlier. These changes were put into HB 2353 and, during debate on the Senate floor, Senator Steve Abrams (R-Arkansas City) amended in the language that the Senate had passed earlier.

HB 2353 was eventually passed by both chambers and so beginning on July 1, 2015 the following changes to the PNA will take effect:

  • The notice date is changed from Feb. 1 to March 31,
  • The impasse date is changed from June 1 to July 31,
  • Each year the parties shall negotiate “compensation of professional employees and hours and amounts of work,”
  • In addition, “each party may select not more than three additional terms and conditions of professional service from the list” in current law.
  • “All other terms and conditions of professional service” in the current list “shall be deemed permissive topics for negotiation and shall only be negotiated upon the mutual agreement of the parties,” and
  • Both parties to the negotiation shall be required to receive training on conducting negotiations.

Senator Melcher’s proposal on PEERA (SB 179) would have essentially ended collective bargaining for state and municipal employees and school district personnel other than teachers. The Senate Commerce Committee coupled SB 179 with SB 212 and rolled them both together into HB 2096.

SB 212 would prohibit public employee organizations from using any money to participate in partisan or political activities and prohibit public employers from using payroll deduction to collect union dues. It was amended such that payroll deduction could not be used for any contribution that was not required as part of an employee benefits program.

When HB 2096 went to the Senate floor, Sen. Garrett Love (R-Montezuma) offered an amendment that would allow all payroll deductions except union dues. Love’s amendment failed and Senate leadership pulled the bill and sent it back to the Ways and Means Committee. That’s where the bill spent the rest of the session. It will be available to legislators in the 2016 session.

Use of Payroll Deduction

Senate Bill 212 which banned the use of payroll deduction for public employee union dues was rolled into HB 2096 and, after a brief floor debate, was sent back to committee where it sat for the remainder of the session. It will be available to legislators in the 2016 session. (See our write-up on collective bargaining to learn more about what happened to SB 212.)

School Finance

Yes, the legislature repealed the school finance formula that has been in place since 1992.

Why was this done? Well, one can only speculate on the rationale. Here are a few reasons that have been floated under the dome:

  • The 1992 formula is too complicated for legislators to understand (although SB 7, the block grant replacement, is equally complicated).
  • Many legislators believed that if the 1992 formula went away, so would the Gannon lawsuit. The thinking is that the lawsuit is over the 1992 formula and that’s gone so the lawsuit can’t continue.
  • A large percentage of legislators don’t support public education and this was a way out of giving any consideration for additional funding.

But whatever the rationale is, the 1992 formula is gone and has been replaced by a “block grant” proposal under which school districts for three years will get an amount of dollars roughly equal to what they got before it started. But the plain truth is that most school districts are getting less.

We are now waiting to see what the court has to say about this move. Some people believe they will stay SB 7 and keep the old formula in place until the dust settles on the lawsuit. Only time will tell.

The block grant has a number of serious flaws. Probably the most important is that it does not adjust for any enrollment changes from increases in enrollment to increased poverty, increases in ELL students, etc. With funding frozen for three years, we are certain to see some seriously negative consequences in the future.

KPERS Working After Retirement

The Legislature agreed on a bill amending the working after retirement rules governing KPERS retirees who return to work in a KPERS-covered position.

Changes adopted include:

  • Raising the earnings cap to $25,000,
  • Enacting restrictions on who can work after retirement in the schools.
  • Hiring retirees to work in KPERS covered professional positions will be allowed in special education and up to five areas identified as shortage areas by the State Board of Education and allow for special “hardship” positions identified by school districts that have tried to find new employees but cannot.
  • Current retirees working after retirement are grandfathered until 2017 when all retirees will be under the new rules.

The changes were in reaction to information that KPERS was taking a loss for every retiree between the ages of 55 and 62 who returns to work and that pre-arranged agreements jeopardized the tax status of KPERS. There was no appetite to simply lift the sunset on current rules and extend them.

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So Close, Yet So Far Away

Jun 3, 2015 by

Once again, the Senate took up HB 2109, their tax bill. They’ve been at it for several days now, each night abandoning the debate as it became apparent things were not going well.

Yesterday, Senator King (R-Independence) offered an amendment that would include:

  • The tax amnesty plan,
  • The Christmas tree farm amendment previously offered by Senator Holmes,
  • The Social Security amendment previously offered by Senator Tyson fixed to address the military problem brought up by Senator Kelly,
  • The Department of Revenue tax letter amendment previously offered by Senator Baumgardner,
  • The repeal of the alumni association tax exemption previously offered by Senator Pilcher-Cook,
  • The “double dipping” on charitable contributions amendment previously offered by Senator Smith.

The effect of the King amendment is to bring the bill back to a much earlier form but include some amendments that had been adopted previously and send it off to conference.

King argued that the big floor debate has been held and now it’s time to let the conference committee cobble together an agreement to bring forth for a vote by both chambers.

Senator Hensley who had argued strongly that such a debate was needed and necessary indicated that he would support this amendment provided that the Senate conferees would also carry other Senate positions that had been approved on the floor, particularly the sales tax positions.

The King amendment would keep the sales tax at 6.15% for all purchases.

Far right conservatives continued their opposition to sending such a bill to conference. They want assurance that there will be no report coming forward that would reinstate income taxes on the 330,000 businesses now exempt. Senator Melcher likened this bill to the Trabant – the notoriously unreliable East German automobile.

It became clear the no promises were being made at this time on any of those points which caused Hensley to rethink his support of the amendment.

The amendment was ultimately adopted on a roll call vote of 21-17, the bare majority.

Senator Francisco (D-Lawrence) then offered an amendment to lower the food sales tax rate to 5.7% beginning on January 1. This would be consistent with amendments adopted by the Senate in earlier debates. Hensley pointed out that the last Senate position on sales taxes was 5.7% on food and 5.95% on everything else.

The Francisco amendment was adopted on a vote of 24 to 11.

At this point, King noted that adoption of the Francisco amendment set up a technical conflict elsewhere in the bill that would require an additional amendment. Since it would take several hours to have the technical fix drawn up as an amendment, the Senate chose to rise and report progress, adjourning until today at 10:00.

If adopted today, this tax bill would produce about $30 million in additional revenue – only $370 million more until the budget is balanced!

An earlier amendment by Senator LaTurner (R-Pittsburg) that was adopted on a vote of 30 to 8 would prohibit increases in property tax collections to exceed inflation without a vote of the people is also in the bill as it stands now. Coupled with state cuts, this could have a devastating effect on local units of government.

Budget bills down to two

Yesterday we reported that the budget conference committee was planning to put out three bills – one, the budget as it has already been proposed (needing $400 million), another just like it but with a 2% cut to a few agencies (not education), and a third with a 6% cut across the board (including education).

The committee got back together in the afternoon and Senator Masterson (R-Andover) withdrew the proposal with the 2% cut meaning that there are now two budget bills up for consideration.

SB 112, which goes to the House, is the budget as it was originally proposed that needs $400 million in additional revenue to balance, and

HB 2135, which goes to the Senate, which has a 5.7% across the board cut that will balance the budget but provide for no ending balance.

A 5.7% cut to education would be about $181 million. KASB calculates this to be an average cut of $369/pupil.

PNA bill to the Governor

The conference committee report on HB 2353 was adopted by the House yesterday. This action sends it to the Governor for his signature.

The bill makes some technical clean-ups to SB 7, the block grant bill, and enacts changes to the Professional Negotiations Act that are in line with the KNEA, KASB, KSSA, USA/KS consensus agreement.

The changes move the notice and impasse dates to later in the year, maintain the current list of negotiable items, mandate that salaries and hours are negotiated every year and that each side may choose up to three items from the list that must be negotiated. All other items may be negotiated by mutual agreement.

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