Block Grant Railroad at Full Speed!

Mar 16, 2015 by

Could the House reconsider SB 7?

This question has been the talk of the past weekend. So by way of explanation, we thought we should clarify the rules and possibilities.

First, to call for a reconsideration, the person making the motion has to have voted on the prevailing side. In this case, only a legislator who voted YES on the bill could make a motion to reconsider. Such motions need to come within 24 hours. Again, in this case, the motion could have been made today since the legislature was not in session Saturday or Sunday.

Rep. Sue Boldra (R-Hays) switched her vote at the last minute on Friday becoming the 64th YES vote. She did this in the hope of being able to make a motion to reconsider later.

This leaves some folks wondering why she did not make the motion today.

The Senate stayed in session past the House on Friday for the sole purpose of reading SB 7 into the Senate that night. Once the Senate had possession of the bill – after it was read in – the chances for a successful reconsideration on the House side drop.

If Boldra had made the motion and was successful in securing 63 votes to reconsider, the Senate would have been asked to return the bill to the House – a request they do not have to honor. The chances they would send the bill back were very slim.

Additionally, it should be noted that four legislators who voted against the bill on Friday and would have voted to reconsider were excused absences today due to family medical emergencies. This would have made it nearly impossible to pass a motion to reconsider.

There is no reason to doubt Rep. Boldra’s motivations or sincerity. She made the vote switch after House leadership had secured 63 votes. Rep. Peck was flying back on the Governor’s plane and would have voted YES had he arrived in time. The only real reason for Boldra to switch was to ensure someone was available to call for a reconsideration.


So now the Senate

With the bill in the possession of the Senate, a vote to concur was scheduled for 3:30 this afternoon.

The House Appropriations Committee had cleverly put the block grant bill into a Senate bill. This means the bill would not go through the normal Senate Committee process. Senate Bill 7 had been passed by the Senate earlier and sent to the House Appropriations Committee. Instead of acting on SB 7 as sent over, the Committee gutted the bill and put the block grant bill into it. SB 7 became House Substitute for SB 7 and the Senate can now have a vote to concur or non-concur in the House changes to SB 7. A bill in this form cannot be amended – only voted up or down.

As we post this, the Senate is debating a motion to concur in the changes to SB 7. This will likely be a long debate. If the bill passes the Senate, then it goes to the Governor for his consideration.

We will give you the voting record for the Senate tomorrow when it becomes available.

And if you ask us, “Will the Governor sign this bill?” then we will respond, “Do bears cavort in the woods?”

This bill is exactly what the Governor called for in his State of the State address last January.


Meanwhile, over in the Courts…

On Friday, the Court was quick to respond to the House action passing SB 7.

In light of the passage of SB 7, the Court called for additional defendants in the case, specifically the State Director of Accounts and Reports, the Revisor of Statutes, the Secretary of State, and the State Treasury. The Court also noted that they will not hesitate to block the state from enacting the change so they can assure the availability of relief for the Plaintiffs.

Here’s the two critical points in their message:

Further, be advised that upon motion of the Plaintiffs or the State or upon the Court’s own motion, with or without notice, the Court may agree or elect to impose such temporary orders to protect the status quo and to assure the availability of relief, if any, that might be accorded should the Court deem relief warranted.

[C]ounsel for the Plaintiffs are directed to join and serve as additional Defendants the Kansas Director of Accounts and Reports, the Kansas Revisor of Statutes, the Kansas Secretary of State, and the Kansas State Treasurer as contingently necessary parties forthwith.


Freshman Republicans getting schooled on school finance (after the vote)

Rep. Mario Goico (R-Wichita) invited freshman legislators to a special briefing on school finance over the lunch hour today. I’m sure you are imagining the experts in school finance – people like Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis or Brad Neuenswander – who have been working with the formula for years. But you would be wrong. The “expert” brought in was none other than Dave Trabert, anti-public education lobbyist and voucher/privatization advocate.

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False Promises in School Finance; Flying to Topeka; Payroll Deduction

Mar 13, 2015 by

House barely passes school finance bill

On final action today, the block grant school finance plan was passed on a vote of 64 to 58.

This bill, which is opposed by the education community and supported only by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Policy Institute, and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, entirely repeals the current school finance formula and replaces it with a nebulous “block grant.” Schools would receive no more funds than they do this year for the next two school years. But most schools would actually lose funding under this bill.

The bill has been characterized as loaded with false promises supported by imaginary runs. Since this bill is a policy bill and not an appropriations bill, whenever it says “it is appropriated,” what it really means is “later on we might fund it if we can put together a comparable appropriations bill.” And unless the Legislature solves the current budget and revenue disaster brought on by the Governor’s reckless tax cuts. If they can’t find a way to fill the very deep revenue hole created by the tax plan, there is no way they can pay for this bill.

During floor debate, opponents of the bill pointed out that those who support the bill (KPI, AFP, and KCC) are the same three organizations that told Legislators to pass the income tax cuts in 2012.

Passage of the bill was not certain going into today’s vote. It was advanced to final action yesterday on a vote of 64 to 57 and when the vote went up today, it was failing on a vote of 62-58. Five legislators were missing from the chamber. Four were excused (Democrats Barbara Ballard, Carolyn Bridges, and Republicans Virgil Peck and James Todd), while Rob Bruchman was MIA. It is not an uncommon practice on difficult votes to “hide” someone. If your side is losing and you need time to convince a couple more to join you, then you ask for a “call of the House.”

Under a call of the House, no Legislator may leave the House floor and the missing members are called to come back and cast a vote. The waiting time is used for arm-twisting and bargaining.

After a couple hours, Rep. Todd returned and Rep. Bruchman was “found.” They cast votes in favor of the bill and it passed.

Below you will find a list of how each legislator voted. Please feel free to thank those legislators who stood up for Kansas schools by voting NO. As for those who voted YES, you might want to let them know how much you are looking forward to their support for revenue enhancements that will make the false promises of SB 7 into realities. You can get their emails by clicking on their names below.

SB7

(printable version)

House – Final Action – Substitute passed as amended – 03/13/2015

On roll call the vote was:

Yea – (64):

Anthimides, Barker, Barton, Boldra, Bradford, Bruchman, Brunk, Campbell, Carpenter, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Couture-Lovelady,Davis, DeGraaf, Dove, Esau, Estes, Garber, Goico, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert,Hutchins, Hutton, Jones, Jones, Kahrs, Kelley, Kiegerl, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mason, Mast, McPherson, Merrick, O’Brien,Osterman, Pauls, Powell, Proehl, Read, Rhoades, Rubin, Ryckman, Ryckman Sr., Scapa, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Smith,Suellentrop, Sutton, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey, Whitmer, Williams,

Nay – (57):

Alcala, Alford, Becker, Billinger, Bollier, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Curtis, Dierks, Doll, Edmonds,Ewy, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gonzalez, Hemsley, Henderson, Henry, Hibbard, Highberger, Hill, Hineman,Houston, Jennings, Johnson, Kelly, Kuether, Lane, Lusk, Lusker, Moxley, Ousley, Patton, Phillips, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schroeder,Sloan, Swanson, Thompson, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, Wolfe Moore,

Present but Not Voting – (0):

Absent and Not Voting – (3):

Ballard, Bridges, Peck,


Governor flies in Virgil Peck!

Virgil Peck was excused from the Legislature today to join the Governor in Coffeyville for an event. When the call of the House went out, Peck was put on the Governor’s plane and flown back to Topeka. Unfortunately for Peck, he arrived too late to cast a vote! See the story here in the Lawrence Journal-World.


Payroll deduction bill gets a hearing

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on SB 212, a bill that would prohibit the use of payroll deduction for public employee union dues.

KNEA joined the Kansas Organization of State Employees, AFT, the Fraternal Order of Police, Superintendent Julie Ford of Topeka USD 501, Superintendent Martin Stessman of Shawnee Heights USD 450, and a number of state employees in opposing the bill. KNEA was represented by General Counsel David Schauner, teacher Nathan McAllister of Royal Valley, and school librarian Kate Thompson of Olathe.

Supporting the bill was the usual gang – Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The KCC was represented by Eric Stafford who, when a similar bill was heard a few years ago, blurted out “I need this bill to get rid of public sector unions!” One can only assume that’s still why AFP, KCC, and the NFIB want this bill. We are sure it has nothing to do with the bill’s title “Strengthening Protection of Public Employee Paychecks.” You know, because you need to be protected from yourself!

This committee also had a hearing on SB 179 which would effectively end collective bargaining for state and municipal employees around Kansas and eliminate the Public Employment Relations Board where management and labor work out conflicts. KNEA also opposes SB 179.

Committee chair Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) has told the press that she is not sure if the committee will work the bills. We’ll be keeping an eye on them.

 

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TAKE ACTION NOW! Block grant bill up for final action tomorrow morning!

Mar 12, 2015 by

Block Grant Bill advances to final action!

Final vote at 8:00 tomorrow morning!

TAKE ACTION!

 

Today the block grant bill was advanced in the House with 64 votes.  We believe it is still possible to stop this terrible legislation. A few legislators who have been strong supporters of public schools in the past, voted yes on the bill today. We urge you to contact these legislators and ask them to vote NO on SB 7 on final action. These legislators are:

Here are key points to make in your contact with these reps.

  • Please think carefully about the block grant school finance bill. Remember that the current formula is not broken, it is simply underfunded.
  • The current formula was put together very deliberately and designed rationally to meet identified needs in education – needs like bilingual or at-risk students, transportation, and school district size.
  • I am worried about a plan to throw out the formula for a temporary fix while waiting for a new formula to be written. If a new formula is needed, please do not repeal the current one before writing the new one.
  • Those who work in education understand how the formula works. Please let us go on with our day to day work while you make decisions going forward.
  • It was clear today, that this bill DOES NOT appropriate ANY money for schools.  A vote for this bill guarantees NOTHING.

Time is very tight as the House convenes at 8:00 am tomorrow.

In addition to the above legislators, please contact your own Representatives. Click the button below to access the KNEA legislative portal.

Click here to send a message to your legislator!

 

 

 

 

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Up Tomorrow: Your Paycheck; Block Grants; Teacher of the Year Repeal

Mar 11, 2015 by

Senate Committee hears bill to end collective bargaining for state, municipal employees

This morning the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on SB 179, a bill that dismantles the Kansas Public Employee Employer Relations Act (PEERA). PEERA is the law regarding collective bargaining for public employees other than teachers. Teachers are covered under the Professional Negotiations Act.

SB 179 would allow public employees to negotiation only minimum salaries, eliminate the Public Employee Relations Board, ban mediation and fact finding, and put whether or not a municipality could bargain with employees to a public referendum.

KNEA joins other public employee organizations in opposing this bill.

In a show of just how Committee Chair feels about the bill, the three proponents were allowed 20 minutes of time to address the committee while opponents were allowed one minute each. We wonder if you can guess who were the proponents?

Tomorrow the same Committee will hold a hearing on SB 212, a bill that will prohibit public employees from using payroll deduction to pay Association or Union dues. They laughingly call this “Strengthening Protection of Public Employee Paychecks Act” because, as you know, public employees must be protected from themselves and who better to do that than the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and anti-union legislators?

Click here to urge the Committee to vote NO on SB 212.

 


Block grant finance plan now up to “ramming speed”

Remember the old Viking movies when they ordered the oarsmen to work at “ramming speed” when attacking an enemy ship? Well, that’s a lot like the legislative process being used to pass a school finance bill that no one in the education community supports.

Oh, the bill does have supporters – the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Tea Party’s Kansans for Liberty, and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. It just doesn’t have the support of school boards, superintendents, school administrators, teachers, the Kansas PTA, Game on for Kansas Schools, and every other group associated with public education in Kansas.

Unveiled at a Thursday press conference, the bill was available to be read on Friday. The hearing was Monday morning. Crammed into Senate Bill 7, it was passed out of Committee Tuesday morning. It will be debated on the floor of the House tomorrow. RAMMING SPEED!

The Legislature has spent years debating and pondering whether or not supermarkets can sell beer but only five days on the financing of the state’s entire system of public education!

Some folks believe that this plan is not so bad in that it seems to keep schools from losing millions more over the next two years. But that’s simply not true. Even Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ty Masterson (R-Andover) admitted during the Senate hearing on the plan that there were no guarantees that the funds would not be cut. The state budget, after all, is in something of a crisis and there have been no efforts to fix the drying up revenue stream. And without that fix, nothing is guaranteed.

Click here to urge your Representative to vote NO on SB 7, the Block Grant bill.

House Ed Committee considers bill to replace the Teacher of the Year program

Suggesting that excellent teachers should stay in their classrooms instead for working state-wide, Rep. Jerry Lunn (R-Overland Park) has proposed HB 2378, a bill which would create a legislative teacher award program. A small group of business leaders, legislators, and principals, most of whom are political appointees, would select 15 teachers they considered excellent and provide them with large financial awards to the limit that they could generate funds. These teachers would not be ambassadors of great teaching as are the current teachers of the year.

This bill would also end the current Teacher of the Year program which has been in place since 1955. The Kansas TOY program has been a model for those in other states.

Many of the most conservative legislators around the room expressed the sentiment that Kansas teachers are underpaid. We agree. Teachers ARE underpaid. In fact, Kansas ranks 42nd in the nation in teacher salaries. Truth is they really are interested in only rewarding a few and getting their photo in the paper with one of those 15. We would suggest that a good way to start rewarding excellence would be to fund the Nationally Board Certified Teachers program that hasn’t been funded in years. That program would benefit many teachers who have demonstrated excellence.

The Committee plans to work the bill tomorrow.

 

 

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Block Grant on Fast Track! And, hey, it’s my paycheck!

Mar 10, 2015 by

House putting elimination of finance formula on a fast track.

On Friday the House officially unveiled HB 2403, the GOP’s bill eliminating the school finance formula and, at best, flat funding education for three years. They had a rushed hearing on Monday, made a few minor amendments this morning, stuffed it into Senate bill 7, and fired it out.

This bill can be on the floor for debate as early as Thursday. It could be available on the Senate floor early next week. This can all happen without the Senate Ways and Means Committee ever voting. The Senate could adopt this bill with a simple vote to concur in the House amendments to SB 7.

This is exactly how the system can be manipulated to ramrod through highly controversial legislation with as little debate as possible.

It bears noting that only the Kansas Chamber, KPI, and Kansans for Liberty support the bill while all testimony from education groups, school districts, and parent groups opposed the bill.

 

You can send your Representative a message on the block grant bill by clicking here.

The House Appropriations hearing on HB 2403 was held on Monday; the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing on SB 273 was this morning. Both bills were introduced in identical form, although the House Committee made a few amendments before inserting the plan in a Senate bill and sending it on to the full House.

The hearings were very long as many educators came to oppose the plan. Speaking in favor of the block grant bills were Kansas Chamber President Mike O’Neal, KPI Exec Dave Trabert, and Craig Gabel and Chris Brown of Kansans for Liberty, a Tea Party organization. Opposing the bill were KASB, KNEA, USA/KS, the Wichita, Kansas City, Topeka, Hutchinson, and WaKeeney School Districts, the Kansas PTA, Game on for Kansas Schools, and a number of virtual public schools in Kansas.

Despite the Education community’s united front, the Committee chose to move ahead with the repeal of the current school finance formula and putting a temporary money distribution system in its place. Now that the House Committee has advanced the bill for consideration, we are unsure how the Ways and Means Committee in the Senate may proceed.

Senate to consider prohibiting public employees from paying association dues via payroll deduction

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 212 which would prohibit school districts from using payroll deduction for the collection of Association dues. Laughingly called “Strengthening protection of public employee paychecks,” the bill assumes that Association members need to be protected from themselves in deciding what to do with their earnings.

You might want to share some of our points on this bill with members of the committee.

  • I believe that it is my duty as a professional to be actively involved in my professional association because doing so strengthens teaching and learning conditions, offers a mechanism for problem solving and most importantly gives me a solid platform from which I can advocate for my students.
  • Previous changes to the dues deduction process restricted the use of dues for political activity. Far from strengthening my paycheck, this bill seems punitive and restricts my colleagues and myself from making choices as consumers particularly when the restriction does not apply to other organizations.
  • I voluntarily choose to be a member of my professional association,  just as I would voluntarily choose to contribute to United Way a 403B investment product or AFLAC as an insurance provider.
  • This bill legislates that as a teacher I am permitted to give via payroll deduction to organizations that meet a specific viewpoint but not to one that meets my own personal viewpoint.

Links to the Commerce Committee members’ emails are below.

Alternatively, you can click here to use the KNEA email alert system.

 

Julia Lynn

Susan Wagle

Tom Holland

Molly Baumgardner

Jim Denning

Oletha Faust-Goudeau

Jeff Longbine

Jeff Melcher

Rob Olson

Mary Pilcher-Cook

Rick Wilborn

 

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