Legislative wrap-up session starts on Wednesday

Apr 29, 2019 by

The part of the 2019 legislative session that begins on Wednesday was once called the “veto session.” This three-day event allowed legislators to deal with possible overrides on bills the Governor might have vetoed between the end of the regular session and this one. But recently, it has become a time when major pieces of legislation finally get passed.

Most notably, school finance and the state budget have been held until this time and that’s why the supposed three-day session often winds up being much longer.

In an unusual twist this year, the school finance bill has already be adopted and signed into law by the Governor! So that means at least one part of the heavy lifting has been done. Will this mean the three-day session will end on Friday? That depends on what’s left.

The Budget

Before the end of the regular session, budget negotiators hit an impasse and decided to wait until this week to finish things up. There wasn’t a lot of disagreement so one might be inclined to think things could go quickly. They have the April revenue estimates so they know what they have to spend so here’s hoping that might be wrapped up in short order.

A new abortion debate

There’s also the outrage among Republican leaders on last week’s Kansas Supreme Court ruling that the state constitution allows for abortion. Whether or not a constitutional amendment will be taken up is a big question out there right now and, as we have seen, abortion legislation can take up a lot of hours in the Statehouse. Some have raised the idea of an outright ban on abortion as a constitutional amendment while others want to amend the constitution to say a woman does not have a constitutional right to an abortion, thereby allowing the legislature to pass more bills restricting that right. This could get ugly and contentious really fast.

KanCare/Medicaid expansion

Finally, there is KanCare expansion. KanCare is the state’s Medicaid program. More than 150,000 Kansans fall into a health coverage gap. They earn too much to qualify for KanCare but not enough to be eligible to get financial help to buy private insurance. Rep. Don Hineman (R-Dighton) explains the issue best:


“Many expansion beneficiaries are the working poor who don’t receive health insurance at work.  They serve in food service, make beds at hotels, and scramble to make ends meet with two or three part-time jobs.  They are young entrepreneurs who have taken a chance on a business which has not yet achieved profitability.  Or it’s someone who wants to take that step but cannot accept the risk, so they stay in a job that isn’t ideal merely to get health insurance.  Individual entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of our free-market system.  But crushing insurance costs are stifling the dreams of too many would-be Kansas entrepreneurs.  Expanding Medicaid creates opportunities for them and for the Kansas economy.”

KNEA supports KanCare expansion. It is good for our health care system – we’ve already lost five rural hospitals due in part to uncompensated care and 86% of Kansas hospitals have negative operating margins. Some of those who would be helped serve our schools such as part-time support service providers like cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and para-professionals. And 90% of the cost of expansion will be paid by the federal government. Tax dollars paid by Kansans would be returned to Kansas in a program that helps the working poor and supports our hospitals.

The Kansas House has already passed expansion this year. In the Senate, there will be a motion to bring the House bill out of committee and onto the Senate floor. That motion requires 24 votes. A subsequent motion to bring the bill up for debate will require 27 votes. The Senate and House both passed expansion in 2017 only to have then-Governor Sam Brownback veto it. This time, Governor Laura Kelly will sign it.

We urge all Kansans to contact their Senator and ask him or her to support three motions: 1) the motion to bring HB 2066 out of committee and to the Senate floor, 2) the motion to bring HB 2066 up for debate and action, and 3) a motion to advance the bill to final action. Then they need to support the bill on a final action vote. Ask them also to oppose all amendments to the bill. Amending it will just throw it to a conference committee and allow time to run out without action.

CLICK Here to write a personal message to your Senator.

CLICK Here to use an email alert from the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas.

read more

Education Conference Committee meeting

Apr 1, 2019 by

11:00 AM meeting

The Conference Committee on House Sub for SB 16 started meeting this morning at 11:00. Conferees represent the Senate Select Committee on School Finance and the House K-12 Budget Committee. Members of the Conference Committee are Senators Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg), Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), and Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) and Representatives Kristey Williams (R-Augusta), Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater), and Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City).

The first meeting was devoted to reviewing the Senate position on school finance – essentially, the Governor’s package to address Gannon increasing the current school finance formula by $90 million per year and making no policy changes to the formula (SB 142) and the House position on education policy contained in House Sub for SB 16 and having no funding for schools at all.

Interestingly, they are also discussion House Sub for HB 2395, the Williams/Landwehr school finance bill that repeals the last two years of the current school finance plan as well as the requirement to fund a CPI adjustment into the future. Williams continues to refer to this as the “House position” even though it is not. The House has not passed this bill as they can’t get 63 votes for it on the floor. Under pressure, Williams admitted that it was the House Committee’s position.

For your information, according to the joint rules of the House and Senate, “Only subject matters which are or have been included in the bill or concurrent resolution in conference or in bills or concurrent resolutions which have been passed or adopted in either one or both houses during the current biennium of the legislature may be included in the report of the conference committee on any bill or concurrent resolution.”


Essentially, that means that items in HB 2395 that are not in SB 16 or SB 142 may not be included in the conference committee report because those items have not “been passed or adopted in either one or both houses.”

After a presentation on the issues by staff, questions from Senators were answered. Baumgardner asked about the House positions on out-of-state students (taking them back to full funding), bilingual education (cutting off students who need additional time to master English), the required study of graduation requirements with an eye toward allowing financial literacy and computer science to count as math and science credits, and the formation of an IT commission.

Hensley asked why the House wanted to repeal the provision calling for reimbursement of 92% of the excess costs of special education. Other questions focused on changes to transportation, the proposed bullying hotline, and bond caps.

1:00 PM meeting

The Committee reconvened at 1:00 when the Senate made an initial offer to the House. The Senate offer is to:

  • Accept the House position in SB 16 on ACT and ACT workkeys requiring the KSBOE to provide ACT exams and 3 workkeys assessments for students in grades 11 and 12, and pre-ACT exams for students in grade 9 for school year 19-20 and beyond.
  • Accept the House position in SB 16 to replace the LPA audit on the cost of providing educational opportunities in FY 21 with an LPA audit on the unencumbered cash balances held by school districts.
  • Accept the House position in SB 16 on transfers from the state general fund to the capital improvement fund for fiscal years 20, 21, and 22.

The Senate asked the House to give consideration to the Senate position on evidence-based at-risk programs. The Senate is holding all their other positions including the funding response to the Gannon decision.

3:30 PM meeting

In a quick meeting, the House agreed to take the Senate positions on the ACT, the LPA audit, and the capital improvement transfers (which were the actual House positions originally).

The meeting then devolved into a debate over funding and approaches to funding with Sen. Baumgardner explaining that the Senate position was that of the State Board of Education and the Governor and would likely satisfy the Court’s Gannon ruling and Williams arguing that the legislature should be targeting funds and controlling how they can be spent because, according to her, schools are getting worse, not better.

The meeting had to end by 4:00 since the Appropriations/Ways & Means conference committee had the room reserved for their meeting.

They will meet again tomorrow morning at 9:00.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more