We Have a School Finance Bill! (and a couple weeks rest)

Apr 9, 2018 by

The anti-education leadership of the Kansas Senate was thwarted late Saturday night and a stalwart band of Kansas teachers was there to witness it.

Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) and Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) did their best to stop a school funding bill from passing but in the end, House Sub for SB 423 passed by the slimmest of majorities.

The House had passed and sent to the Senate HB 2445, a bill providing more than $500 million in new money phased in over five years for Kansas public schools. The Senate had passed SB 423, a school finance bill half the sum of the House version and loaded with policy provisions. Negotiations began in a House/Senate Conference Committee on Friday and were not going well. No progress was being made on the big question – how much more funding would be provided to our schools to meet adequacy?

On Saturday, the House made a strategic move. They brought the Senate school finance plan (SB 423) which was sitting on the calendar, up for debate and in a series of amendments removed the Senate plan and inserted their own with a couple of changes. They inserted two provisions from the Senate finance plan. One would have provided $500,000 to fund the mentor teacher program; the other would provide $2.8 million to pay for the ACT and three ACT WorkKeys assessments required to earn a national career readiness certificate to each student enrolled in grades 9-12. To keep the overall funding the same as in the original HB 2445, they reduced the amount put into BASE aid by $3.3 million (expected to be a reduction of about $6/pupil) to cover the cost of the assessments and the mentor teacher program.

Other amendments offered by Democrats to either increase the BASE by changing the calculation or increase the reimbursement of the excess costs of special education were not adopted.

The bill was then passed on “emergency final action” on a vote of 63 to 56 and sent to the Senate.

This action was not welcomed by the Senate. Before they could take up the bill it would have to be “read in” or announced as part of a “message from the House.” To avoid reading the bill in, the Senate launched an hours-long debate over a massive tax cut bill – a bill that would reduce revenues by the amount of education spending increases in what had become House Sub for SB 423.

Senate Leadership was hoping to run out the clock on the session and kill the school finance bill. In an even-numbered year, they cannot go past midnight on the 90th day without passing an adjournment resolution that would allow an extension of the session. With Saturday being day 90, once midnight hit, all unfinished business would be dead.

Getting the bill read in took a special procedural motion organized by Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine (R-Emporia). His motion was successful and the bill was now available for action.

Once the tax bill was voted on, the Senate moved on to SB 423. There was a motion by Sen. Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick) to concur in the House changes to the bill – in other words just to pass what the House did and send it to the Governor. Senator Ty Masterson (R-Andover), who believes schools have more money than they need right now, made a substitution motion to non-concur and send the bill to conference. Masterson’s motion would have put us right back into the committee that was not making progress on negotiating a compromise.

The Masterson motion failed on a vote of 17 to 21 and debate on the motion to concur continued.

It was then that conservatives who wished to kill the bill began to filibuster it in an attempt to drag out the discussion past midnight when everything would die. Remember that adjournment resolution that hadn’t been voted on? We needed that to extend time.

Through another series of complicated procedural motions, an adjournment resolution was adopted and sent to the House. And from there, things went further south! It seems there was a date error in the resolution such that Sine Die – the official end of the session which happens a couple weeks after the end of the veto session – was instead set at the very end of the veto session. The reason there is a gap between the end of the veto session and Sine Die is to give the Legislature the chance to react to any last gubernatorial vetoes.

The House passed its own adjournment resolution with the correct dates. Problem is, they now had two different adjournment resolutions. Senate leadership and the conservatives redoubled their efforts to extend the debate until midnight to kill the school finance plan.

But the House saved the day. At 11:59 pm, the House adopted the Senate’s adjournment resolution with the error and with seconds to go, the session was extended. The debate could go on. It was then that the wind went out of the conservatives’ sails. The filibuster ended shortly after midnight and the motion to concur was adopted on a vote of 21 to 19. The bill was passed and is on its way to Governor Colyer who has said he would sign it.

KNEA and the School Finance Bill (SB 423)

KNEA supported SB 423. You will hear some say that this bill is not going to satisfy the Gannon ruling. Those folks think we should have opposed the bill and demanded more funding. So let’s be clear about this bill and why KNEA supported it.

The bill does a number of good things:

  • It keeps our school finance formula (the mechanics of distributing funds) sound while fixing the four equity issues targeted in the Gannon decision,

  • It provides more than $500 million in additional school funding above the increases schools received this year under the 2017 school finance bill (SB 19),

  • It fixes the transportation formula and increases the multiplier under that formula to provide additional transportation funding,

  • It creates a new mental health pilot program creating partnerships between schools and community mental health centers to better deal with children in crisis – a program we hope will be found to be successful and then replicated across the state.

Like others, we believe that there is a chance the Court will find the adequacy level in this bill lacking. It is slightly below the State Board’s request and it is certainly significantly below the recommendations in the new cost study (a study, by the way, ordered by the conservatives in an effort to prove that schools already were adequately funded). We continue to believe that schools need more funding to make up for years of frozen funding and many rounds of funding cuts.

We found this year that we had strong support in the House to move a good bill but the same level of support was not there in the Senate. We believed that the funding level in Sub SB 423 could garner enough support in the Senate to pass and were equally certain that higher funding would jeopardize the passage of the bill in the Senate.

We were also very much aware of the deadlines for response to the Court. The Court, in their ruling, specified very tight timelines for consideration of the Legislature’s response to Gannon.

  • Concurrent briefs are due on April 30,
  • Response briefs are due on May 10,
  • Oral arguments will be conducted on May 22, and
  • The Court’s decision will be communicated by June 30.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt had asked the Legislature to have the bill done by March 1. When earlier this week it appeared that Senators Wagle and Denning were intent on ignoring the Court deadline, AG Schmidt sent a letter to Legislative leadership in both chambers imploring them to pass a bill by April 7 to give his office time to write their briefs.

Waiting was no longer an option. A bill needed to be passed or the Court would have no option but to announce that schools would not open in August. It was time to get something out and we wanted that something to represent a good faith effort by the Legislature. We certainly believe that Sub SB 423 has a chance of not being accepted as adequate by the Court. We remain firmly convinced that the plan originally passed by the Senate would result in a closure order.

We still may face that order. We still may face a special legislative session in July after the ruling. But waiting longer because either “this Legislator” wants to defy the Court and “that Legislator” believes more money is needed was not likely to result in an ability to move the legal process along.

We anxiously await the oral arguments and the Court’s decision. We really believe that, for the sake of the students we serve and for the school employees we represent, this was the time to move forward. We shared that position with others in the education community including school districts, the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators, and many parent organizations. We are proud of our efforts in support of our schools, our members, our students and their parents.

Tomorrow we will talk about the many players in last week’s drama; friends, enemies, and even some frenemies!

read more

Lots happening! Read to the end! Wagle & Denning to hold school funding hostage!

Apr 3, 2018 by

House Has a Do-over; Passes School Funding Bill

The House had one bill on general orders today and just like yesterday it was HB 2445, the school finance bill.

Once again Rep. Fred Patton (R-Topeka) came to the well to carry the bill and once again Representatives came forward to argue its merits and offer amendments.

The first amendment came from Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita). Announcing that he was offended that school districts could use tax dollars to sue the state, he offered an amendment to ban school districts from using state tax money to sue the state. He asserted that our schools were failing to provide an education and that all money should be spent “in the classroom.” On a roll call vote, the amendment failed 49 to 74.

Next came an amendment from Rep. Jarrod Ousley (D-Merriam) to remove the designated school districts in the community mental health pilot program and direct the State Board of Education to choose districts. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita) the author of the program argued that the districts had been carefully chosen. Ousley said he liked the program but wanted his constituents to have a chance to be part of it. The amendment failed on a division vote of 37 to 84.

Rep. John Eplee (R-Atchison) had an amendment to return language on out of state students to the way it was drawn in SB 19 last year. That bill ratcheted down funding over a period of years eventually having those students funded at .5. It was amended in committee to have some students drop to 0 based on certain geographical considerations. The Eplee amendment was strongly supported by southeast Kansas legislators and was adopted on a voice vote.

Rep. Francis Awerkamp (R-St Mary’s) offered today’s voucher amendment. This one would direct that if a school district sued the state, parents could demand an account in the State Treasurer’s office funded with 75% of a child’s school aid to be used as a voucher to attend a private school. The amendment failed on an overwhelming voice vote.

Rep. Chuck Weber (R-Wichita) came to the well to say that he had intended to offer an amendment under which this funding bill would only become law if the constitutional amendment now being considered in the House Judiciary Committee was passed. But, he said, he had changed his mind and while he still supported the constitutional amendment, he would not offer an amendment linking it to this bill.

No further amendments being offered, a motion to advance the bill to final action was adopted on a roll call vote of 71 to 53.

Now for some drama.

Majority Leader Don Hineman (R-Dighton) offered a motion to move the bill to emergency final action (usually final action votes happen the next day). That motion failed on a division vote of 82 to 42 (it takes a supermajority or 84 votes to pass).

After a pause and some scrambling on the floor, Rep. Keith Esau (R-Olathe) offered a motion to reconsider that action. It would take a supermajority (84 votes) to reconsider; then another supermajority (84 votes) to advance the bill to Emergency Final Action; then a simple majority (63 votes) to pass the bill.

The motion to reconsider passed on a voice vote. The motion to move the bill to final action passed on a roll call vote of 88-36. the bill then got a preliminary vote of 67-57. Rep. Whitmer then explained his NO vote decrying a bill that “throws money at an inefficient system.” That explanation moved the final vote to 71 in favor, 53 opposed.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Committee Continues to Work, Then Passes a School Finance Bill, SB 423

We don’t really know what to think of the Senate Select Committee on School Finance bill to address the Gannon decision. Okay, well, we DO think this: the Court will reject it.

The bill increases the BASE over five years from the current year’s $4,006 to $4,258 in 2018-19, $4,334 in 2019-20, $4,412 in 2020-21, $4,492 in 2021-22, and finishing at $4,574 in 2022-23.

In addition to this, there are some add-ons in fiscal year 2019 specifically:

  • Additional Special Education Aid; $12 million ($44 million in HB 2445),
  • 400 new slots for pre-school at-risk; $1 million,
  • Additional Parents as Teachers; $3 million,
  • The mental health/USD pilot partnership; $10 million (also in HB 2445),
  • ABC early childhood intervention program; $1.8 million,
  • ACT and WorkKeys funding; $2.8 million,
  • Concurrent enrollment pilot program; $1.5 million,
  • Mentor teacher program; $500,000 (also in HB 2445),
  • Professional Development; $1.5 million (also in HB 2445).

We don’t have a complete and official analysis of how much this plan puts into education but word is that is in the neighborhood of $250 million over five years.

House Committee Holding Hearing On Constitutional Amendment

The Hearing on HCR 5029 is ongoing at this time. We will report on this fully tomorrow.

BUT! Senators Susan Wagle and Jim Denning – Republican leaders in the Senate – have announced their intention to hold all legislative action hostage to passage of a constitutional amendment banning the Supreme Court from ruling in school finance litigation.  

Read about it by clicking here.

read more

Peer Review of Cost Study Released; Constitutional Amendment to Ignore Cost Studies Released

Mar 29, 2018 by

Jesse Levin of the American Institutes for Research appeared before a joint session of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance to release and discuss his peer review of the cost study conducted this year by Dr. Lori Taylor and Jason Willis of WestED.

Levin had earlier this session conducted a peer review of prior cost studies; one done by Augenblick and Myers and another by the Legislative Post Audit Division. Levin generally panned the A&M studies as not meeting research standards and lauded the LPA study.

We would imagine that the hiring of Levin to conduct a peer review of the Taylor study as insurance in case that study was not in line with their wishes. The Taylor study found that Kansas schools were dramatically underfunded especially given the standards they are expected to achieve.

What Levin reported today was that the Taylor study was generally a very good study that met academic rigor.

The general impression I have of the study by Taylor et al. (2018) is that it represents a quality piece of work which has been thought through and implemented carefully. Specifically, the work demonstrates a rigorous implementation of a stochastic cost frontier analysis to investigate the cost of providing educational adequacy in Kansas. Moreover, the results of the study tell a qualitatively similar story to that of the previous cost function study. (page 12)

Levin did share a few concerns he had about the report. One of the most interesting ones he shared was regarding how economies of scale were applied – the study indicated that some exceptionally large districts would require 1.97 more funding than the optimally sized districts – essentially twice as much funding.

He noted that the Taylor study called for significantly more funding than the earlier LPA study but said that the LPA study seriously underestimated the amount of funding needed because it was based on spending levels rather than costs.

In a nutshell, the Levin peer review determined that the Taylor study was done well and confirmed what earlier studies had said about school funding.

Click here to read the peer review.

Click here to see Levin’s powerpoint presentation.

Elusive Constitutional Amendment is Released

We’ve heard a lot about a desire by conservatives to apparently hold any school finance bill hostage to the passage of a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments have surfaced year after year beginning with the Montoy decisions.

Today a new rumored constitutional amendment was introduced in the House.

The constitution currently reads:

The Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.

This would be changed to read:

As all political power is inherent in the people, the legislature shall determine suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state. The determination of the total amount of funding that constitutes suitable provision for finance of the education interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power and shall be made as provided by law. Such power is committed to the legislature under article 2 of this constitution and shall be shown due respect by the other branches of government. No court, or other tribunal established by this constitution or otherwise by law shall alter, amdne, repeal or otherwise abrogate such power, nor shall such power be exercised by, either directly or indirectly, by any such court or other tribunal. (New language in bold.)

Under this proposal, the legislature would no longer have the obligation to provide suitable funding only to determine what it is. One assumes they would provide it but hey, who knows? Further, the language also asserts that no one but the Legislature can make the determination – so much for seeking expert opinions!

Make no mistake, this constitutional amendment is intended to diminish school funding.

It must be first approved by 84 members of the House and 27 members of the Senate; then sent for a vote of the people which requires a simple majority.

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Consultants Present School Finance Study

Mar 19, 2018 by

Conservatives who demanded that the Legislature take no action on school finance until a new cost study was available – a study conducted under their parameters by a consultant that they chose – are now trying to distance themselves from that study and discredit it.

It was conservative Republicans who insisted on doing a new cost study, arguing that the prior studies by Augenblick and Myers and the Legislative Post Audit were outdated. “You can’t take such old studies and just adjust them for inflation!” they cried. “Times have changed!”

And so, over the objections of the Democrats, Republican House and Senate Leadership approved hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire two attorneys and a consultant to conduct a new cost study. They chose a consultant, Dr. Lori Taylor of Texas A&M University, to conduct the study and Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) told the Wichita Eagle that they had hired a consultant to demonstrate that the state was adequately funding schools.

“We’re focused on finding experts who can help show the court that funding is adequate,” Susan Wagle, R-Wichita (Wichita Eagle, Feb. 23, 2018). 

A lot of people who work under the dome thought that was just what the Legislature would get; that Taylor had been hired to give Wagle what she wanted. Republican leaders held up all discussion of school funding and a response to Gannon in anticipation of this study. See this from an article in Lawrence Journal-World on March 11, 2018:

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, also rejected the idea that the results of the study were predetermined.

“They’re unfounded in that,” he said. “We have no idea what she’s going to come back with. But we know that we have to update the study.”

Denning said the estimates that Kansas needs to add upwards of $600 million to its education budget are largely based on cost estimates done in 2002 and 2003, during an earlier school finance lawsuit, with those figures simply updated for inflation.

Today, though, Denning was leading the attack to reject or discredit the report. He challenged it on the performance thresholds that were being used, suggesting that use of the approved state ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) plan was not appropriate. In other words, if we lower our performance goals, we could lower the cost of education.

Denning even went so far at one point as to refer to the study as “simply an academic exercise, not a financial one.” Still, it was an “academic exercise” that Denning was hanging his hat on earlier as a way to block increases in education funding.

Conservatives have for years been swayed by the rhetoric of Dave Trabert and the Kansas Policy Institute. In fact, if the state had a dollar for every time Trabert said “money doesn’t matter” or “schools are terribly inefficient,”  there might have been enough money in the treasury to pay for this study.

Instead, the report specifically says this about funding increases:

“…a one percentage point increase in academic performance is associated with a 5 percent increase in cost. Similarly, a one percentage point increase in the graduation rate is associated with a 1.2 percent increase in cost at lower grades and a 1.9 percent increase in cost at the high school level.”  (page 61)

As for efficiency, the report noted that “the average cost efficiency score was 0.956, indicating that buildings were producing nearly 96% of the potential output, on average.” (page 63) And one slide in Dr. Taylor’s presentation said, “Systematically school districts are exceedingly good at the efficient use of their resources.”

What Can We Expect Moving Forward?

The report still needs to be fully digested by legislators. We can expect that talks will begin soon about how best to address the Gannon decision in light of this new report.

We would anticipate that conservative legislators will launch an effort to discredit the report or consider other ways to bring down costs. Denning, as we said earlier, has already hinted at reducing the state’s performance goals and referred to the study as simply an “academic exercise.”

Conservatives might also renew their calls for constitutional amendments either limiting the state’s responsibility for education funding or stripping the Supreme Court of the authority to act.

Since the consultants also suggest a longer timeline for phasing funding in, cooler heads will likely begin to discuss how long that might be as well as how to lock in increases over time even as membership in the legislature changes. It is often noted that today’s legislative decisions are not binding on future legislatures.

The study will give conservatives more to complain about but might also give Democrats and Moderates just the boost they need to put together a coalition plan to meet the Gannon ruling.

But no matter what, they need to get cracking! Briefs are due to the Supreme Court on April 30!

read more

Related Posts

Share This

New School Finance Study Released

Mar 16, 2018 by

The new school finance cost study contracted by the legislature was released at 1:00 today and, contrary to the expectations of those who thought the consultant was hired to demonstrate that the state was spending adequately on Kansas schools, the study appears to confirm what education advocates have been saying for some time.

While there is still much reading and analysis ahead of us, it appears that, at a minimum, the state needs an additional $500 million in education funding.

Dr. Lori Taylor and Jason Willis, the lead authors will be in Topeka on Monday to discuss the study with the members of the House K-12 Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance. At that time we hope to get more details of the study.

There are some problems in the report including a misalignment of school districts with their accompanying weighting indices. Additionally, there is at least one missing table of data.

Over the next few days we will be pouring over the report and reviewing all the math including the factors that are included in their “teacher salary index.”

If you would like to read the study for yourself, you can find it by clicking here.

KNEA Testifies in Favor of School Safety and Security Bill

The Appropriations Committee held a hearing today on HB 2773, a partial response to the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida.

HB 2773 requires the State Board of Education to work with other state agencies to establish standards for school security and school safety plans. It requires schools to assess current security in their buildings and to develop safety plans in cooperation with law enforcement. The bill provides $5 million in grant money that schools may apply for to upgrade security systems. Finally, it includes the gun safety program as an opportunity for all students.

No school is required to offer gun safety training and while the NRA’s Eddie Eagle is recommended, other programs such as the 4-H program are allowed.

In testimony, KNEA noted that the bill was very well intended and worthy of passage but urged the committee not to consider this to be a solution to the problems of assaults and mass shootings in our society. Lobbyist Mark Desetti raised asked the committee to also consider gun laws in Kansas and mental health programs.

“We hope you might look inside yourself, look in the eyes of a child, and ask, ‘Have we gone too far?’ said Desetti. “We saw this week that the youth of this state and this nation think perhaps you have.”

read more

Related Posts

Share This