It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Nov 9, 2016 by

protected-area-network-knowledge-management-framework-needs-assessment-and-assets-inventory-58-638Well, some may have a Dickensian view of the general election results – with Hillary Clinton widely expected to win, it was certainly a shock to see that she did not. For many Americans, this election on the national level will likely be their “worst of times.”

But at KNEA, we are focusing on what the 2016 election means for public education. And here in Kansas, our legislative races look more like the best of times. At least for those of us who advocate for children, schools, and teachers.

In the House of Representatives, the Democrats finished the job that Moderates began in the August primaries. The Democratic caucus has gone from 28 to 40 members. The minority party is now a third of the Kansas House. For Democrats, this means more members on every committee and a bigger voice in floor debates.

Combined with moderate Republican victories, this creates a pro-public education block of as many as 75 votes. For a long time we’ve been counting noses wondering how to get to 63 and often we came up on the losing side. This new coalition gives us hope that things will turn around dramatically in the House.

In the Senate, Democrats only gained one seat but combined with the many moderate Republican victories, there is now a path to 21 votes – a path that hasn’t been there in four years.

The people of Kansas, regardless of party affiliation have let it be known that they are done with the Brownback “experiment” and want to go in a new direction. That direction includes funding our schools and taking care of our children and families.

Kansans also rejected the governor’s attempt to politicize our Supreme Court. While the governor and his allies tried to paint the retention election as a matter of the death penalty and abortion, Kansans know it was really about tossing justices who have consistently ruled in favor of public schools. Kansans saw through the vicious mail and television campaign and voted to retain all five justices.

This vote ensures that our courts will stay free of political and ideological tampering. Kansas will continue to benefit from a Supreme Court that rises above politics and holds the state true to the constitution.  Justice should never be for sale.

We will be examining the results of this election and will be providing a more detailed analysis once we’ve had the chance to really dig deep. As for the impact of the national election, NEA will be doing the same. We will pass on their analysis to our members as it becomes available.

In the meantime, our members and their allies – administrators, school board members, and parents – deserve a well-earned rest. All that time making calls, knocking on doors, and turning out voters has paid off for our schools. All of you did a great job taking political action to heart and fighting for our future. Toast yourselves, pat yourselves on the back, eat a decadent dessert. You’ve earned it!

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Judicial Retention- What it is and why it really matters.

Oct 21, 2016 by

Click the e-pub to read full screen or to print.

 

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Oral Arguments in Due Process Case Heard before the Kansas Supreme Court

Sep 13, 2016 by

justicecenter

Kansas Justice Center Lobby

Hundreds of KNEA members and other public education supporters spent a long weekend in the statehouse in the spring of 2014. The Kansas Legislature was engaged in resolving a nearly $150 million shortfall in school funding as part of the Supreme Court finding in the Ganon case. In the weeks and months preceding that April weekend, many policies relating to education were the subject of hearings in legislative committees. One that had no hearing at all was the elimination of statutory due process rights for non-probationary Pre-K–12 teachers.

Using the “must-pass” school funding bill as a vehicle, anti-public education legislators led by Salina Republican Tom Arpke introduced several policy provisions, including repealing the due process provision. Notably, Arpke was recently ousted from his seat along with several other anti-public education lawmakers as Kansas citizens have become fed up with their attacks on public education, the growing revenue crisis, and the erosion of public services. It wouldn’t be until the early morning hours of that April weekend that enough arms were twisted and just enough votes were garnered to pass the funding bill with the policy provisions attached. 

Today, the Kansas National Education Association, with support from the National Education Association, brought forth an argument before the Supreme Court of Kansas to determine whether the procedure used in 2014 was unconstitutional. Under the Kansas Constitution, bills introduced by the legislature must be “single-subject” in nature. “Log-rolling” policies that are unrelated to the single purpose of a bill violates the constitution. As National Education Association Attorney Jason Walta argued before the justices this morning, the elimination of due process was “smuggled into” House Bill 2506. 

KNEA continues to defend its members, who earned due process rights prior to the implementation of HB 2506. KNEA contends that non-probationary educators who earned the right to a due process hearing as part of Kansas statute cannot have those rights stripped retroactively as a result of HB 2506. Effectively, those rights are the property of the individuals who earned them.   

There is no timetable for the Supreme Court to issue its decision in this case. KNEA will continue to aggressively advocate for the rights of its members. Keep an eye on our “Under the Dome” website and our member publication “Kansas EdTalk” for more on this case as it develops. 

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Governor to Call for Special Session!

Jun 7, 2016 by

TAKE ACTION NOW!

Tell your representatives to support equitable and adequate funding according to the Constitution of Kansas.

Topeka- Governor Brownback has announced that he will call a special session of the legislature sometime this month. While he announced that “I will do everything I can to keep this session focused on education,” he also used his announcement to again pass the buck and blame the Court for the legislature’s failure.

“After discussion with Legislative Leadership, I have decided to call a special session to keep Kansas schools open, despite the Court’s threat to close them. It is distressing that the Kansas Supreme Court has put the schools and legislature of Kansas in this position over less than 1 percent of school funding.

Let’s start by making two things clear. First, we are not, as the Governor and his allies continue to say, talking about 1% of school funding. At issue is equity in the LOB which accounts for about 25% of school funding. This is not a minor issue and should not be characterized as such. 

Secondly, the Court has not threatened to close schools. The Court simply did its job in hearing and deciding upon a constitutional question brought to it by citizens. Courts do not go out seeking things upon which to rule. They do not act unless citizens bring an issue before them. That’s exactly what happened in this case and to imply that the Court somehow actively sought a school finance case is political spin at its finest and most cynical.

The reality is that a legislative majority, blindly following Governor Brownback in enacting reckless and unfair tax policy, has created a situation where the state has given away its ability to fund vital state services including education. In reacting to the predictable results of their own policy, the Governor and his legislative allies repealed a constitutionally sound school finance system and replaced it with an inequitable block grant scheme. The Court has directed the legislature to resolve the equity issue by June 30. If not, there will be no option but to prohibit the distribution of state funds in an unconstitutional school finance system. 

The question of whether or not schools will open rests not on the Court but on the Legislature’s actions. It is the responsibility of the Legislature under the Constitution of the State of Kansas to “make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” 

The Legislature has an obligation to ensure that every student receives a quality education regardless of zip code. Since schools are funded partly through a “local option budget,” it is incumbent upon the legislature to ensure that every community is able to provide LOB funding with similar tax effort. The Court found that the Legislature, in repealing the constitutionally sound school finance system and replacing it with block grants, made the LOB inequitable. This is the issue before the legislature. It is generally believed that it would cost the state approximately $40 million to solve the issue. 

Unfortunately, thanks to the failed tax policy of Governor Brownback and his legislative allies, the state has repeatedly come up short of expectations in revenue collection. In May alone, state revenue collections were nearly $76 million below expectations. Brownback’s “trickle-down” tax policy has resulted in a collapse in state revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars. As a result, the highway program, KPERS, early childhood programs, services to those with disabilities, K-12 and higher education have suffered in attempts to balance the state budget.

During this special legislative session, lawmakers must focus with laser-sharp intensity on one issue and one alone – restoring equity to the LOB. Going forward, in order to restore fiscal stability to the state and to provide for all the services upon which Kansas citizens depend, future legislatures must look to adopting tax policy that is fair to all and provides the revenue necessary to serve the people.

Highlights:

-Equity LOB accounts for 25% of school funding.

-The Supreme Court did its job under the Constitution.

-Whether or not schools open is dependent upon action by the Legislature.

-The Legislature should focus squarely on funding during the special session.

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Supreme Court Rules!

May 27, 2016 by

The Supreme Court of Kansas has issued a ruling in the Gannon school finance lawsuit late this afternoon. Usually rulings are released by about 9:30 on Friday mornings.

The ruling, which we are still reviewing, finds that the equity bill passed by the Kansas Legislature during this year’s legislative session meets the requirement for providing equity within capital outlay but does not meet the equity requirement within the local option budget (LOB) and supplemental general state aid.

The Court also finds that the LOB and supplemental general state aid are not severable from the block grant funding bill known as the Classroom Learning Assuring Student Success Act (CLASS Act). For this reason, the CLASS Act block grant funding scheme is effectively unconstitutional.

It does not appear that the Court is giving the state any time beyond the June 30 deadline to solve the problem.

It is most certain that this will be a focus of legislators under the dome during the sine die session which is normally just a ceremonial event.

KNEA has long held that it is the responsibility of the Kansas Legislature to fulfill its constitutional obligation to fund public schools equitably and adequately.  We continue to call on the Kansas Legislature to meet its constitutional obligation so that public schools will be open as expected this coming fall.

KNEA’s Governmental Relations and Legal staff are reviewing the decision and will have a more comprehensive update next week.

In the meantime, watch your local press reports, look for more information from KNEA, and read the opinion for yourself at http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2016/20160527/113267.pdf 

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