School Finance Bill Coming Together, Brownback Support Rock-Bottom and Falling, Fighting for Medicaid Expansion

Mar 31, 2017 by

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee worked until nearly 9:00 last night taking up amendments to HB 2410, the school finance bill.

Amendment after amendment, the debate went on through the afternoon and into the night and most of those amendments were adopted. Here are changes made yesterday:

  • The bill changed the LOB into three local levies, the Local Foundation Budget up to 20% a portion of which had to be transferred to bilingual and at-risk programs, the Local Enhancement Budget up to 5% that could be used for anything, and the Local Activities Budget up to 4% that had to be used for non-instructional purposes. A motion by Rep. Fred Patton (R-Topeka) replaced all three with a 33% LOB as in the prior formula. KNEA supports this change.
  • The bill phased in all-day kindergarten over three years. On a motion by Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville), all day kindergarten would become effective next year. KNEA supports this change.
  • A motion by Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) added $2 million in 2018 and another $2 million in 2019 for preschool at-risk programs. KNEA supports this change.
  • Two motions by Rep. Jim Karleskint (R-Tonganoxie) added $800,000 for new teacher mentoring and $1.7 million for teacher professional development. KNEA supports both changes.
  • The bill had a five-year limit on bilingual aid for individual students. An amendment by Rep. Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) removed this limit. KNEA supports the change.
  • A motion by Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) to return bilingual weighting to the contact hours formula in prior law was changed by a substitute amendment from Rep. Aurand to distribute bilingual aid by FTE with a weighting of 0.185. While this results in no loss of overall bilingual funding, school districts that have successfully recruited bilingually licensed teachers will lose funding while those that have few such teachers will gain. KNEA supports a blended method that both funds students and encourages recruitment and retention of bilingually licensed teachers.
  • Vocational weighting was not included in the bill. Instead, the bill would require districts to transfer $100/FTE to a career and post-secondary education fund to be used for vocational programs and dual credit opportunities. A motion by Aurand to require a $50/FTE transfer in 2018 and a $100/FTE transfer in 2019 with a vocational “hold harmless” provision failed. A subsequent motion by Karleskint to return to the prior vocational weighting and calling on the SBOE to study the cost of vocational programs for future funding considerations was adopted. KNEA supports this change.
  • On capital outlay funding, a motion by Campbell to allow capital outlay funds to be spent on utilities was adopted while a motion by Rooker to exempt capital outlay levies from future TIF (redevelopment) projects failed. KNEA supported both amendments.
  • An amendment by Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita) to require a uniform accounting system with more detailed reporting to the state failed. KNEA is neutral on this amendment. KASB and school districts have opposed it.
  • The bill required two student enrollment count dates (9/20 and 2/20) and used the average for determining funding. It also included a complicated three-year formula for examining enrollment going forward. A motion by Rep. Adam Smith (R-Weskan) returned the enrollment count to a single time (9/20) with a second count (2/20) for military dependent children. KNEA supports this change.
  • The bill changed the corporate tuition tax credit (voucher) program by expanding the rules for student eligibility but then limiting the private schools’ families could choose to those accredited by the SBOE and that either exceed the trendline for post-secondary success or have an ACT composite above the state average. An amendment by Trimmer to remove the eligibility expansion and sunset the program in five years was not adopted. Instead, a substitute motion by Aurand that would remove the eligibility expansion and require students to be “direct-certified” by the Department of Children and Families while maintaining the new limits on eligible schools was adopted. KNEA remains opposed to the program but believes these changes are improvements.

There were a few other amendments that failed and resulted in no changes to the underlying bill.

At the conclusion of last night’s work, the committee was recessed – not adjourned – because one amendment was still under discussion and will be taken up again on Monday. That amendment by Rep. Adam Smith would return the transportation formula back to the prior law. Under the bill, the transportation formula was changed to address what is called “the algebra error” identified by the Division of Legislative Post Audit. There has long been a math error in the formula and correcting that error will cause school districts to lose transportation funding. Legislative staffers were directed to find a way to fix the math error and make adjustments so that schools will not lose funding. On Monday they will return to this amendment and see if it’s possible to do so.

Monday may also see some additional amendments specific to funding amounts. The intent of those offering and adopting amendments is to end up with a bill that will provide $150 million in new funding each year for five years for a total of $750 million new dollars.

Monday, then, is the big day. We expect that the Committee will send out their final product at the conclusion of their Monday meeting. At that time, we will examine the bill in its entirety to determine our position. We applaud the Committee for their hard work yesterday. The bill is dramatically better than it was when the committee convened at 1:00.


New Polling Shows Broad Public Support for Increased School Funding

In a press conference today, the Kansas Center for Economic Growth released the results of a new poll gauging public support for Governor Brownback, the Brownback tax policies, and public school funding.

The results back up what we suspected. Governor Brownback remains very unpopular, few Kansans support his 2012 tax plan and want the legislature to reverse it, and a whopping 83% of Kansans want greater funding for public education.  More key findings from the KCEG poll and a full breakdown of the school funding support data follows:

  • Kansans are deeply dissatisfied with both Gov. Brownback and his signature tax plan. Two-thirds of Kansas voters disapprove of the governor’s job performance, with 67 percent who disapprove, and 54 percent who strongly disapprove. Those numbers are nearly identical to discontent with his tax policy (67 percent oppose it and 51 percent strongly oppose it).
  • Nearly all Kansas voters are worried the state is not investing enough in public education. Eighty-five percent of Kansas voters feel concerned about the state’s level of spending on public education. Without comprehensive tax reform, lawmakers cannot restore funding to classrooms.
  • There is broad consensus that the Brownback tax plan harmed the Kansas economy and should be repealed. Seventy-three percent of voters feel the governor’s tax policy hurt the Kansas economy, while 64 percent of Kansans support rolling back the Brownback plan.


More Action Needed to Override the Governor’s VETO of Medicaid Expansion

Several representatives will be holding morning coffee Q&A’s along with town halls this weekend.  Contact your Rep’s office and find out if yours will be holding just such an event.  Regardless, we encourage you to use the following link to the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas website where you can take action to contact your Reps and encourage them to vote YES to override the Governor’s VETO.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION TO EXPAND MEDICAID
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Due Process, Health Care and EDUCATION CUTS!

Feb 8, 2017 by

Hearing Set on Due Process Bill

Rep. Clay Aurand, Chair of the House Education Committee, has announced that a hearing has been scheduled for HB 2179 which would restore due process protections for Kansas teachers who have completed a probationary period. The bill re-enacts the law as it was prior to repeal in 2014.

Due process was repealed in 2014 without ever having been introduced as a bill and without any public announcement or hearing. The repeal was enacted after midnight as a floor amendment to a must-pass school funding bill. With it attached to the finance bill, the bill was unable to receive the needed 63 votes to pass until House leadership enacted a call of the House under which members are locked in the chamber indefinitely. Eventually – about 4:00 am as we recall – a 63rd vote was gained through pressure and exhaustion.

HB 2179 has 45 legislative co-sponsors from both parties. We look forward to a fair hearing and having a vote on the bill in committee next week.


LPA Study on Health Benefit Consolidation

The Division of Legislative Post Audit today released their study on the feasibility of consolidating school district health benefit plans into one mega-plan similar to the State Employee Health Plan (SEHP). The idea was raised as a possible cost saver in the Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study. They suggested a savings of about $80 million per year. Finding himself short of cash in setting a budget, Governor Brownback leapt on the idea and called for this to happen by January 1, 2018.

Unfortunately for the Governor, the LPA indicates that even if they decided to move forward, it could not be done so as to gain any savings in 2018.

Beyond that, the savings are lower in the LPA study. They suggest perhaps $38 million in efficiency savings and another $25 million by shifting costs onto employees. What they did was look at what happens if you put school employees in a plan modeled on the SEHP. Doing this would significantly reduce benefits for school employees by raising deductibles, increasing co-pays, and increasing the out-of-pocket maximum per year. The state would then “claw back” those savings leaving school districts with less budget authority. The savings garnered by reducing benefits would not go to the employees as pay raises but to the state general fund presumably to shore up Brownback’s reckless tax cut program.

Passage of a plan to make this consolidation happen is basically a cut to school employee compensation across Kansas by $25 million.

There will be a hearing on a bill to enact the consolidation on Monday. KNEA will be there to oppose the bill.

CLICK HERE to read the full LPA report.

CLICK HERE to read the healthcare report highlights.


Senate Voting Tomorrow to Cut Education, Pass Inadequate Tax plan

The full Senate will convene tomorrow to vote on two bills. Senate Bill 27 would cut education funding by $154 million – $128 million from K-12 and another $23 million from higher education.

Their tax bill, SB 147, would raise income tax rates for all Kansans, repeal the low-income tax exemption for those earning less than $12,000/year, and repeal the LLC loophole but does nothing to end the glide path to zero which is the root of future revenue declines. There is much debate about what it would raise – perhaps $280 million in 2018.

The problem with this bill is that it does not go nearly far enough in solving the revenue crisis facing Kansas. The budget holes Kansas now faces in 2017 and beyond are enormous. Most analysts believe the state will need to raise at least $580 million just to break even and not accounting for any pending decision in the Gannon school finance lawsuit.

Kansas NEA has released a statement along with USA/KS, KASB, KSSA, and others calling on the Senate to vote NO on SB 27 and to send SB 147 back to committee for more work.

CLICK HERE to email your Senator.

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Court Arguments and Tax Discussions

Nov 6, 2015 by

School Finance Equity Hearing in Supreme Court

The Kansas Supreme Court heard from the state and from the plaintiffs in the equity portion of the Gannon School Finance lawsuit today. The hearing took about 2 ½ hours.

Attorneys for the state were questioned first. They defended the block grant funding scheme passed by the legislature (SB 7) and asserted that the money the legislature had appropriated for the equity resolution last year was appropriate to meet the requirement.

The money that had been appropriated was about $138 million but the final cost was closer to $200 million. The state argued that the money appropriated was based on what they were told by the State Department of Education. KSDE had provided an estimate of the amount that would be needed based on the prior year’s data – the only data available at that time.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs maintained that it was long past time to resolve the issue and that the repeal of a constitutionally sound but underfunded school finance formula was an inappropriate action by the legislature.

Questioning of both sides by the justices was pointed but it was difficult to tell with any certainty what position they might be forming.

We don’t know when they will make their ruling but most expect it to come early in the session.

The issue of adequacy is still to be resolved.

Special Tax Committee considers sales tax exemptions, tax credits

A special Joint Committee on Taxation spent the last two days learning about the challenges of sales tax policy and tax credits.

The committee studied the history of the sales tax in Kansas and reviewed Legislative Post Audit studies that have been conducted on sales tax exemptions, tax credits, and economic development incentives.

They took public testimony today. Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson gave them much food for thought regarding Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIFs) which have the potential to stress the budgets of school districts – particularly growing districts like Shawnee Mission.

KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti testified, urging the committee to reign in the granting of sales tax exemptions by developing guidelines under which an organization would be eligible for such an exemption. Today these exemptions are generally granted every time an organization comes before the committee with a pitch leading to an enormous laundry list of individually named organizations with exemptions.

A coalition of non-profit organizations urged the committee to proceed cautiously while the Sisters of Charity made a plea for the preservation of the Earned Income Tax Credit which applies to the lowest income Kansans.

The Kansas Livestock Association and Farm Bureau both spoke on behalf of rural and agricultural interests in the state.

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