Thank a Legislator! Considering Fixes to Equity

Mar 13, 2018 by

What’s a Great Way to Say “Thank You” to Representatives Who Support Kansas Teachers?

Last week, 73 members of the Kansas House of Representatives voted to restore due process rights to Kansas teachers, sending the bill over to the Senate where it awaits a hearing now.

Recent news has revealed that while Kansas teachers are 42nd in the nation in teacher salaries, they are dead last in pay when compared to private sector workers in their own state. For every dollar earned in the private sector in Kansas, a Kansas teacher earns 71 cents. On top of that, the retirement system for new Kansas teachers is significantly worse than that provided in our neighboring states. And then, to add insult to injury, the Kansas Legislative Research Department reported that Kansas is one of only two states in the nation that have no job security measures – such as due process – for teachers. These are three big reasons why Kansas is struggling to find teachers to staff our classrooms and why young Kansans are choosing alternative occupations.

So we should be thanking those legislators who are trying to turn this around every chance we get.

If your Representative is one of the 73, you can click here to find a thank you note to post on your social media feeds – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, any and all channels.

Looking at Solving the Equity Issues

In Gannon, the Supreme Court found four provisions of SB 19 that violate equity in the school finance formula.

  • The 10% at-risk floor,
  • The expansion of capital outlay to include utilities and property and casualty insurance,
  • The election provisions on LOB increases, and
  • Basing LOB funding on the prior year’s LOB.

HB 2445 would repeal the first two and make changes to the other two to bring the formula into compliance.

The bill provides that LOB increase elections would be subject to protest petition and possible election. Schools for Fair Funding suggested that it would be more equitable to allow LOB increases based solely on a resolution and vote of the school board. The Kansas City, KS schools brought compelling evidence that school districts with a low assessed valuation per pupil have a significantly greater challenge in winning an LOB election than communities with a high AVPP.

The bill would base LOB payments on current year levels but would require districts to notify the state by April 1 of their intent to seek a higher LOB. The intent of this provision is to give the state legislature more predictability in funding needs.

The bill also would codify into law the current practice in distributing transportation aid on a “curve of best fit.” This was a recommendation of the Legislative Post Audit.

The Kansas Policy Institute testified in opposition to the bill but had no alternative ways to meet the Court’s ruling. In fact, when asked by Rep. Steve Huebert (R-Valley Center) asked what Dave Trabert’s advice would be in addressing the Court, Trabert responded that he would tell the Court, “Thank you for your opinion, we’ll take it under advisement.” In other words, just defy the Court and let our schools close. What great advice!

 

read more

School Day: Due Process, Bullying, & Transportation

Mar 8, 2018 by

House Passes Due Process, Bullying Procedures

On final action today the House of Representatives passed the restoration of due process (HB 2757) for Kansas teachers on a vote of 73 to 48. The debate had taken place yesterday (see details in yesterday’s Under the Dome).

For all but one of the conservatives who blasted the idea of mandating due process for school districts as usurping local control, they had no problem at all passing an unfunded bullying mandate on the very next bill. You see, for conservative Republican legislators, local control is allowed when it disrespects a working man or woman but is perfectly acceptable when they want to force someone else to bend to their will. In other words, if I want to stop something, I cry “We must respect local control!” If I want to force something on you, “Local control is not sacrosanct.”

To find out how your representative voted on due process, click here. 

HB 2757 will now go to the Senate for consideration.

The House also passed HB 2758, the bullying procedures bill that mandates that school districts provide copies of bullying policies to all parents, post them on district websites with a prominent link on the homepage, and include certain additional items in district bullying plans.

KNEA supports this bill. The final action vote was 119 to 1 with the only NO vote being cast by Rep. Michael Houser (R-Columbus). Houser was the only conservative non-hypocrite on local control. In his explanation of vote he said if he opposed due process on the basis of local control, he would oppose another mandate for the same reason.

Transportation Bills Heard in K-12 Budget Committee

The K-12 budget committee held a hearing today on two bills changing the transportation formula.

HB 2697 would change the multiplier in the formula from 2.8 to 5 which would better address costs.

HB 2561 would codify the “curve of best fit” which is not in law but had been used for decades in the distribution of transportation funding.

These bills would dramatically improve transportation funding and, frankly, if we can’t get kids to school, they won’t be learning!

Many superintendents were in the committee room today to testify in favor of the bill. Additionally, there were many more superintendents who submitted written testimony in support.
There were no opponents to the bills.

Three conferees appeared as neutral. The first was Rep. Sean Tarwater (R-Stilwell) who addressed a bill that he had introduced on behalf of some constituents who found themselves in a different school from the prior year and were billed for transportation. Due to distance the families had free transportation one year and got a bill the next. Tarwater asked the committee to amend his bill in.

A parent from Johnson County (a constituent of Tarwater?) also appearing as neutral. Telling the story Tarwater just finished from the point of view of a parent. She had a very compelling story to tell about safe routes for schools.

The final conferee as neutral was Mike O’Neal representing the Kansas Policy Institute (we all know the KPI as Dave Trabert’s organization backed by dark money and set up to oppose school funding). O’Neal was generally happy that the legislature was responding to the LPA studies.

Senate Defeats Attempt to Call a Convention of the States

The Senate this afternoon took up a final action vote on SCR 1611, a resolution calling for a convention of the states to potentially re-write the entire U.S. Constitution.

There is a movement in the nation by those who believe the United States Government is, in their words, “out  of control.” To that end, they wish to have a convention of the states which is allowed under the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of bringing forth amendments to the constitution to “rein in the federal government.”

The problem with this is that once called, the entire constitution would be open to re-writing. Additionally, delegates to the convention are selected by politicians. Under the common amendment process – used successfully 27 times in our history – elected representatives propose amendments and the states individually vote to ratify those amendments. Such amendments are handled one at a time and not as a block re-write of the document.

In the end, the vote was 22 to 16. Since it takes a 2/3 majority – 27 votes – to pass such a resolution, it failed.

A real win for common sense!

 

 

read more

A Light Agenda This Week

Jan 30, 2018 by

After ending last week in dramatic fashion, it seems the Legislature is a bit tired – at least the light schedule we’re following might indicate so. Many of the committees we routinely follow are holding meetings “on the call of the chair” and the chairs are so far not calling many meetings.

The House Education Committee met yesterday to hear reports on Communities in Schools and Jobs for America’s Graduates, two programs intended to support at-risk students and working to give them a positive, successful school experience. The Committee will hold hearings on two bills tomorrow. HB 2542 modifies fees that may be charged to Kansas private and out-of-state postsecondary
educational institutions. HB 2540 allows school districts to develop policies under which students not enrolled in the district or enrolled part time might participate in activities.

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee, in their only scheduled meeting so far this week, held a meeting today to hear a report on concurrent enrollment programs. Blake Flanders of the Kansas Board of Regents and Education Commissioner Randy Watson presented the report. This was a joint meeting with the Senate Education Committee. The remainder of the week is “on call of the chair.”

The Senate Education Committee will meet tomorrow to hear a presentation by the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and then on Thursday for an overview on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.

Both the House and Senate Tax Committees will meet on Thursday. In the morning, the Senate Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Concurrent Resolution 1604, a constitutional amendment lowering the food sales tax to 4% in FY 2019 and 2% in FY 2020 and beyond. The House Tax Committee will meet in the afternoon to hear about efforts by other states to collect internet sales taxes.

And related to last week’s drama, Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) has introduced HB 2561 which would codify the state department practice of adjusting transportation funding to a “curve of best fit.” While this adjustment has not been part of the statutory formula, it has been practice for many years under direction from legislators in the 1970’s when the formula was crafted.

 

read more

Wagle, Ryckman Launch Diversionary Attack on Deputy Ed Commissioner Dale Dennis

Jan 25, 2018 by

GOP Leaders Demand that Dale Dennis be Suspended

Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) and House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) sent a strongly worded letter to Jim Porter, Chairman of the State Board of Education demanding that the Board put Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis and other KSDE staff members on administrative leave and calling for an investigation into whether or not Dennis violated the state law on school transportation funding.

At issue is the distribution of funds in addition to the regular transportation formula that has been done annually for many years so that children in high-density school districts can safely transport children to school. (Look below for a more detailed explanation of the issue.)

The action of Wagle and Ryckman is making a mountain out of a molehill. The practice has been addressed many times in open legislative committees and never hidden from legislators. Legislators have struggled for years with the transportation formula and this practice was initiated long ago in order to provide safe routes to school.

Further, Wagle and Ryckman are interfering in the operation of the State Department of Education which functions under the State Board of Education. SBOE Chairman Jim Porter made this point clear to the Lawrence Journal-World saying, “It is not the responsibility of the Legislature to staff the Department of Education.”

Anyone involved with education in Kansas knows Dale Dennis as a man of integrity, a man who serves the Department and advises the Legislature on issues of school finance – and has done so for many years. This perhaps is why members of House and Senate are coming to his defense.

Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville), Chairman of the House Education Committee, has issued a statement saying, “I have worked closely with Kansas Dept. of Education, Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis and have found him to be consistently straightforward, diligent, and honest. I have deep respect for him and trust in his work.”

It seems so far that Wagle and Ryckman have little support. So far the only person publicly supporting the Wagle/Ryckman demands is Secretary of State and Gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach.

Take Action!

We urge all our readers to call their representative and Senator and ask if they support the Wagle/Ryckman attack on Dale Dennis. We also urge you to contact your State Board of Education member and urge him/her to support Dale and reject the demands of Wagle and Ryckman.  Tell your elected officials to end their politically-motivated overreach!  The State Board of Education will meet tomorrow afternoon starting at 1:00 to consider their response and action.

KNEA, KASB, USA, KSSA, and AFT Issue Joint Statement in Support of Dale Dennis.

CLICK THE IMAGE TO VIEW THE JOINT STATEMENT OR CLICK HERE

 

The Post Audit and the Transportation Funding Question

According to an analysis of the transportation formula conducted by the Division of Post Audit, the formula is adjusted using a “statistical curve of best fit.”

“…a statistical “curve of best fit” is used to estimate per student transportation costs based on student density. Student density is the number of students who live at least 2.5 miles from a school divided by the square mileage of the district. Each district’s per-student cost (calculated in the previous step) and density are plotted on a graph. Statistical regression techniques are used to determine a “curve of best fit” through the data points. This curve represents the estimated per-student cost of providing transportation services at each density point.” (Performance Audit Report R-17-020, December 2017, p 8)

This has been done outside of the statutory transportation formula. The LPA found that

“Over the past five years, KSDE’s minimum funding level has provided a total of $45 million more in transportation funding than allowed by law. Figure 1-2 shows the effects of KSDE’s minimum funding level for high-density districts in each of the last five years. As the figure shows, districts have received a total of $8.0 million to $11.5 million in additional funding each year for the last five years.” (Performance Audit Report R-17-020, December 2017, p 13)

The Kansas Department of Education provided an explanation of how this came to be.

“The following is a historical explanation for how we arrived at the current line of best fit. Many years ago, at a time the Legislature was discussing the school finance formula, they were making every effort to not discriminate against high-density school districts. KSDE staff was called to the State Capitol and told that the purpose and intent were for KSDE to flatten out the line of best fit so that it would not be disadvantageous to those school districts with high-density per pupil. At that time, legislators were having difficulty defining in writing the line of best fit for high-density school districts. However, they verbally provided KSDE with their definition of line of best fit.

The theory legislators had at that time was to split the line of best fit for high-density school districts by choosing the median expenditure as a minimum funding level. That theory has been in effect for many years. This calculation has been explained and reviewed before numerous legislative committees over the years and met their criteria.” (Performance Audit Report R-17-020, December 2017, Appendix A, p 34)

The Division of Post Audit recommended that the practice be codified as part of the transportation formula. Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) has introduced a bill – HB 2445 – that would do just that.

 

 

read more