Senate Kills Gov’s Tax Bill; Then There’s Guns, Vouchers, and Efficiencies

Mar 8, 2017 by

Brownback’s Tax Bill Goes Down in Flames

The Senate yesterday debated Governor Brownback’s tax proposal (SB 175) which would simply raise alcohol and tobacco taxes and increase registration fees on businesses in a hopeless attempt to get out of the massive budget hole created by his reckless tax cuts.

The Senate clearly recognized this and killed the bill by passing an amendment to strike the enacting clause on a vote of 37 -1. The enacting clause indicates when the bill would become law and by removing the clause, the underlying bill can never become law. The motion is the equivalent of killing the bill.

One would think that this action would send a clear message to the Governor that the Senate, like the House, wants tax reform that brings Kansas back from the edge. Of course, the Governor is sticking to his failed policies like a pit bull on a rib bone.

This vote moves the Senate to consideration of a better tax reform bill and that’s the good news.


House Committee to Talk Guns on Campus Tomorrow

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee will be hearing HB 2220, a bill that would prohibit post-secondary institutions from adopting any policies governing concealed weapons on campus. This is the opposite of earlier attempts to allow those institutions to prohibit firearms on campus.

HB 2220 essentially makes college campuses wild west institutions where anyone can do whatever they want with firearms. Under this bill, no campus could restrict where guns were permitted or who could carry them. Campuses would be completely unregulated when it came to firearms.

KNEA opposes this bill and has called for the passage of legislation to allow colleges to make these decisions.


K-12 Budget Committee to Take Up Radical Expansion of Tuition Tax Credits (i.e. Vouchers)

On Friday, the K-12 Education Budget Committee will hold a hearing on HB 2374, a bill expanding the corporate tuition tax credit program. Under current law the state allows corporations to pay the tuition of at-risk children in Title 1 schools to attend a private school. The corporation gets a 90% tax credit for this. That means the state is giving away $10 million in taxpayer money to send a few kids to unaccountable private school.

We are always fascinated by legislators and lobbyists like Dave Trabert who continually demand more and more accountability and testing in public schools but are perfectly okay sending millions of dollars to unaccredited private schools that report no results to the state at all. But then, we’ve been here a long time and hypocrisy should not surprise us.

At a time when the Court has determined that our public schools are not adequately funded and that many in the legislature are still calling for cuts to public education; at a time when the state faces a two-year budget hole of over $800 million, it is irresponsible to continue to give away tax money for which there is no accountability whatsoever. The best thing for the legislature to do at this time is to simply repeal the program entirely and put that $10 million back in the budget where it belongs to serve all Kansans.


School District Purchasing, Health Care Consolidation Discussion

Last week Secretary of Administration Sarah Shipman called together education stakeholder groups to discuss two of the “efficiency” recommendations that were included as part of the Governor’s budget this year.

Brownback included a requirement that all school districts centralize purchasing through the Department of Administration. State agencies currently use this system and the Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study had suggested that there would be significant savings to the state if school districts joined.

He also included an A&M recommendation that school districts consolidate into one health insurance plan like the State Employees Health Plan.

Bills were filed that would accomplish both of these requirements.

The K-12 Education Budget Committee was skeptical about the potential savings and asked Secretary Shipman to bring people together to discuss both issues and come up with recommendations.

KNEA joined KASB, USA/Kansas, the Wichita schools, and Greenbush at the meeting. Also present was the anti-government Kansas Policy Institute.

Today Secretary Shipman reported on the results of the meeting to the committee. In short, the recommendation was that the negatives far outweighed the positives and that there was no way to deliver any savings in 2018 even if the bills were passed.

Committee Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) announced that he would not work the bills but instead let them lie until next year. He will also report to the Appropriations Committee that the bills would not have saved any revenue in 2018.

Representative Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) also pointed out that neither bill would provide a penny of savings to the state unless the legislature reduced school funding by an amount equivalent to the savings instead of letting any savings be redirected to classroom programs.

 

 

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Our Error; Boots in the Statehouse; and a Brilliant Op-Ed

Apr 22, 2016 by

Error Alert!

Senator Kay Wolf DID NOT Support the Brownback Tax Plan

Yesterday in Under the Dome, we listed the names of incumbent legislators who vote in favor of the reckless Brownback tax cuts of 2012. We went back to the legislative archives to collect the names and found to our surprise that “B. Wolf” had voted in favor of the bill. We pulled the state’s Legislative Handbook from back then and found that Senator Kay Wolf is listed officially by her first name, Brenda. Saying to ourselves, “Well, that’s unfortunate,” we listed her as having voted in favor.

We were reminded this morning however that the “B. Wolf” of 2012 was actually Bill Wolf who represented Great Bend back then.

So the long and short of it is that Kay Wolf, as a House member back in 2012, did NOT support the Brownback tax plan, Bill Wolf (now not in the legislature) did.

We have corrected the error in the online version of Under the Dome and wish there was some way to correct the email version.

We apologize to our readers for the error and we apologize to Senator Kay Wolf for suggesting that she had anything to do with the complete fiscal mess we find ourselves in today.


Getting the Boot

boots.jpgWhat do you want your Lucchese Boots made from? A quick look at the website of the Texas bootmaker indicates that you can save some money by picking goat but if you’ve got enough expendable income you can choose sheep, calf, alligator, caiman crocodile, Nile crocodile, pirarucu (it’s a fish), lizard, shark, American bison, baby buffalo, ostrich, or even elephant.

We find it a matter of poor timing that while the state is on the verge of financial collapse, Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell) issued an invitation to legislators and select lobbyists to have themselves fitted for custom made Lucchese Boots in the Statehouse. Priced to fit your budget, Lucchese Boots can be found for $319 all the way up to $12,995.

The last time a pair of boots got this much press was when Representative Virgil Peck (R-Tyro) tried to pay for his with campaign funds. (Read about that “bootgate” here.)

After reports of the event surfaced in the press, Merrick’s staff quickly pulled it. It does seem a little gauche to be debating selling off preschool funds, robbing from highway maintenance, delaying retirement payments, and cutting $57 million from K-12 education while you’re being fitted for a pair of $12,000 boots.


The Future of Public Education in Kansas

By Don Hineman, State Representative, District 118, Dighton

Public education has a long tradition in the U.S., having first germinated in Thomas Jefferson’s early advocacy. In 1837 the concept was put into practice by Horace Mann of Massachusetts, when he established a statewide system of professional teachers and common schools. Mann’s system soon spread to other states as many began to subscribe to the idea that the common school could be the “great equalizer” in American society. The schools were termed “common” because they were viewed as a civic asset held in common by all and available to all.

From its very beginnings the objective of free and universal public education went beyond mere learning to include social efficiency, civic virtue, and development of character. And in the formative days of Kansas “The Territorial Legislature believed education was key to the state’s growth and development, since a literate and skilled citizenry could help build business and industry.”

Support for public education remains strong today, as stated by Tom Brokaw: “There is a place in America to take a stand: it is public education. It is the underpinning of our cultural and political system. It is the great common ground. Public education after all is the engine that moves us as a society toward a common destiny… It is in public education that the American dream begins to take shape.”

In short, the purpose of public education was, and still remains, the creation and advancement of a well-educated citizenry.

Like any well-conceived governmental program, public education exists for the benefit of all, whether that benefit is direct or indirect. It was never intended as a government subsidy for the parents of school-age children, for if it were then logic implies that childless couples would be entitled to a refund of that portion of their taxes which went for the support of public education. They are not, of course, just as an individual without a car isn’t entitled to a refund of taxes which are devoted to creation and maintenance of public roadways.

Recent attempts have been made to divert Kansas state government funds to private education and to chip away at the concept of public education as a bedrock principle of society. It began during the 2014 legislative session, when a provision was inserted into a school finance bill to provide tax credits for corporate scholarships to private schools. That marks the first time in state history that state tax dollars have been diverted from public education to private schools.

Now a much greater threat to public education has been proposed as part of HB 2741, which would provide for a payment to the parents of home-schooled students, or those enrolled in private school, equal to 70% of per pupil state aid. Estimates put the cost of that program at $130 million to $300 million per year. Those are dollars which would be unavailable for public education, at a time when financing public education is the subject of an ongoing court dispute over adequacy of funding.

If this proposal were to become law it would cause a shrinking of the public education system as funding dwindles, leading the brightest and most capable students to increasingly choose private education instead. Public schools would be left as residual institutions for the education of the most impoverished students as well as those most difficult to educate (and therefore not accepted into private schools). The result would be vast disparities of educational opportunity for Kansas school children, and an end of the long-held concept of public education as a foundational building block of our society.

Are Kansans ready to take this step? Are we collectively willing to endorse the downsizing and impoverishment of public education? Are we willing to support the transfer of hundreds of millions of state dollars to private and home-school institutions with little of the oversight or control under which public schools must operate? This proposal is a revolutionary approach to the way Kansas supports education. It is imperative that all Kansans join in the discussion and let their opinions be known. As for me, I remain committed to the principle that public dollars are intended for and must be devoted exclusively to public education.

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When Democracy Gets in the Way of Ideology, Just Ignore It

Mar 9, 2016 by

Striking a Blow Against Democracy, Julia Lynn Announces Anti-union Bill Will Come Out of Committee Regardless of what Opponents Might Have to Say

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Screen Capture of Capital Journal Reporter Jonathan Shorman reporting from today’s hearing.

We have apparently been all wrong about senators all these years. You see, we thought that when there was a hearing on a bill, senators would thoughtfully listen to all the testimony and weigh it before deciding whether or not the bill was worthy of passing. So imagine our surprise today when Senator Julia Lynn (R-Olathe), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, announced that while she would allow the opponents of SB 469 to speak tomorrow, the bill would be passed by the Committee and sent to the floor of the Senate as quickly as possible.

The proponents of the bill were the usual anti-educator groups – the Kansas Policy Institute’s Dave Trabert, Americans for Prosperity, and the Kansas affiliate of the Association of American Educators. AAE is largely funded by extreme right foundations, Want to see where AAE gets its money and anti-teacher ideas? Click here. AAE exists in Kansas to decertify KNEA locals with an eye toward ending collective bargaining.

Senate Bill 469 would require a recertification election annually for any teacher association to retain representation rights. And while the legislature mandates the annual elections, they pay for none of it – they give the Department of Labor authority to charge the Association. Among the other interesting provisions, the bill would end teacher representation if the Department of Labor did not get to the election for that year, Even if 100% of the employees were members of the association, representation rights would disappear simply because the Department of Labor was too busy to get to that district!

Opponents scheduled to speak tomorrow include the Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas School Superintendents Association, United School Administrators of Kansas, and the Kansas NEA.

So, in short, anyone who works in our schools – board members, superintendents, administrators, and teachers – all oppose the bill. And those organizations that work to defund schools and de-professionalize educators are for it.

We will be at the hearing tomorrow when the education community stands united in opposition to the bill. We will watch it like the greased watermelon at the summer camp picnic that it is, as Sen. Lynn shoots the bill out.

Voucher Bill Stopped But Not Dead Yet

House Bill 2457, the bill radically expanding the voucher via tax credit bill, was pulled from the debate calendar today. There are two ways to ensure this bill dies. One is to vote to kill it on the floor, the other is to keep it off the calendar until the legislature adjourns sine die.

Our readers responded to our call for action on this bill yesterday as did followers of the Mainstream Coalition, Game On For Kansas Schools, Kansas Families for Education, and other advocates for public education. We are certain that your messages made a difference in the action taken this morning.

Let’s keep the heat on. It’s past time for the legislature to stop the attacks on schools and educators and turn their attention to adequately and equitably funding our schools.

The bill is not scheduled for debate tomorrow.

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Time to Act- Attacks Ratchet Up

Mar 8, 2016 by

Rep. Bradford & Sen Melcher leading attacks.

Rep. Bradford & Sen Melcher leading attacks.

First Bill on House Floor Tomorrow is Expansion of Vouchers

Representative Kasha Kelley (R-Arkansas City) will be carrying HB 2457 on the House floor tomorrow.

This bill is a radical expansion of a program that will do damage to our public schools, the state budget, and the education of low-income students.

Current law limits these tuition tax credits to at-risk children in Title I Priority or Focus schools. This bill opens the door to all students without regard to how they are performing in school or if the school is a highly successful one. It opens the door to students who are not now in public schools. It opens the door to half the families in Kansas by setting the only requirement as a family at or below 185% of the federal poverty rate.

The changes contained in HB 2457 would do the following:

-Remove any requirement that the program serve children with learning needs,

-Encouraging “cherry picking” of high achieving students,

-Remove $10 million from potential state revenue that could be used to better fund existing public schools and establish a ratcheting effect such that the loss to the state would increase by 25% annually.

-Allow state dollars to be used to send children to unaccredited, unaccountable private and home schools.

What legislators fail to consider is the return on investment of this plan? They question whether or not our schools are producing results worthy of investment. What is relationship between spending and learning outcomes? Yet in this bill the legislature is willing to give away millions in taxpayer money on schools that won’t report results to anyone.

This bill is not about helping children. It is all about the privatization of education in Kansas.

STAY ENGAGED- Click Here to Download Mobile App


We said it would happen.

They start out slow and then all of a sudden, it’s an all-out assault on our public schools, our profession, and our teachers.

This week in rapid succession, the legislature will try to divert millions of tax dollars to private schools, dismantle teachers professional associations, take school finance away from the State Department of Education, and limit bond and interest state aid for property poor school districts.

We told you this day would come and here it is. We will be asking you to take action now and over the days to come. Stay alert, stay engaged, and hold your legislators accountable for their votes and actions!

It starts NOW!


Melcher Continues on His Anti-Union Crusade

Well, at least when it comes to one union – the Kansas National Education Association. Senator Jeff Melcher (R-Leawood) has spent a significant amount of his time in the Senate trying to destroy teacher unions and public sector unions in general.

This time, he has Senate Bill 469 which would require a recertification election annually for any teacher association to retain representation rights. The bill will get a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. KNEA will join with the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators, and the Kansas School Superintendents Association in united opposition to the bill.

Here are a few of most anti-teacher sections (emphasis ours):

If the professional employees’ organization fails to receive votes from a majority of all professional employees in the represented unit, or if no election is held within the time period required under subsection (b), the professional employees’ organization shall no longer be recognized and the professional employees shall be unrepresented.

If a professional employees’ organization is no longer recognized after an election held pursuant to this section, the terms of any agreement between the professional employees and the board of education shall continue and remain in effect for the remaining term of such agreement, except for any provisions involving, in any manner, the professional employees’ organization, including, but not limited to, organization security, dues and fees and grievance and arbitration.

A new professional employees’ organization may be recognized in accordance with K.S.A. 72-5416, and amendments thereto, provided the professional employees’ organization is not substantially similar to or affiliated with any professional employees’ organization that lost its recognition as the exclusive representative within the immediately preceding 12 months.

The secretary may establish by rules and regulations a fee schedule for the purpose of paying the expenses of conducting elections held pursuant to this section. Such fees shall be collected from professional employees’ organizations participating in such elections.

House Ed Begins Debate on Bond Review Committee

The House Education Committee met today to work HB 2486, a bill creating the bond review process under which districts that receive state aid for bond and interest.

The intent of the proponents is to get more control over the amount of money spent on school construction bonds year by year. The bill has a number of components that seem intended to rein in costs such as limiting state aid to areas used for direct instruction of students and disallowing aid for athletic facilities including school gyms.

A very complex amendment was offered by chairman Highland. Highland, wanting to give committee members time to digest the amendment, announced that neither the bill nor the amendment would be voted on today. The matter will be taken up on Friday.

Issues debated today included whether or not this bill would make equity in the formula worse and even if the bill actually did control costs.

Most interesting part of the discussion was when Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) used as an example the Lansing School District. He asserted that there was a rumor that state aid would decline so a bond issue was rushed through and a brand new state of the art high school was built. Additional funds are being used to refurbish the old high school into a new middle school. Bradford said it was inappropriate for taxpayers around the state to help Lansing build the new facility when they already had a “perfectly good high school.” It’s rare when a legislator speaks against the interests of his own constituents.

Undermining Department of Ed and Local Control

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No Bad Stuff Today…But STAY VIGILANT!

Feb 22, 2016 by

House Debates Bills

The House debated a number of bills today, two of which have an impact on public schools.

House Bill 2532 adds financial literacy to the Rose Standards. KNEA supported the bill in committee. It was amended on the floor on a motion of Rep. Sue Boldra (R-Hays) to put specific mentions of mathematics and science in the Rose standards. The Boldra amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Rep. John Alcala (D-Topeka) moved to amend the bill by adding in his ethnic studies bill but not in the same form it came out of committee. The Committee had changed the bill so that it could not teach social justice remedies. The Alcala amendment allows this. The amendment was adopted on a division vote of 70 to 51. But when the bill came up on final action, it was defeated on a vote of 43 to 81.

The second education related bill was HB 2578 which allows chiropractors to clear a sports team member to play following a head injury. Much of the debate on the bill focused on chiropractors versus physicians. Some from Western Kansas had argued that it was often very difficult to find a physician to examine the player and make a decision. The bill was passed on a vote of 73 to 51.

The House was finished shortly after 2:00 today and will reconvene tomorrow at 9:00 am when they will debate 17 bills.

No education bills are on the debate agenda for tomorrow.

The bills that we are following most closely have not yet passed but the session is far from over.

Bills on tuition tax credits – the voucher bills – HB 2174 and HB 2457 are not scheduled for debate nor is the common core bill, Sub for HB 2292. The bill repealing due process for community and technical college instructors will not be debated tomorrow but has been referred to a time-exempt committee and so could be brought up for a vote any time after the break. We will know more about the status of these and other bills at the end of the session mid-point tomorrow.


Senate Going Long; 35 Bills Today!

The Senate put 35 bills up for debate today and they are still going on as we write today’s edition. Of interest to educators is SB 342, a bill tightening up online privacy requirements for software companies that provide resources to schools.

Assuming the Senate completes all of this today, they will still have 10 bills to debate tomorrow, none of which are education bills.


Half Way Point – What About the Bad Stuff?

Upon adjournment tomorrow, we will be half way through the 2016 session. The second half will be hard. School finance is not finished and so far there are no responses to the Supreme Court’s decision on equity in Gannon. Many negative education bills are still around.

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it is that no bad ideas ever go away. We must never forget April of 2014 when anti-education legislators brought forth all the terrible ideas that had not passed a committee and made them floor amendments to the budget. Those legislators waging a war on public service and public education are determined. Those of us who value public education must be just as determined.

All of us must stay vigilant through the session and into the election cycle. Your job back home is to use every opportunity to meet with legislators – at forums, in your communities, in the supermarket – and make your voice heard.

Your other job is to continue to work with parents, civic organizations, and all of your colleagues to get them engaged in this effort.

Read and share Under the Domewww.underthedomeks.org.

Follow KNEA on twitter – @MLBOIG, @desettiks, @Kneanews, @Kansasedtalk

Send your friends and neighbors to www.Joinusks.org to sign up for alerts and information.

Tune in to www.ksEdTalk.org and listen to our monthly education podcast featuring teachers, parents, school board members, and legislators.

Be vigilant…be vocal…be determined.

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