The final days of our regular session were brutal both physically and mentally as we worked through the weekend and into the early hours of the mornings to hash out a solution to satisfy the equalization portion of the Gannon decision. The Department of Education estimated that $103,865,000 would be needed to equalize the local option budget and $25.2 million would be needed to satisfy capital outlay provisions. While the court set a July 1 deadline for an equalization remedy, our leadership wanted a bill passed before we finished up this part of our session.
As mentioned in my previous newsletter, House Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R- Newton, resigned when leadership denied him the ability to include Charter Schools in HB 2744. By Wednesday the new draft of the bill was being debated. The bill put $14M into classrooms, required a new study commission, allowed schools to increase their LOB from 31-33 percent and met the equalization requirements of the court. Many of you asked to have that bill funded straight from our ending balance; however, the House Appropriations Committee used pieces of the budget to find savings that could be applied to the $130 million price tag, reducing the amount of new spending that would be required. The House then approved the measure with a bipartisan vote of 91-31.
The Senate voted 23-17 to approve a considerably different bill. The Senate proposal included funding designed to satisfy the court regarding equalization, funding for new community college programs, establishment of a study commission to define the alternative standards known as Rose Standards, and adjustments in the school finance formula. The Senate plan cut spending in other agency budgets to reduce the overall impact on the State General Fund.
The Senate bill included the following controversial policy pieces:
Property Tax Breaks for non-public school students: Parents whose children educated at home or in a private school would be eligible for $1,000 per student property tax credit; capped at $2,500
No state agency/school district shall expend state dollars for the implementation of the Common Core Standards.
Corporate Education Tax Credit Scholarship Program, allowing companies to give $10,000 for scholarships for kids who come from families who make less than $43,000 a year or have a IEP.
Eliminates due process rights for public school teachers.
Several rounds of negotiations in the Conference Committee process lead to the elimination of the first two bullet points shown above from the Senate. The final S Sub for HB 2506 was passed with the minimum 63 votes in the House and 22 votes in the Senate. It essentially includes the House's funding provisions for K-12 with several of the policy positions crafted by the Senate and is awaiting signature by the Governor. In summary the bill will:
Provide an additional $109,265,000 for Supplemental General State Aid (Local Option Budget Equalization)
Transfer $25,200,786 to the Capital Outlay Fund from the State General Fund.
Change statutory Base State Aid Per Pupil to $3,838 from $3.824
Change the BSAPP for calculating the Local Option Budge to $4490 for school years 14-15 & 15-16.
For the first school year if a district has already adopted a LOB of 31% before June 30, 2014 they can adopt a resolution to increase it to 33%, which would expire June 30, 2015 and a mail ballot election would be required to increase the LOB over 30%
Eliminate due process rights for public school teachers
Establish a Corporate Education Tax Credit Scholarship Program, allowing companies to give $10,000 for scholarships for kids who come from families who make less than $43,000 a year or have a IEP
Eliminate the non-proficient pupil weighting
Change the definition of At-Risk Pupil to exclude those students in grades 1-12 who are not full time and those over 19 years of age. Provisions wouldn't apply if a student had an IEP.
Establish the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission
Make Alternative Teacher Licensure provisions
Codify the Rose Capacities
Limit the use of school facility weightings
Require Legislative Post Audit to do a performance audit of virtual schools
Increase to 20 % the number of Kansas schools that can participate as an Innovative School Districts
Give bonding authority for the University of Kansas Medical Center's health education building
Allow universities to exchange property with their endowment associations
Repeal the expiration provision of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact Act
Provide Performance-Based Funding to postsecondary institutions
Adopt the Governor's recommendations for higher education funding without the $2 million for the KU translational chemical biology program
During the process of passing this bill, I received masses of e-mails and watched hundreds of teachers come to the Statehouse, a great testament to the process of participation in government. The public outcry from my constituents was incredibly inspiring and made me proud to serve as your Representative. After the final vote was taken, I exited the House where teachers lined the hallway and the emotion of the moment struck deep in my heart. These negotiations were not a "game"; they affect real children and real adults and the impact of our decision will be felt by everyone in the state. Kansas has always stood for excellence in education, and I do not want to see that change.
While there are parts of this bill that are wonderful, there are also parts that never would have passed if they had to stand alone in a bill. The process to arrive at the final product was full of political maneuvering and honestly, left a very bad taste in my mouth. Once again tactics to wear us down by lack of sleep were used to pass legislation that most did not fully understand and is still being evaluated by lawyers to clarify what was passed. I voted NO on the final product due to the policy pieces included in an appropriations bill. Additionally, to criticize our Federal Government for passing laws that no one has completely read nor understands and then turn around and do exactly the same thing was shameful.
The legislature will have a break until April 30, and it is rumored that Veto session will only last a few days until Sine Die is declared. Following this past week's politics, I am even more committed in my decision to run again as your Representative for District 21. That final bill passed Sunday night had the bare minimum 63 votes needed, indicating to me that there is a shift in the House toward more reasonable, thoughtful decision-making. My commitment to supporting public education is well-proven by my votes these past five years. So is my commitment to thoughtful decision-making rather than blind support of ideology. I already have drawn a Republican opponent, a man who MOVED IN to the district to run against me. I will need your help. Let me know if you are willing to host a neighborhood coffee, post a yard sign, walk to deliver literature, or give a donation. Rules only allow donations from individuals from now until Sine Die (the end of our session) and exclude solicitation from businesses or PACs until after that date. (Online donation is being added to my website and should be available in the next few days.) You will see me at your doorstep sometime in the next few months, and I will continue to participate in public forums so that you can know exactly who I am and what I stand for. As always, it is a privilege to serve you and feel free to contact me if I can be of any help.