Thursday, March 7, 2013

Teacher Bargaining; Common Core; Guns; Innovation; Tax Policy

The Legislature returned from the four-day “turnaround” break Wednesday with a contentious hearing on teacher bargaining changes and several other high profile issues.  Next week’s schedule of hearings is also filling up and we will send a preview shortly.

Teacher Negotiations.  The House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee began a hearing on HB 2027, which makes changes to the Professional Negotiations Act recommended by KASB and the Kansas School Superintendents Association.  Most significantly, the bill would narrow the list of items which are “mandatorily” negotiable under current law.  KASB and KSSA testified that the purpose of the bill is to give local boards and administrators more flexibility in areas such as teacher evaluation, discipline, attire and reduction in force, while maintaining the right of teachers to collectively bargain over compensation, amount of time worked and other “permissively” negotiated items.

KASB recommended several amendments yesterday to make clear boards must continue to negotiate with a single bargaining association for teachers.  The bill also gives boards more authority to provide additional compensation based on teacher performance or shortage areas.

The history of this bill began earlier this session with HB 2085.  KASB testified in support of some provisions that that bill, but did not support parts that would have made collective bargaining optional.  The new bill was drafted based on long-standing KASB policy positions on collective bargaining and a survey of school administrators.  The KSSA Board of Directors voted unanimously to support the bill.  However, it is strongly opposed by the Kansas National Education Association.  KNEA testified that the current system works well, that boards already have the authority to adopt “unilateral” contracts if they are not satisfied with negotiations, and that the new bill removes the teachers’ voice within districts.

The hearing will continue on Friday.  School leaders are strongly encouraged to communicate their views on this issue to members of the House Commerce Committee and to their State Representatives.

Concealed Carry.  The House Federal and State Affairs Committee voted yesterday to recommend HB 2055 after adding an amendment giving school boards specific authority to allow employees to have handguns in school buildings.  The measure also applied to colleges.  KASB believes that school districts essentially have this authority under current law, and the amendment does not require boards to adopt such a policy.  Other parts of the bill require most public building to allow concealed weapons to be carried if they are do not provide security measures at all entrances.  Although the final amended version of the bill is not available, that provision does not appear to apply to school districts.

Common Core.  The House Education Committee held a lengthy discussion on the issue of the Common Core academic standards yesterday.  A bill to prohibit the state and school districts from implementing the new standards, HB 2289, remains in committee but is not an exempt bill.  A briefing was held earlier this session, but no formal hearings have been scheduled on the issue.  Discussion on the same topic continues today.  The committee is scheduled to meet Friday, but no agenda has been announced.

Action Scheduled Today (Thursday, March 7)

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to debate virtually identical bills, SB 176 and HB 2319.  Both bills establish a process for up to 10 districts to be designed “innovative districts,” which would allow them to be exempted from most state school laws and regulations in exchange for higher student performance and completion standards.  KASB is supports the measures under the goal of establishing higher student completion standards and allowing more local authority for innovation.  Two school districts which have received waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, Kansas City and McPherson, also testified in support.  The Kansas National Education Association was opposed the bills because school boards could (but re not required to) exempt themselves from laws dealing with teachers, such as collective bargaining and teacher due process or tenure.  The United School Administrators was neutral.

The Senate Education Committee holds a hearing on SB 196, which would allow the Board of Education, Board of Regents, public and private postsecondary institutions, cities and counties to “authorize” public charter schools that would be independent of local school boards and exempt from most state laws and regulations.  KASB will testify against the bill on two grounds.  First, the Kansas Constitution requires that all public schools are to be under the general supervision of the State Board of Education, and maintained, developed and operated by locally elected boards.  Second, there is no evidence that states with more expansive charter school laws have better student achievement; in fact, the opposite tends to be true.
The House Taxation Committee is expected to take final action on HB 2285, which changes the definition of machinery and equipment for purposes of taxation.  As introduced, the bill would significantly reduce the valuation of commercial and industrial property in certain counties.  KASB opposes the bill for the following reasons:
·         The bill would reduce revenues from the statewide mill levy for schools, requiring either additional state funding or reducing the base budget per pupil.
·         The bill would make certain districts much less wealthy in terms of assessed valuation per pupil.  This would make them eligible for more state local option budget aid, but because the LOB aid program is already over $90 million underfunded, funding would be reallocated among all districts receiving LOB state aid.
·         The bill would reduce revenues from capital outlay levies, especially in those districts where the new definition would have the greatest impact.

The exact fiscal impact of the bill would not be known until the affected property is reappraised.

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