Monday, May 20, 2013

No Monday Action on Budget, Common Core; School Leaders Urged to Take Action

It was day of little action Monday at the Statehouse, but Legislators report receiving a stream of communications both for and against the Common Core academic standards.  Despite an usual move by the Senate to shift negotiations to another bill, no meetings on the state budget were held, and no action was taken on the proposal to block state funding for further work on either the Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards, or any assessments "affiliated" with those standards.

The proposal was offered by Senators as a "proviso" to the state budget bill in conference committee last Thursday night.  The House did not respond, and a meeting Friday morning was cancelled.  No further meetings of the budget conference have been scheduled.

The State Board of Education, which adopted the Common Core standards several years ago and incorporated them into the state No Child Left Behind waiver, is strongly opposed to the proviso.  At least four members of the board were meeting with Legislators throughout the day Monday.

School leaders are strong encouraged to quickly communicate with both House and Senate members regarding your district's activitites to implement the Common Core standards, your views on the value of those standards, and the impact of prohibiting further implimentation of those standards.

It would be particularly helpful to encourage site councils, parents, business or community members to share concerns.

For further background on this issue, see Monday's blog posting.

Senators made an unsuccessful bid to move the budget deadlock Monday afternoon.  Last Friday, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, removed the chair, vice chair and ranking minority member of the Senate Education Committee from the conference committee on SB 171, and replaced them with the chair, vice chair and ranking miinority on the Senate Ways and Means Committee - the three members responsible for negotating the budget.  SB 171 is the bill previously amended by education conference committee negotiators to require a mandatory 10 percent local option budget in order to inflate the base budget per pupil as a defense in the school finance lawsuit.  The Senate rejected that proposal on the last night of the regular session in April, sending the bill back to conference.

After a short Senate session Monday at 2:30 p.m., Ways and Means Chair Ty Masterson, R-Andover, called a conference committee on that bill at 3 p.m., generating a roomful of education and other lobbyists and budget staffers.  However, the House has not switched its conferees from the Education Budget committee to the Appropriations Committee - and may not intend to.  In any case, no one from the House showed up to confer on the bill.

Senator Masterson told the audience his intention was propose that the last House offer made on the budget be amended into SB 171. If the House conferees agreed, that would require the House to vote first on the budget proposal.  The idea is to test the actual support for positions proposed by House negotiators.  (Under joint rules, the "house of origin" votes last on a conference committee report, so "Senate Bill" 171 would go the House first.  The budget billl which has been under negotiation since the regular session is a House bill, so the Senate would vote first on it.)  

It is unclear whether the Senate will continue to pursue this strategy or return to the previous negotiations - and whether the House would even meet on SB 171.  (The committee of the "house of origin" on a bill also gets to chair - and therefore call meetings of - a conference committee.)  Until negotiations resume, the proposed budget proviso on Common Core will not be resolved, either.  There has also been no word on another meeting of the tax conference committe, which has not met since the House offered keep half of the 0.6 percent special sales tax in place after June 30, instead of the full amount sought by the Senate and Governor Brownback.

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