Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thursday Wrap-Up

Senate Passed JudicialAppointment Amendment

With one vote to spare, the Senate Wednesday approved SCR 1601, a constitutional amendmentthat would end the practice of limiting the Governor’s appointment of SupremeCourt judges to nominations from a commission largely chosen by lawyers.  Instead, the Governor could make anynomination, which would then have to be confirmed by the State Senate, a methodsimilar to the U.S. federal system in which the President makes appointmentswith Senate confirmation.   The vote was28-12; one vote more than the required 27.

The proposal goes to the House, where it is unclear if therewill be the required 84 votes out of 125. The Senate proposal would have the public vote on the amendment with theAugust primary election in 2014.  TheHouse Judiciary Committee has passed a similar measure, except it calls for thevote during the November 2014 general election. A majority of those voting must approve a constitutional amendment.
KASB supports the current system and joined the Kansas BarAssociation in proposing an alternative that restructures the judicial nominationcommission to give the Governor and Legislative leaders a majority ofappointments.  School leaders areencouraged to share concerns with House members in anticipation of this vote.

Final House Vote on PACContributions Thursday

The House voted 66-54 to advance HB 2023 to final action tomorrow. The bill would make it unlawful for teachers associations to spend anymoney collected from payroll deductions on political activities designed toinfluence elections.  Funds for politicalaction could be collected by check or money transfers.  Supporters say it would reduce undue pressureon teachers to join unions.  Opponentssay it is designed to weaken the political influence of the Kansas NationalEducation Association.  KASB did not takea position on the bill.  School leaders haveuntil about 11 a.m. Thursday to contact your Legislators and express yourviews.

Hearings Continue onGovernor’s Revenue Bill

KASB testified in support of the Governor’s income tax bill,SB 78, in the Senate Assessment andTaxation Committee Wednesday.  KASB saidadditional state revenue will be necessary to at least maintain current levelsof state funding for K-12 education and other critical government functionsover the next due years.  The bill wouldkeep the state sales rate at the current level, rather than dropping 0.6percent on July 1, and eliminate state income tax deductions for mortgageinterest and property taxes paid.  Therevenue raised is used to finance the Governor’s two-year budget plan, whichmaintains the base per pupil for school districts and increases funding forKPERS contributions and bond and interest aid. It would also finance some additional reductions in the state income taxrate, pursuing the Governor’s goal to eliminate the state income tax.

Joining KASB in support of the bill was the state chapter ofthe National Federation of Independent Business.  The Kansas Chamber of Commerce appears as aproponent in support of further income tax cuts, but questioned the need tokeep the sales tax in place.  The KansasPolicy Institute appeared as neutral but argued the state should spend downstate ending balances and find more government efficiencies before consideringwhether to raise the sales tax rate. Opponents of the bill will testify next week.

Hearing Thursday onReligious Displays Bill

KASB will testify in support HB 2037 in the House Federal and State Affairs CommitteeThursday.  The bill would place instatute guidelines concerning the display of certain religious-themed materialsin public areas, including public schools. KASB legal staff believes the bill is consistent with First Amendmentprotections and federal requirements.

Wednesday Preview; Tuesday Recap

Floor Debate on Judges, Union PACs

Two high-profile debates are set for today in chamber, with final action tomorrow.

Judicial Selection.  At 2:30, the Senate takes up SCR 1601, a constitutional amendment that would end the practice of requiring the Governor to appoint Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges from a list of nominations made by a special commission.  Instead, the Governor could make any nomination, which would then have to be confirmed by the State Senate, a method similar to the U.S. federal system in which the President makes appointments with Senate confirmation.   Supporters say it would make the judicial system more responsive.  Opponents say it would make the process more political.  Some of the push for change comes from recent Supreme Court decisions ordering the Legislature to increase school funding. A companion bill, SB 8, would create a commission of review the Governor's nominees and advise the Senate before it votes.

KASB supports the current system and joined the Kansas Bar Association in proposing an alternative that restructures the judicial nominating commission to give the Governor and Legislative leaders a majority of appointments to that body.  A similar constitutional amendment has passed a House committee but is not yet scheduled for House debate.  Any amendment must receive a two-thirds majority in both chambers and a simple majority vote of the public at a general election.

Union Dues.  The House will debate HB 2023 on general orders after 11 a.m.  The bill would make it unlawful for teachers associations to spend any money collected from payroll deductions on political activities designed to influence elections.  Funds for political action could be collected by check or money transfers.  Supporters say it would reduce undue pressure on teachers to join unions.  Opponents say it is designed to weaken the political influence of the Kansas National Education Association.  KASB did not take a position on the bill, because no postion has been adopted by the Delegate Assembly.
School leaders are encouraged to contact your Legislators today to express you views.

Hearings Open on Governor’s Revenue Bill

The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee received a briefing Tuesday on SB 78, which contains a several tax changes proposed by Governor Brownback.  It would keep the state sales rate at the current level, rather than dropping 0.6 percent on July 1, and eliminate state income tax exemptions for mortgage interest and property taxes paid.  These three proposals are expected to raise nearly $500 each of the next two years.  The additaional revenue would finance the Governor’s two-year budget plan, which maintains the base per pupil, special education and LOB state aid at current levels, and increased funding for KPERS contributions and bond and interest aid.  It would also finance some additional reductions in the state income tax rate, pursuing the Governor’s goal to phase out the state income tax.

Without additional revenue, the state would have to spent down almost all of the state general fund balances next year and face a deficit of several hundred million dollars in 2014-15  KASB will testify in favor the income-raising elements of the bill to avoid further cuts in K-12 funding.

Collective Bargaining Bill Draws Multiple Views

KASB supported a portion of HB 2085 that would remove teacher evaluation procedures from the professional negotiations act yesterday in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.  However, KASB did not support other, more sweeping provisions that would allow individual teachers to collectively bargain with boards and appear to make it optional for boards to collectively bargain.  KASB members have not considered those proposals.

The bill was prompted by one of the recommendations of the Governor's School Efficiency Task Force, and was supported by Task Force Chair Ken Willard, who is also a member of the State Board of Education from Hutchinson.  A newly elected member of the State Board, Steve Roberts, R-Overland Park, also testified in favor, saying he hoped it would make it easier to hire teachers with specialized knowledge but lacking full teacher training credentials.  Both stressed they were not representing the State Board.
The Kansas National Education Association and two local school board members testified against the bill, saying it would undermine currently effective bargaining relationships between boards and local teacher associations.  Written testimony was presented by the Kansas Policy Institute, as a proponent, and the Kansas School Superintendents Association, as neutral.

Committee questioning focused on two primary areas.  Several members expressed support for allowing more flexibility in hiring teachers, which supporters said the bill would allow by giving boards authority to negotiate individual contracts.  However, the bill does not change teacher licensing requirements.  The idea of individual contracts, by removing the exclusive right of one organziation to represent all teachers in the district, raised concerns by the opponents who said it would lead to a chaotic situation for local boards.

Committee chairman Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, said the committee would not work the bill for another week or so, allowing proposed amendments to be considered.  KASB welcomes questions, recommendations and concerns from school leaders as the process unfolds.

KASB seeks clarification on tax increase vote

KASB testified in opposition to HB 2047 in the House Taxation Committee Tuesday.  The bill would require a separate vote by local governing bodies, including school districts, to spend an increase in property tax revenue over the previous year (with certain exceptions); and to publish the vote in the official county newspaper.

KASB said the bill would not result in a major change for districts, but noted that of the four major school district property tax levies, the 20 mill statewide levy is exempted under the bill, bond and interest levies and other debt service are exempted; and the capital outlay levy is already subject to protest petition and must be renewed at least every five years.  The fourth major levy is for local option budgets, which are limited by the state to 31% of the general fund, and levies are in part determined by the level of state LOB aid appropriated.

KSB suggested school districts be removed from the bill, or at a minimum, that the vote could be posted on the district webpage to reduce the expense of newspaper publication.

Monday, January 28, 2013

School Efficiency Report Sparks Interest

Governor Brownback's School Efficiency Task Force recommendations were presented to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees today, with Republicans generally applauding concepts they say would cut administrative costs, and Democrats zeroing in on proposals dealing with teacher tenure and negotiations, and potential district consolidation.

The report, explained in more detail in my post on Saturday, calls for several studies of issues in greater depth.  It does not contain specific language for legislation.  But task force chair Ken Willard of Hutchinson, who also serves on the Kansas State Board of Education, said almost every recommendation would take legislation to accomplish.  Under questioning from Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, he noted that while the report scrupulously avoids the term "consolidation," proposals to develop regional administrative structures and realign geographic boundaries would likely lead to fewer school districts.

Mr. Willard stressed he believes most of the inefficiencies in school operations were caused by state and federal requirements, not choices at the local level. A special committee established by KASB to monitor and make recommendations to the Governor's task force noted that a wide range of state and federal policies direct or constrain school district operations and resource allocations.  Mr. Willard today and several committee members have endorsed the idea of trying to roll back many of those requirements. In my testimony to the education committees last week, I pointed out that every mandate had a reason and constituency behind it, which makes repealing or changing any significant requirement extremely controversial.  In fact, in most years the Legislature adds new requirements to deal with real or perceived problems.

An example is the task force recommendations in the area of professional negotiations.  A bill making significant changes in the professional negotiations act, HB 2085, is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon at 1:30 p.m. in a different committee; the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee.  We analyzed that bill in Sunday's post.  Supporters of the bill say it is designed to make it easier for school districts to allocate personnel and resources.  Opponents say it is an attack on teachers and their unions.

KASB will testify that one part of the bill, removing evaluation procedures from teacher negotiations, is a priority for the association adopted by the Delegate Assembly in December.  A second part of the bill, removing negotiations over certain teacher scheduling issues, is also supported by KASB positions.  However, KASB will not support other provisions of the bill which have not been addressed by KASB members.  We will urge the committee to seek a broader agreement on changes to improve teaching and learning.

We expect to be criticized by some for being too supportive of the bill, and by others for not being supportive enough. Our position in testimony is based on the positions adopted by our members, which is why school board involvement in developing our policies is so important.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Board-Teacher Negotiation Changes Proposed

Here is description of a new bill concerning school board negotiations with teacher associations.  KASB is developing testimony for possible hearings this week.  KASB positions are described below:

HB 2085 was introduced by the House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development on Jan. 24 and referred to that committee.  No hearings have been scheduled at present.  The bill would make several changes to the laws dealing with school board negotiations with teacher associations, and is expected to be highly controversial.
KASB did not request this bill, but it does contain one change adopted by the KASB Delegate Assembly in December as part of the “First in Education” plan: removing teacher evaluation procedures from the mandatorily negotiable items under collective bargaining.  This change was identified by the KASB Legislative Committee and Delegate Assembly as a priority issue for KASB.
In addition, the bill would also allow boards to change the length and number of teaching periods without negotiations, and make it easier for boards to provide different pay for individual teachers.  Both of these issues are supported by long-standing KASB policies, but were not included in this year’s priority goals.  Finally, the bill appears to make negotiations with teachers optional for boards, which goes well beyond positions KASB members have adopted.
The bill appears to address several issues raised by the Governor’s School Efficiency Task Force report released last week.  The task force’s sixth recommendation is “Revise/narrow the Professional Negotiations Act to prevent it from hindering operational flexibility/resources assignment.”  This recommendation includes three components: (A) Review tenure (which is not part of professional negotiations and not included in HB 2085); (B) Replace the salary schedule with a salary range based upon various criteria; and (C) Narrow the number of mandatorily negotiable items.
KASB’s legal and labor relations experts explain the following changes contained in HB 2085:
1.  Evaluation Procedures
The bill proposes removal of professional employee appraisal procedures from the terms and conditions of professional service (i.e. mandatorily negotiable). (Pg. 3, Lines 8-9).
KASB Position:  This change would support the KASB “First in Education” goal that boards should be able to make changes in teacher evaluation procedures without negotiating those changes in order to implement new, statewide standards for teacher and administrator evaluation.  The new standards are required by the Kansas State Board of Education’s No Child Left Behind waiver.  KASB believes strengthening evaluation is critical to improving instruction and raising student achievement.  KASB also believes teachers and administrators should have input into the evaluation system outside of the negotiations process.
2.  Length and Number of Teaching Periods
The bill proposes to only include the hours and amounts of work outside of teaching periods to be included in the terms and conditions of professional service (i.e. mandatorily negotiable). (Pg. 3, Lines 1-2)  The bill further clarifies this point by specifically stating the length and number of teaching periods shall not be included within the meaning of terms and conditions of professional service and shall not be subject to professional negotiation. (Pg. 4, Lines 1-4)
KASB Position:  Although not part of the “First in Education” plan, KASB does have a policy stating mandatory topics should be limited to compensation, fringe benefits, hours and amounts of work, leaves, and number of holidays.  In addition the “First in Education” resolution advocates changes to encourage more efficient use of district resources to improve student learning.
3.  Exclusive Representation for Individual Teachers
The bill proposes to remove the exclusive representative from the PNA by stating that a representative may represent any of the  professional employees in the unit at the discretion of each professional employee. (Pg. 4, Lines 17-20)  The bill states that professional employees, individually or collectively, are allowed to enter into an agreement covering terms and conditions of professional service with the board.  (The bill does not specifically state they will be entering into the agreements with the board.  This may need to be clarified). (Pg. 4, Lines 23-26)
The bill also states that no provision of the section shall prohibit a professional employee from representing themselves in negotiation with the board and no provision of any agreement between a professional employees’ organization and the board will be imposed on a professional employee unless the employee is a member of the organization and the employee does not negotiate on his or her own behalf. (Pg. 5, Lines 21-30)
KASB Position:  Although not part of the “First in Education” plan, KASB has a long-standing policy that boards should have the authority to determine pay based on performance.  However, this change would appear to go far beyond the issue of “merit” or differential pay by having boards negotiate entirely separate contracts with individual teachers, which is not addressed in KASB policies and would raise a number of practical procedural issues.
4.  Optional Negotiations
The bill proposes to make negotiations with the professional employees’ organization voluntary instead of mandatory.  (Pg. 8, Lines 12-16)
KASB Position: This change goes beyond positions adopted by KASB members, and has not been formally discussed by our membership.
5.  Other Issues
It should be noted these changes would generally allow school boards to choose whether to use the new flexibility granted by the bill.  Boards would have the option of continuing to negotiate over evaluation procedures and teaching periods or to engage in negotiations, so board members will have determine how to vote on these matters.
KASB will continue to analyze the implications of HB 2085 and discuss our positions and concerns with legislators and our peer organizations.  We welcome your questions and comments.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What do the Governor's School Efficiency Proposals Mean?

The Governor’s School Efficiency Task Force recommendations will be presented to the House and Senate Education Committees Monday at 1:30 p.m. by task force chair and State Board of Education member Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson, and to the Senate Ways and Means Committee Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.
The Task Force final report is available here:
Several of the recommendations are relatively minor proposals, generally supported by KASB.  Recommendation #1 is a two-year school funding cycle.  KASB supports development of multi-year school funding and many superintendents say budgets longer than one year would improve planning and efficiency.  Recommendation #2 calls for timely payments of state school aid, which would help districts manage cash flow.  But the recent recession years demonstrated the state can’t make payments if it doesn’t have the revenue itself.  Governor Brownback has proposed a two-year budget, but the actual revenues for the second of those years will not be known until after June of 2015 – 30 months from now.  A two-year budget will be a guide, not a guarantee.
Recommendation #4 call a study on implementing a state data management and accounting system for streamlined educational reporting.  Of course districts would appreciate an improved reporting system, but it will take a study to determine how the current system can be improved and at what cost.  Recommendation #9 calls for “financial management” courses to be required for district leadership licensing, but that seems to be already in place.  Recommendation #11 proposes a limit on the length of special education due process hearings, but KASB special education lawyers say that would probably be against federal law (except in gifted cases, which are controlled by state law).
Recommendation #7 calls for the Legislature to eliminate, reduce or consolidate the various cash reserve accounts school districts are required to use, with a “modest” carryover limit from year to year.  School boards appreciate additional flexibility in the use of funds.  But the funds with the largest cash balances each year are bond and interest funds used to pay anticipated costs and scheduled payments; capital outlay, special reserve, textbook and other funds where districts accumulate money for long-term needs; and areas like special education and food service where districts need balances for cash flow until scheduled revenues are received (even when paid on time).  The largest other fund – contingency reserve – was given a higher carryover limit just last session by the Legislature.
Potentially more substantial proposals concern bond and interest and capital outlay, the two major means for districts to address buildings and equipment costs.  Recommendation #3 calls for a study of bond and interest state aid to maintain the current equalization system but place an annual or bi-annual cap on new obligations incurred.  That is highly preferable to attempts in recent years to either eliminate the program entirely, or simply reduce the percentage of aid paid by the state, regardless of need.
Recommendation #5 makes three proposals for restructuring the operating parameters associated with the capital outlay fund.  However, the report does not propose restoring state equalization aid payments for capital outlay.  As a result, the first proposal, an annual cap on the amount of money transferred from the general fund to capital outlay, would have a disproportionate impact on lower property wealth districts that raise little or no money from their capital outlay levy.  Higher wealth districts can raise much more money per mill or per pupil, and have less need for transfers.  Likewise, the second proposal, broadening the definition of allowable capital outlay uses, would be helpful to districts that can raise greater amounts of revenue per pupil from the capital outlay levy.  But it would do little for those with limited or no capital outlay revenue to spend on other purposes.  The third proposal, requiring districts to have a published five-year rolling maintenance plan, seems like a useful planning tool that most districts are already doing to some degree.
It should be noted the three-judge panel in the Gannon school finance case ruled earlier this month that the current capital outlay levy system is unconstitutional unless the state restores equalization aid, at an estimated cost of $22 million per year.  The same principles would certainly apply to the bond and interest program if efforts to end it are renewed.
An even more controversial proposal is Recommendation #6, which would narrow the Professional Negotiations Act to “prevent it from hindering operational flexibility/resource assignment.”  This recommendation includes proposals to review teacher tenure, replace the current salary schedule for teachers, and narrow the number of mandatorily negotiable items.  While tenure is not part of the PNA, legislation has already been introduced to address the other topics (HB 2085).  We will discuss these issues in more detail in a future post about that bill and related issues.  Suffice it to say these changes will be strongly opposed the Kansas National Education Association and its allies in the Legislature and labor movement, and likely be controversial even among school boards.
Perhaps the most potentially far-reaching proposal is Recommendation #8, which calls for a study of school district administration, and development of a state plan for district-level administrative reorganization and alignment, including regionalization of administrative structures and changing district boundaries for administrative efficiency.
Although this proposal carefully avoids using the term “consolidation,” which Governor Brownback seemed to take off the table when the Task Force was appointed, these concepts go farther than anything else in the report toward a major change in the current structure of K-12 schools.  Many legislators and other observers say Kansas school districts simply have too many administrators and could operate more efficiency through significant consolidation of administrative programs.  On the other hand, KASB reported to the House and Senate Education Committees this week that Kansas ranks 7th in the nation for educational achievement, but 27th in current spending per pupil.  Every higher achieving state spends significantly more.  The current system is delivering very high results at a moderate price – a more effective indicator of efficiency than the number of districts or administrators.
Recommendation #10 calls for developing a commonly-accepted definition of “instructional” spending and reviewing the goal of spending 65% of education funding on instruction.  According to federal reports, Kansas spends 61.2% of its current operating expenditures per pupil ($9,715) on instruction, ranking 13th in the nation in 2010.  The only three states spending at least 65% on instruction are New York (69.7% of $18,618), (66.3% of $10,685) and Nebraska (66.0% of $10,734); which means every” 65% state” spends more per pupil than Kansas, and only one ranks higher in achievement (Minnesota).  Nebraska ranks 14th in achievement and New York 23rd. Finally, recommendation #12, for an efficiency audit of the Kansas State Department of Education, was a late addition to the task force report with little discussion during public meetings.
Contact me for further information.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Constitutional Amendment on Judges; Teacher PAC bill

Judicial selection change recommended by House Committee
The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday afternoon to recommend House Concurrent Resolution 5002, a constitutional amendment to allow the Governor to appoint members of the Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, subject State Senate Confirmation.  It would replace the current system in which the Governor must choose from names recommended by a commission composed primarily of attorneys chosen through the Kansas bar.
KASB members have voted to oppose changes in the current system, called merit selection.  However, earlier this month, the KASB Board of Directors voted to support a plan to restructure the judicial nomination commission so that four members are chosen by attorneys, five appointed by the Governor and six by Legislative leaders, giving elected officials a majority of appointments; called the 4-5-6 plan.  The House committee did not accept that alternative.
The Senate Judiciary Committee may vote today on similar proposals to change the way appeals court judges are selected.  In addition to direct appointment by the Governor with Senate confirmations, sometimes called the "federal model," and revising the nominating commission, a third proposal under consideration would provide for partisan election of judges.
Any change in the selection of Supreme Court judges requires a constitutional amendment that must pass both the state Senate and House by a two-thirds majority each, and be approved by voters in a statewide election.  HCR 5002 sets that election for November of 2014.  It is unclear with there will be 84 House votes to support the proposal; and a vote is not expected immediately.  School leaders are encouraged to contact your state representatives about this issue.

Governor Brownback endorsed either the federal model or direct election in his State of the State address.  Many conservative legislators say the current system is biased against conservative judges and principles.  Frustration with the courts has been increased by the Montoy school finance case in 2005 and the Gannon decision earlier this month (by a three-judge panel of district court judges), both of which ordered the Legislature to spend more money on education.  They say the current system lacks accountability to the people.

KASB that the current system provides for an independent judiciary, strengthening the system of checks and balances; and has helped enforce the constitutional requirement that the Legislature "make suitable provision for finance" of public education.  KASB delegate voted for this position in the "First in Eductation" resolution adopted last December.

House Committee hears contentious payroll deduction bill
The House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee is expected to vote today on HB 2023, which would prohibit professional teachers organizations such as the Kansas National Education Association from using funds collected through payroll deductions for its political action committee.  Instead, members interested in contributing to that purpose would have to use another method of transferring the funds, such as writing a check or doing an electronic transfer.
The bill had a contentious hearing yesterday, which ranged over larger isues about public sectors unions and dues.  However, the specific language is limited to the use of payroll deductions for “political activities,” which are defined as “any activity carried out for the purpose of influencing, in whole or part, any election for a state, local government or board of education office, including activities or causes of a partisan political or ideological nature engaged in by a public employee organization for such purpose, and including contributions to a political committee, continuing political employee committee, or both, for the purpose of aiding or promoting the endorsement, nomination, election or defeat of a candidate for public office of the state or of a county, municipality or school district, or the passage or defeat of any public question.”
The bill would make it illegal for any professional employees' organization, as defined in K.S.A. 72-5413, i.e. teacher associations, to use any dues, fees, assessments or any periodic payments deducted from a member's paycheck for the purpose of engaging in such activities.
Proponents of the bill included Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, speaking as a teacher; the Kansas Chamber; and the National Federation of Independent Business.  Opponents of the bill included Kansas-National Education Association, the United Steel Workers, the Kansas AFL-CIO and several others including a teacher and a retired teacher.  KASB did not testify on the bill.
A similar but broader bill covering both public and private sector unions passed the House last session, but the moderate Senate leadership did not bring it to Senate floor.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Governor's School Efficiency Report Media Release

Governor Sam Brownback's office has released the following statement on recommendations from the Governor's school efficiency tastk force.  We will provide the entire report when available and analysed.

KASB formed its own special committee on school district efficiency, which provided input to the Governor's Commission last fall.

The Governor's Task Force recommendations are expected to be presented to the House and Senate Education Committees soon.

Governor’s School Efficiency Task Force: 12 recommendations to get more funding into Kansas classrooms

by Sherriene Jones-Sontag | Jan 21, 2013
Topeka – The Governor’s School Efficiency Task Force issued its final recommendations today on how Kansas can get more funding into classrooms and less in administration and overhead costs.  Kansas Governor Sam Brownback formed the task force to analyze education funding, examine how to spend it more efficiently, and research best practices on using savings in the classroom. 
“It is our hope that this report will assist the Governor and the Kansas Legislature in their policymaking decisions, and that it will result in more efficient and effective Kansas public schools," Task Force Chairman Ken Willard said.
The task force listened to presentations on education spending from various stakeholders including Kansas State Department of Education officials, school board representatives, service center administrators, and superintendents.  Individually, members of the task force conversed with teachers, district officials, and board members from many different parts of the state to further their comprehension of the issues at stake.
Chairman Willard said the 12 recommendations made by the task force range from budgeting processes to spending requirements to administration realignment and training.
  • Establish a statutorily-required 2-year school funding cycle.
  • Place a priority emphasis on the timely transfer of state payments to school districts in June and January.
  • Conduct a study to reevaluate the state’s open-ended obligation to equalization of school construction bond issues to provide the state with better visibility from a budgeting perspective
  • Conduct a study on implementing a state data management and accounting system that is integrated with K-12 school systems and post-secondary institutions for streamlined educational reporting of data flow/administrative processes. 
  • Restructure the operating parameters associated with the Capital Outlay Fund
  • Revise/narrow the Professional Negotiations Act to prevent it from hindering operational flexibility/resource assignment.
  • Legislatively eliminate, reduce, and consolidate the statutory cash reserve accounts and separate fund accounts that currently exist, thereby ending the “use-it-or-lose-it” policy and allowing the funding contained in each fund category to be more broadly spent across the full variety of educational requirements.  Accounts that remain, including the General Fund, should be allowed a modest amount of carryover from year to year. 
  • Authorize a study of school district administration personnel structures and positions. Develop a state plan for district-level administrative reorganization and alignment:
  • Require that a university level finance/accounting/budget management course be included in the district leadership licensing requirements, if not already included.
  • Form a task force of education, finance, and legislative members to establish a commonly-accepted definition of “instruction” spending and review the 65% public policy goal figure.
  • Place a limitation on duration of due process proceedings for special education hearings.
  • Conduct an efficiency study/audit of the Kansas State Department of Education.
“I want to thank the members of the task force for their work on this important issue.  Their insight on how we can get more money into our Kansas classrooms will benefit generations of students to come.  I look forward to working with legislators, parents, teachers and administrators in putting these recommendations into practice,” Governor Brownback said.
Also included in the Task Force’s report are a number of best practices for reductions in administrative overhead and efficient school spending as well as a representative sampling of input received from Kansans through its online portal.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Week Ending, the Week Ahead

Governor Sam Brownback kicked off the session with his State of the State address Tuesday night and budget message Wednesday morning.  We've reviewed details of his budget and proposal for early reading support and grade level retention in earlier posts (below).

State Government and Budget.  Next week, the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees begin to dig deeper with briefings on an audit of the Juvenile Justice Authority, which the Governor wants to fold into the Department of Corrections (Tue, H. Appropriations; Thursday, S. W&M); overhaul of state Medicaid programs into KanCare (Wed, H. Appropriations, Thurs, S. W&M); and the Kansas Turnpike Authority, which the Governor wants to merge with the state Department of Transportation (Thurs, S.  W&M).

Judicial Selection.  In his address, the Governor called for a change the way state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judges are appointed.  Currently, the Governor must choose from nominees selected by a nominating commission dominated by the Kansas Bar - called "merit selection." This past Wednesday and Thursday, Senate Judiciary held hearings on SCR 1601, which would have the Governor make appointments subject to Senate Confirmation, called the "federal model;" and SB 8, which creates a commission to review and make recommendations on the qualifications of the Governor's nominations prior to Senate action.

Next Tuesday, House Judiciary holds hearings on another package of proposals:

  • HB 2019, which would have the Governor make appointments to the Court of Appeals with Senate confirmation.  (Federal model)
  • HB 2020, which requires partisan election of Court of Appeals judges in a general election.
  • HCR 5002, a constitutional amendment providing for the Governor to appoint Supreme Court judges confirmed by the Senate. (Federal model)
  • HCR 5003, amending the constitution to require partisan election of Supreme Court judges.
  • HCR 5004, which would place the Court of Appeals in the state constitution and change the membership of the nominating committee to include four attorneys, five members appointed by the Governor and six members appointed by Legislative leaders. (Merit selection with the "4-5-6" plan.)

The committee could begin voting on these proposals as early as Wednesday.  Many conservative legislators support a change in the selection of judges - partly as a result of opposition to recent school finance decisions.  However, changing the Supreme Court selection process requires amending the state constitution, which takes a two-thirds vote of both House and Senate and approval by the people in a statewide election.  Expect a push to get an amendment on the April school board and local elections ballot, but it is unclear whether there will be a two-third majority for such any change, especially in the House.  KASB supports the current merit system and the KASB Board of Directors voted to endorse the "4-5-6" plan as a compromise to address concerns that the current nominating process is too dominated by attorneys.

Taxes.  Last session, the Governor signed HB 2117, which reduced state incomes taxes by about 25 percent.  In his state of the state address, he called for continuing to reduce the income rate to zero.  His budget proposes extending the state sales tax at the current rate and eliminating the mortgage interest deduction to offset some of the lost state revenue and avoid deep cuts in state programs.  (Both proposals were part of his tax package last session.)  Committees start looking at tax policy issues next week, including "dynamic scoring" of tax cuts (Tues, H. Taxation), the Governor's proposals (Wed, S. W&M), and the definitions of real vs personal property (Thurs, H. Tax).  The last issue is critical to a debate over tax treatment of so-called "trade fixtures" that could substantially increase business tax exemptions and reduce local government revenue.

Education.  The House and Senate Education Committees held three joint meeting this week to review the Gannon school finance case and the workings of the school finance formula.  Joint meetings continue next week with a presentation by the Kansas Teacher of the Year team (Tues), the Board of Regents and Department of Education (Wed) and organizational perspectives from KASB, Kansas National Education Association and Kansas School Superintendents Association (Thur).

Elections.  Several committees also look at election issues next week, including agency presentations before Senate Elections and Local Government (Tues, Wed), and hearings in House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development on a bill to prohibit any  professional employees' organization which exists in whole or part to negotiate with local school boards to  use  any  dues,  fees,  assessments  or  any  periodic  payments deducted  from  a  member's  paycheck  for  the  purpose  of  engaging  in political activities, basically defined as attempting to influence state or local elections. We also expect introduction of a bill to change the election date for local school board members.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Questions About the Governor's Reading and 3rd Grade Retention Plans

We've received questions about Governor Brownback's "Read to Succeed" proposal mentioned in his State of State address Tuesday night. He endorsed a policy to prohibit third grade students who fail to meet a proficiency standard in reading from being promoted to fourth grade, and proposed $14 million in new funding for additional literacy program funding and school incentives over the next two years. Improving fourth grade reading was one of the Governor's "roadmap" goals. Both third grade retention and increased support for struggling K-3 readers was part of a package of education initiatives adopted in Florida a decade ago under Governor Jeb Bush, and a popular idea in many Republican and conservative circles.

We'll consider the evidence and arguments on this concept at a later time The Governor has not yet introduced a bill, so we don't know all the details in his plan. A separate bill, HB 2004, was pre-filed by Rep. Steve Hubert, R-Valley Center. That bill is similar to one considered but not acted on last session - but appears to differ from the Governor's concept in several ways. First, HB 2004 would take effect next school year, 2013-14. The Governor's proposal on fourth grade promotion would not take effect for three years, until the 2016-17 school year. Second, the Governor's staff indicates the State Board could provide an alternative test for students to demonstrate reading proficiency. HB 2004 appears to use only the state reading assessment given once a year to all students. Third, HB 2004 allows parents to waive the requirement and have their child promoted regardless of performance. This would be a significant exception. Finally, HB 2004 limits the number years a child could be held back to a total of two years, while the Governor's bill only requires one year of retention.

It is unclear how many students would be affected by either bill. Last year, approximately 5% of third-graders scored in the bottom "academic warning" category on the state reading assessment, and approximately 10% scored in the "approaches standard" category but still below the "meets standard" level considered "proficient" under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The actual number of students who might be retained would depend on what exceptions, if any, would be allowed; for example, for special education, English Language Learners, parental opt-out or other factors. It would also depend on how successful districts are in continuing to increase the percentage of students at proficient or higher.

A final complication is that the State Board of Education will be adopted a new testing program, based on new college- and career-ready standards already adopted. Depending on how the State Board determines proficiency on the new assessments, the percent of students falling below that line could increase (or decrease).

We welcome questions or comments on this issue.

How the Budget Plan Works

Ever since Governor Brownback signed the income tax bill at the end of last session, KASB and others have warned it would create a significant budget problem over the next few years, and could lead to big cuts in education unless significant changes were made. The Governor vowed to avoid cutting K-12 and other core services. Wednesday, the administration put out its plan.

Here's the basic framework. In November, official revenue estimates projected state tax revenues will drop about $700 million next year, due to the income tax cut and expiration of 0.6% of the state sales tax rate increased passed three years ago as a temporary measure. If the state spends down all of the projected ending balance of $471.7 million, it would still need to find $300 million in spending cuts, revenues or adjustments to pay for required spending increases and avoid a deficit.

The Governor's first step to is identify about $50 million in additional revenues in the current year, boosting the ending balance to $534 million. He then calls for two major tax changes: maintaining the current sales tax rate at 6.3% (adding $262 million), and eliminating the state income tax deduction for mortgage interest ($163 million), for a total of $435 million in additional tax revenue next year. He also proposes over $100 million in other savings, such suspending aid to cities and counties, capping bioscience funding, etc. This totals nearly $600 million in additional available revenue.

Finally, the Governor used over $100 million state highway funds to pay a portion of school district transportation weighting aid, which reduces state general fund spending. The cumulative total of these recommendations offset the $700 million revenue lost, and leaves a healthy $455.7 million ending balance.

For the first time in recent state history, the Governor has proposed a two year budget plan. It depends on repeating most of the revenue and spending policies into FY 2015, which spend means spending must remain almost level over a three-year period. As a result, the budget avoid the deep spending cuts some have feared, but provides almost no increase for rising costs of providing services.

The budget also does not address proposals made by the Governor for further cuts in the state income tax. Some key Republican leaders and constituencies say they will oppose the Governor's tax proposals unless they are tied to more cuts in the income tax. The Governor embraced eventual elimination of the income tax in his State of the State message.

Here are the highlights for K-12 education programs in the Governor's budget.

  • $22 million is added to general state aid to keep base aid per pupil at $3,838 in the current year, and maintain the same level next year (FY 2014). The base is projected to increase to $3,852 in FY 15, funded by increased revenue from the 20 mill statewide levy.
  • Special education aid is maintained at the same level all three years.
  • Supplemental state aid (local option budget aid) is kept at the same level for all three years.
  • Transportation for technical education students is increased $100,000 this year and $50,000 next year.
  • State funding of $1.5 million is provided this year and next year for school construction on the Fort Riley base.
  • State KPERS school contributions are funded at the statutory rate of increase, which requires an increase of $37 million next year, funded from Expanded Lottery Act revenues; and an additional $35 million in FY 2015.
  • State Highway Fund revenues are used to pay $96.6 million of school district transportation weighting costs in both FY 14 and 15. SHF revenues are used for $10 million in state special education aid in FY 14 and $43 million in FY 15.
  • Funding for parents as teachers programs and the pre-K pilot are funded at current levels from the Children's Initiatives Fund in FY 2013, 14 and 15. CIF revenues from the state tobacco settlement.
  • The Governor also recommends spending $7 million in both FY 14 and 15 for a new "Kansas Reads to Succeed" grant program. $6 million each year would be used for grants to non-profit early literacy programs for K-3 students. $1 million each year would provide incentive payments for schools who show significant improvement in fourth grade reading. The program also includes a statewide retention policy for students unable to read at grade level in third grade.
  • The budget adds $10.5 million in FY 14 from the State General Fund, with $8.75 million for tuition for secondary students in postsecondary technical education programs, and $1.5 million for high school incentive payments. FY 14 is the second year of these programs, which was created last session by SB 155.
The Governor's budget falls far short of what KASB and the State Board of Education has identified as educational needs.  But it keeps the Governor's commitment to avoid further cuts in K-12 funding and adds dollars to meet obligations like KPERS and state aid for bond payments with shorting other areas.  Most important, it requires tough political votes to increase state revenue.  Virtually every tax change and major funding shift will draw opposition, but without additional revenue, the most likely direction for education funding is down.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 Legislature Begins Monday

Topics we will be following this week include:

Reaction will continue to the school finance lawsuit ruling Friday by a three judge panel that essentially orders the Legislature to fund the formula as it passed in 2006 after the Montoy school finance lawsuit.  We estimate that would require adding over $550 million next year, with $90 million going to reduce local property taxes pushed up by under-funding local option budget state aid.  That is money the Legislature doesn't have available to spend right now, as the state sales tax rate is scheduled to drop by 0.6 percent and income tax rates decline by 25%.  The State, which lost to decision to a group of school district and student plaintiffs, will appeal.

Opposition to the decision is expected to fuel efforts to change the way judges are appointed to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.  Currently, the Governor makes appointments from nominations by a committee dominated by lawyers, called "merit selection."  Legislators will push for either direct appointment by the Governor with Senate confirmation, or election by the people.  Hearings could begin this week.  Changing selection of the Supreme Court would take a constitutional amendment, requiring approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, and a majority of voters in a general election.  That election could be as early as school board and other local elections this April.

By the way, another push is expected to change the date of those local elections away from April of odd-numbered years.  One option is to add those elections to the November general election ballot in even-numbered years.  Another proposal is to hold them in November of ODD-numbered years.  KASB's delegate assembly voted in December to oppose changing the judicial selection process or the date of school board elections.  This weekend, the KASB Board of Directors agreed to support a proposal that would keep the merit selection process in place, but give the Governor and Legislative leadership appointments to a majority of seats on the selection committee.

The Governor's State of the State Address will be delivered Tuesday night, and budget details Wednesday morning.  KASB will review the speech and budget in a special webinar Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.

Four new members of the State Board of Education will take office this week, when the board organizes for a new year.

KASB advocacy staff will spend the much of this week meeting with new Legislative leaders and getting to know an unusually large number of first time Legislators in the House, plus a near-total turnover of committee chairs in the Senate.  The Senate Education, House Education and House Education Budget Committee all have new chairs and vice chairs.