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Archive for Monday, April 21, 2014

Brownback signs school finance, tenure-repeal bill

April 21, 2014, 12:12 p.m. Updated April 21, 2014, 6:16 p.m.

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School finance: Gannon v. Kansas

Timeline: The events that led to Gannon v. Kansas

Read more about school finance and legislative developments at First Bell, Statehouse Live and the LJWorld's Kansas government page.

Governor Sam Brownback signs a school finance bill that will increase funding to schools and also contains some controversial policy change, Monday, April 21, 2014 in his ceremonial office at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. With Brownback are Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stillwell, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and state board of education member Steve Roberts, R-Overland Park.

Governor Sam Brownback signs a school finance bill that will increase funding to schools and also contains some controversial policy change, Monday, April 21, 2014 in his ceremonial office at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. With Brownback are Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stillwell, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and state board of education member Steve Roberts, R-Overland Park.

Governor Sam Brownback looks at a petition delivered by Aaron Estabrook, front left, a school board member from Manhattan, Kan., before signing a school finance bill that will increase funding to schools but which also contains some controversial policy changes, Monday, April 21, 2014 in his ceremonial office at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. With Brownback are House Appropriations chairman Gene Suellentrop, left and partially obscured, R-Wichita, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stillwell and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita. Estabrook had asked Brownback not to sign the bill, which has been criticized by teacher groups because it repeals tenure for teachers.

Governor Sam Brownback looks at a petition delivered by Aaron Estabrook, front left, a school board member from Manhattan, Kan., before signing a school finance bill that will increase funding to schools but which also contains some controversial policy changes, Monday, April 21, 2014 in his ceremonial office at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. With Brownback are House Appropriations chairman Gene Suellentrop, left and partially obscured, R-Wichita, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stillwell and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita. Estabrook had asked Brownback not to sign the bill, which has been criticized by teacher groups because it repeals tenure for teachers.

— Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday signed into law a school finance bill that will provide more funds to classrooms in an effort to comply with a court order, but also includes controversial policy changes, including the repeal of tenure for teachers.

“This is a good bill,” Brownback said.

The funding portion of the bill is meant to address a Kansas Supreme Court order handed down in March to increase aid to poor school districts by July 1.

The measure will provide $150 million with about half going to schools and half to property tax relief, Brownback said. It also includes funding for higher education.

The changes made to the funding strategy will mean that Lawrence schools have $1.7 million less to spend, money that school leaders may seek to make up with higher local taxes.

“I think it’s a bill that’s loaded up with bad policy that probably could not pass on its own,” said Lawrence school board President Rick Ingram. “The cut in funding to Lawrence on top of the cuts we’ve already experienced will lead to some hard decisions about how we’re going to deal with that.”

Teacher groups have criticized the measure because it removes key job protections that have been in law for decades.

At the start of Brownback’s bill-signing news conference Monday, Aaron Estabrook, a school board member from Manhattan, gave Brownback a copy of petitions signed by 3,000 teachers, parents and students urging the governor not to sign the bill.

“This hasn’t been debated. It hasn’t been transparent,” Estabrook said to Brownback.

The removal of tenure was placed in the bill during floor debate in the Senate and did not receive a public hearing.

Both Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, defended the move. The final bill received only Republican support.

“We have talked about tenure reform for many, many years,” Wagle said. As far as how the proposal was passed, Wagle said no House or Senate rules were violated. “I think we did the right thing for our children,” she said.

Local impact

For the Lawrence school district, the bill will provide about $1 million in local property tax relief by adding more state funding for the district’s local option budget. That money would replace funds currently being raised through local taxes.

Overall, though, the bill will result in a net loss of $1.7 million in total spending authority, according to school district officials, mainly because students at the district’s two virtual schools would no longer count toward calculating the local option budget.

But Lawrence could replace about $1.4 million of that by taking advantage of a provision that allows districts to increase their LOB’s, something Superintendent Rick Doll has said he would recommend if the bill became law.

The Baldwin City school district will get an additional $471,036 in state funding, according to Kansas State Department of Education estimates. That includes $162,471 in new aid for capital outlay expenses.

“Overall, it’s not a lot more money for us, other than the capital outlay money,” said Baldwin City Superintendent Paul Dorathy. “But as far as our operating fund, general funds, it doesn’t add a lot to that.” Baldwin City schools could also generate up to $314.903 beyond that if it chooses to raise its LOB up to the new maximum.

The Eudora school district will see an additional $615,428 in state funding and could generate yet another $464,435 by taking full advantage of the LOB provision.

Those estimates are based on each district’s current enrollment and are subject to change depending on whether their enrollment goes up or down next year.

Policy changes

Brownback said repealing the state law setting up tenure protections for teachers will allow local school districts to make the decision on whether to offer tenure.

“It makes it a local issue, and I think that’s a good place for it to be,” he said.

Local school district officials, however, say they’re taking a wait-and-see approach to that issue.

“Our board will be very cautious on how we move forward on that law as it’s written,” Dorathy said. “There may be some challenges with that. Our district will be very cautious in moving forward in considering teachers have no due process at this point.”

Lawrence school board Vice President Shannon Kimball said she was disappointed when that provision was added as an amendment to the bill without any public comment or committee hearings.

“Regardless of where you fall on whether that’s a good policy change or not, I find the way it was handled distasteful,” Kimball said. “It’s not the way we should be handling policy in Kansas.”

In addition to repealing tenure, the law will provide tax credits to corporations that donate funds to send low-income students to private schools, and relax teacher licensure requirements.

All those proposals were supported by the Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a nationwide organization that describes itself as “advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity.” It supports cutting both taxes and government spending and was founded by Charles and David Koch, who run Wichita-based Koch Industries.

“We applaud the Legislature and Gov. Brownback for implementing these policy changes that better serve students and parents over institutions,” said Jeff Glendening, AFP State Director.

Likely political fallout

The new law will likely be hotly debated during the governor’s race between Brownback and his likely Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence.

A group backing Brownback, Road Map Solutions Inc., has launched a TV commercial praising Brownback for the measure.

Davis issued a statement Monday criticizing Brownback for approving the addition of partisan policies to the law.

Comments

Phillip Chappuie 8 months ago

One thing is for sure. I know at least right round 35,000 people who will not be casting a vote for Brownback. Why doesn't he talk about the shell game and who will end up with their property tax increasing? We will not have a decent chance for positive change until the tea party far right wingers are retired from service.

Sam Crow 8 months ago

No Phillip, you dont know that for sure. I know for sure the teachers politics in the state reflect the demographics of every one else. That is, half of those 35000 are republican. Not all in education support allowing incompetent teachers to exist due to tenure.

Amy Varoli Elliott 8 months ago

You don't see to have any understanding of how the systems works at all. It actually doesn't take that long to fire a bad teacher, the administration just needs to follow the appropriate steps. But I guess it is easier to just listen to the factless talking points that are thrown out there.

Greg Cooper 8 months ago

Would you be so kind as to explain the tenure-ending process, Amy? I have been witness to several, and "that long" is open to your and my interpretation. The fact that the teacher has to have been warned, tutored, and served with notice takes a bit more time than the board jsut saying, "You are the weakest link. Good bye!" There are porocesses and rules. Perhaps you did not know that.

James Howlette 8 months ago

I'd be very concerned with a board that fired people like that. Unless I did something egregious, I wouldn't be fired from my non-teaching position without a verbal warning, a written warning, an action plan, etc. That's pretty standard for professional positions at large companies. Why should teachers expect worse treatment?

Greg Cooper 8 months ago

They should NOT. However, James, this bill makes that a distinct possibility.
There is no provision stopping the board from summarilly dismissing a teacher if that teacher should have the bad grace to disagree with anything.

On a side note, the possibility of a teacher being fired because of parental dislike is now quite high. That is only one of the issues that tenure guarded against: a student does not like the teacher, for whatever reason, so the parent complains, and there is no recourse for the teacher when the admisistration sides with the teacher. There is more, but you get the point.

Your point is well made, but this bill changes the playing field for people in charge of kids. It also gives teachers pause before they voice an opinion that is not "kosher" with a board member, or who treats little junior with less than the required tenderness than the parent sees fit.

James Howlette 8 months ago

So are you arguing that a parent getting a teacher fired because their child gets a bad grade is a good thing or a bad thing? I'm confused by what you're trying to argue.

Sam Crow 7 months, 4 weeks ago

If a school board fires a teacher over a bad grade, the problem is the school board.

James Howlette 7 months, 4 weeks ago

As well as the system that allows teachers to be fired without due process.

Cheryl Nelsen 7 months, 4 weeks ago

That's an important point! You are missing it. A teacher is now muzzled, fearful for his or her job. And if a teacher is not being "tender" enough with a parent's child, then the parent can file a complaint. What can a teacher do when he or she is not treated "tender" enough? Not much any more.

Amy Varoli Elliott 8 months ago

First the school does have three years to determine wheather that teacher is a good fit for the district and anytime in that window they can say thanks but no thanks. Second as stated below they can follow the simple steps to remove that teacher if he/she is in fact a poor teacher and they have proof of that. Very few professional jobs don't have these basic safeguards in them.

Sam Crow 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Amy, it always amuses me how some people try to debate a point by saying other people “don’t have any understanding.”

Well Amy, I am very well aware of tenure and how it works. As I have written here before, my spouse has been a public school teacher for 28 years. Thus, I have seen the tenure system at work. In fact, I read all the NEA material that comes to the house.

For the laymen, though there is a way to eliminate bad teachers, it involves a very complex algorithm and timelines that includes a myriad of notices, warnings, hearings and appeals. One particularly egregious example I saw, took 18 months to terminate a teacher that everything was documented. And it took a year before that of parent complaints to begin the documentation.

What you say is easy, actually involves the principal, associate superintendent, assistant superintendent, assistant associate superintendent, and every other level of administration. Of course, they are usually members of NEA themselves.

During the drawn out process, those teachers are still affecting the students education. In a subject like math or reading, that can have ramifications for years as the student tries to catch up.

Sometimes the administration simply transfers the problem to another school. Sometimes, the teacher plays the system out as long as they can, then get a job in another district. Most times the career minded first line administrator simply ignores the situation and hope it goes away.

James Howlette 7 months, 4 weeks ago

If this hypothetical teacher is endangering students with delays that will last for years and years with their horrible leaving-all-the-kids-behind teaching, why is it that they made it through three years before it was discovered? You'd think that the school administrators would have more effort in place to evaluate the quality of a teacher before granting tenure in the first place.

If the teacher does something more egregious, it won't take 18 months to remove them from classrooms. They'll either expedite the process (in the case of a crime) or transfer them to non-teaching paperwork duty. Unless the administrators are incompetent, in which case, there's your problem.

Amy Varoli Elliott 7 months, 4 weeks ago

That doesn't support his arguement though so he chooses to focus on a situation that was very poorly handled.

James Howlette 7 months, 4 weeks ago

He's strangely eager to assume guilt before innocence is proven.

Sam Crow 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Sorry James the example I cite is unfortunately real life.

How did the teacher get tenure? The problems of this 3+ year teacher began with a divorce. Certainly not an unusual situation. People do change.

No crime was committed. Just newly developed incompetence.

My point is this. The tenure system in Kansas until today made it very hard to terminate an incompetent teacher. This situation was handled as mandated.

James Howlette 7 months, 4 weeks ago

And my point is that the situation was handled.

Sam Crow 7 months, 4 weeks ago

And all it took was two and a half years !!!!!! What a system !!!

James Howlette 7 months, 4 weeks ago

If it took two and a half years for a grossly incompetent teacher to leave the classroom, either it is not so cut and dry as what you claim (exclaim!!!!!!) or the administration was not doing a good job of handling it. Ultimately, the teacher was fired.

Richard Heckler 8 months ago

All of Sam Brownback's activity is clearing the way for dismantling public education which will result in the loss of employment for thousands of teachers. Thousands of pink slips will suddenly surface.

Not only that this massive loss of employment will devastate local economies throughout Kansas.

Most certainly the housing market will take another hit with property values taking another nose dive. As a result of the massive unemployment other jobs will be lost as well.

This state cannot afford Sam Brownback and the state GOP. Supply Side Economics sucks the life out of economies at the speed of light.

How many reading this are prepared to lose jobs then maybe your home, retirement plan and medical insurance coverage?

Larry Sturm 8 months ago

We can't get these Koch brothers out of Topeka fast enough. I doubt that work for the Koch brothers for $7.25 per hour either.

Lynn Grant 8 months ago

"This is a good bill". For this governor and his minions in the Legislature, any bill that hurts public education is a good bill.

beth newman 8 months ago

You can't privatize education whilst having a tenure system...lol

Ken Hunt 8 months ago

How do states with tenure compare to states that do not? How many teachers have had their teaching licenses removed in the state? Could this then apply to other unionized positions in the state...lets say police/fire/medical personnel? What is the real motive for this action?

James Howlette 8 months ago

There's no apples to apples comparison. There are different definitions for "tenure" and different ways it is handled, and quite a few states have ended or weakened the practice recently, likely due to a coordinated effort. The real purpose is, of course, union busting. And while it certainly could apply to other unionized positions, firefighters and policemen tend to be politically conservative and thus less likely to be targeted by union busting tactics.

Cheryl Nelsen 7 months, 4 weeks ago

I'm sure the legislators did not bother to check.

James Howlette 7 months, 4 weeks ago

That, too. They just scrambled to find the pile of ALEC bills and see which would stick.

William Weissbeck 7 months, 4 weeks ago

The easiest way to detect that the tenure change was disingenuous is simply to ask, "were school superintendents and boards requesting the change?" And a subtle irony missed by the legislature - the students now have more due process rights before they can be suspended or expelled, than do the teachers.

Sam Crow 7 months, 4 weeks ago

I wonder if superintendents and boards were requesting Common Core standards? Or, how many requested the new cafeteria menus?

James Howlette 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Kansas was involved in the process of forming the common core standards from the start, and school lunches have always been a national program. Try again.

Sam Crow 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Obviously referring to the national mandate of Common Core and the Michelle Obama lunch menu, again mandated from DC..

James Howlette 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Obviously referring to lies, misunderstanding, or fiction? Common Core was a state-led effort and not a national mandate. http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/development-process/ And the national school lunch program started in the 1940s and has undergone several nutritional guideline changes over the years.

Larry Sturm 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Brownback cannot dismantle the public school system. Public schools are mandated in the Kansas Constitution.and that takes 23rds majority of the legislature and a 23rds majority of the Kansas voters make an amendment. BROWNBACK BAD FOR KANSAS.

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