Speaking of negative political mailers…we’ve gotten emails from a handful of readers in recents days asking for help sorting out what to make of the claims being thrown around about the vote on HB 2506, the controversial education bill that passed the House 63-57 late in the night on Sunday, April 6. Below is an overview of what that bill included and how it came to pass.
On Friday, April 4, the House passed a version of the education bill that was approved with bipartisan support 91-31. That bill was largely limited in scope to education funding, and didn’t contain many policy matters. It increased state aid per pupil and allowed local districts to raise their local option budget to increase funding — a provision that has been the desire for Johnson County legislators for years. That bill was forwarded to the Conference Committee, a group of Senators and Representatives tasked with marrying versions of the bill considered by both the House and Senate into a final bill that would be voted on by both chambers.
On Saturday, April 5, the Conference Committee delivered a report recommending that the final education bill contain several contentious policy provisions, including the removal of due process for public school teachers, a corporate tax credit scholarship provision, and a provision that would provide a $1,000 tax credit to parents who homeschooled their children or had their children enrolled in private schools. The House sent that bill back to the Conference Committee with many House members saying that the policy provisions that had been added in should be stripped out. Many members were also dismayed that they couldn’t read an actual copy of the bill, either.
On Sunday, April 6, the Conference Committee returned with a new version of the bill that was virtually the same as the version it had put forth the day before with the exception of the removal of the $1,000 tax credit for homeschooled or privately schooled children.
As with the night before, members of the House were not provided with an actual copy of the bill — just a summary report from the Conference Committee. So the legislators were forced to vote on the bill without having actually read it. The bill ended up passing the House with the slimmest margin possible.
The final version of the bill increased base state aid per student by $14 to $3,838; added $129 million in school funding for specialized categories in response to the state Supreme Court ruling in the Gannon case; and authorized public districts to raise their local-option budgets. The increase in school funding allowed Shawnee Mission Schools to help cover part of the cost of a hike in teacher pay and to hire teachers to reduce class sizes a bit. The bill also removed some funding for at-risk students in Shawnee Mission schools. You can find specifics on how the bill impacted Shawnee Mission schools here.
Additionally, the bill created a corporate tax credit for companies that donated to student scholarship programs; and stripped public school teachers of their due process rights, a provision that drew massive protest from educators.
Northeast Johnson County Representatives Barbara Bollier, Stephanie Clayton and Melissa Rooker all voted against the bill. Bollier and Clayton have said they weren’t comfortable with the process that produced the final bill and that they didn’t feel they could vote on something they hadn’t actually read. Rooker sent a message to her constituents last week saying that the process surrounding the bill was the “very definition of ‘what not to do’ in government and public engagement.”
“While the Tea Party rails about transparency and ridicules Congress for not reading the 1000+ page Obamacare bill, the Kansas Legislature – currently controlled by the same type of extremists – did the exact same thing,” she wrote. “Certain policy measures (teacher due process, changes in teacher certification, K-12 Study Commission) never had hearings in committee before legislators and the public.”