Under the Dome - January 19, 2012
House Ed in “reform” talks
Two panels appeared before the House Education Committee – one on student achievement and “reform,” the other on charters schools and virtual education.
The panelists on the first group were Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards, Dave Trabert from the anti-government “think” tank the Kansas Policy Institute, and Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi.
Tallman did his usual excellent job of analyzing student achievement data in Kansas. Tallman compares state assessments, NAEP scores, SAT and ACT performance, graduation rates and a number of other data points to paint a picture of Kansas as the 7th highest performing state in the nation. We should point out that the American Legislative Exchange Council agrees, giving Kansas 7th place in student achievement.
Trabert, despite usually agreeing with ALEC and bringing Matthew Ladner, author of the ALEC report card to Kansas last year, asserted that maybe we were 7th but that’s 7th among a collection of 50 states with terrible student achievement. Trabert essentially wants us to believe that Kansas is 7th among the worst school systems.
Barresi, who spoke last, touted what she has done in her first year as State Superintendent. And while there is no data to say Barresi’s “reforms” are working, Trabert thinks we should go ahead and adopt them ourselves. Change for the sake of change. Those “reforms” include vouchers and other ideas for which evidence would indicate no particular gain. Expanding charter schools, for example, will create some very good schools, some very bad schools, and a bunch of schools no better or worse than any others.
Arizona, a leader in the expansion of charter schools, has been looking at the evidence and now is looking for ways to change their charter school law so that they can shut down some of them and demand more accountability. (Click here for more.)Kansas’ strong charter school law holds charter schools to the same accountability standards as any public or accredited private school.
Senate Education Committee moves bills
The Senate Education held hearings and passed two bills out of committee.
First was Senate Bill 257 which will allow school districts to continue calculating the LOB as if BSAPP was $4,433 even as special education funding increases (the authority might have been lost because of special education funding). The bill keeps the status quo on calculating the LOB.
Next was Senate Bill 260 which repeals a provision in law that would have set maximum and minimum percentages of reimbursement for special education excess costs. The provision has been in place for a while but never implemented because during a time of education cuts, the legislature did not wish to do more damage by creating a winner/loser situation around special education funding.
Arthur Laffer comes in to defend Brownback’s income tax elimination plan
Arthur Laffer, one of the architects of Ronald Reagan’s supply side economic policy, came to speak to the House and Senate Tax Committees precisely at the time that the Governor’s office is trying to control the damage to the plan’s credibility caused by revelations that many poor Kansans would face significantly higher tax bills and the budget would lose $90 million in the first year alone.
Laffer was paid $75,000 by the state of Kansas as a consultant.
In addition to news that Laffer was named in a lawsuit for being involved in a Ponzi scheme, a recent article in the business publication “Forbes” takes issue with his theories. The Forbes article begins, “Economist Arthur Laffer has had a long, distinguished career. Unfortunately one of the things that has distinguished it is that he has often been extremely wrong.” Yet Laffer asserted under the Kansas dome that his ideas are extremely right for Kansas!
The Lawrence Journal-Worldand other newspapers have been reporting on the attempts by the Brownback team to contain the “political fallout” from analyses of the proposal.
And another national tax analysis organization, the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy has released their reporton the plan that indicates a whopping 80% of Kansas taxpayers would see an increase in their tax liability if the Brownback/Laffer proposal were to be adopted.
KPERS still being discussed
The Joint Committee on Pensions met to hear testimony regarding the KPERS Commission Report. This report is to be written as a bill which will be introduced in both the Senate and the House in the same form. The bill is to be presented to the Joint Committee on Tuesday at a special noon meeting. Senator King introduced and explained the KPERS Commission Report. Rebecca Proctor, a member of the commission, presented the Minority Report which was issued with the Commission Report.
While we have the Commission Report we will not have a bill to report on until Tuesday. In his presentation today Senator King introduced the major components of the report which would create a hybrid Defined Contribution plan for a new Tier III group of individuals. The impact on current non-vested Tier I employees would be to move them to a defined contribution plan from their current defined benefit plan. The employee would be required to invest 6% of their income while the state’s contribution would start at 1% for the first year and increase by 0.5% each year until after eight year the state’s contribution would reach 5% where it would be capped for the duration of the employee’s career.
Proctor testified that the new plan would cost the state an additional $1.6 billion to fix the fiscal problem that the KPERS system now experiences due to underfunding and it would cost the state an additional $13.3 billion compared to the defined benefit system. It is also true that many public employees would have to retire with benefits well under the federal poverty level assuming a fixed rate of inflation under the new suggested plan.
It is important to stay informed as the legislative process moves forward addressing the KPERS issues.