Capitol Chatter
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Capitol Chatter

Tom Krebs

Monday, February 6, 2017

“Admission is free and characters abound”
“63, 21, and one,” the old saying goes.

Get to 63 votes in the House, 21 in the Senate, and the Governor’s signature and you’ve got yourself a new or amended statute.  Of course, that’s the stripped down version of the process.
Oh, but it’s so much more complicated than that when one starts peaking inside the committee rooms….
Last week, the House Education committee got the spotlight.  Let’s take a look this week at the newly created House K-12 Budget committee, which has been given the challenge of writing a new school funding formula to replace the block-grant plan that sunsets this summer.
Again reflecting the gains made by moderates and Democrats in the last election, the committee is not as nearly conservative as it might have been the last four years.  However, the committee has a number of very conservative members that are likely to take exception to many key proposals the traditional K-12 advocates will favor.  And to spice it up a bit, a couple of committee members may flow from one side to the other, depending on the issue.
So who are the key players? On the moderate/D side you have two current sitting board members, Fred Patton, R-Topeka and Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City; a retired superintendent, Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie, who has taught school finance for aspiring administrators; a retired teacher, Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield; and two strong education advocates who have served or are currently serving on the House Ed committee, Nancy Lusk, D-Overland Park, and Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway. Reps Winn, Rooker and Trimmer are also on House Ed.
The conservative side has former and current education leaders as well. A former Ed chair, Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, who has not served in the House since 2012, is currently serving on a board of education as is another committee member, Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, who homeschools his children. A former board member, Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, is the vice chair and who, last session, pushed moving school board elections to November of odd years, a position not generally favored by Ed leaders.  Also part of the conservative faction is the former majority leader, Jene Vickery, R-Louisburg, who, as such, spearheaded the initiatives of the last four years that many of the Ds and mods successfully ran against in November. Reps. Aurand and Vickery also serve on House Ed and Rep. Aurand is the chair.
Before, however, tackling the funding formula, the committee is facing the daunting task of deciding whether the Governor’s budget recommendation of using two Alvarez and Marsal efficiency recommendations will truly yield the $150 million or so dollars in savings they purport to find over the next 18 months.  The recommendations involve a state-mandated health plan for school employees and a procurement process that would, in most cases, usurp local control.
If the committee chooses not to move those bills, given the uncertainty of their practicality, it only increases the need to find the dollars for FY 18 and FY 19 elsewhere.
Right out of the chute, the K-12 members will have an opportunity to set the stage for funding a new plan.  In House Ed, the mod/D coalition holds the reins. It could be a much tighter vote in the House K-12 committee.

Tom Krebs is a recently retired KASB staff member who survived nine legislative sessions.  He is a former teacher, administrator and school board member. For more news from the statehouse and around the education world in general, follow him, if you dare, on Twitter at TomKrebs1. Again, admission is free, characters abound and views are his and his alone!
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