Testimony Opposing HB 2395, Setting back education policy and continuing litigation

This is testimony delivered to the House Committee on K-12 Education Budget by Brandi Fisher, Executive Director of the MainStream Coalition, in opposition to HB 2395, a bill that would set back public education and continue school funding litigation.

In addition, we have appended the prepared comments Ms. Fisher delivered orally before the Committee at the hearing, as they differed from the written testimony in a few key areas, given time to read the 61-page bill.

This is an article from the Topeka Capital-Journal about the hearing itself: Rep. Brenda Landwehr lashes out at opponent to Kansas House plan to fund schools - 3/18/2019

(Written) Testimony to House Committee on K-12 Education Budget
Chair, Rep. Kristey Williams
Hearing: Monday, March 18, 2019

Position – OPPOSE HB 2395

Chairwoman Williams, and Members of the Committee,

The MainStream Coalition is a non-partisan education and advocacy organization that engages individuals to advocate for good governance, quality public education, healthy communities, and sustainable fiscal policy in Kansas. We urge our members and supporters to do more than vote.

MainStream strongly recommends the committee oppose passage of HB 2395. This bill, presented as a compromise in exchange for fully funding schools to the letter of the Kansas Constitution, is a compilation of measures that would hurt public education in Kansas.

MainStream maintains that it is the Constitutional duty of the State of Kansas to fully fund public education, as determined by the people of Kansas, and adjudicated by the Kansas Supreme Court. We reject the idea that there can or should be negotiation on that subject. Fund schools first.

But to the measures presented in this bill, they at turns:

  • Give public tax money to private or parochial schools.
  • Take the Constitutional authority to set curriculum and other matters away from the State Board of Education.
  • Appropriate or demand funds for specific programs to the detriment of education as a whole.
  • Abrogate the right of school districts to seek redress.
  • Make changes to education funding already in statute.

This bill appears to be designed to throw up obstacles and confuse constituents, and was presented at a time when many education activists were away from their home school districts on Spring Break vacations.

We urge the committee to see through the naked politics of this bill, and return to a clear and transparent approach to making our schools better. Fund public education, then consider policy changes on their own merit, not bundled together in a haphazard omnibus of an education bill.

Thank you,

Brandi Fisher
Executive Director of the MainStream Coalition

Oral Testimony prepared for Brandi Fisher
(Listen to her delivered remarks and the hearing here)

Madam Chair and Committee members, thank you for listening to our testimony. My name is Brandi Fisher, and I am the Executive Director of the MainStream Coalition. Our organization was founded 26 years ago by a sitting Republican State Representative, a sitting Democratic State Representative, and two active members of the clergy, among others. Our Board and membership are bi-partisan, and our organization is non-partisan. Our membership is strongest here in Northeast Kansas, but we have members across the state.

I tell you all of this to impress upon you that the concerns we bring are shared by Kansans across the state, from a range of political identities.

HB 2395 is not the bill we need right now. Quite simply, we urge the committee to set it aside and work instead on a simple, transparent, solution to fully funding our public schools.

Among the measures included in HB 2395, there are many that concern us for the harm they will bring to our public schools. But these are our most significant concerns:

1. We testified against the Hope Scholarship Act when it was heard in in the committee previously, and while the measure is changed slightly as it is included in this bill, the principle remains: we stand against using taxpayer funds for private or parochial schools. But as other opponents have noted, this bill also keeps the approach of singling out the victims, while doing nothing to the bullies, or to prevent bullying. This measure should not move forward, and comprehensive anti-bullying legislation should be advanced and debated instead.

2. In several places, this legislation seeks to make decisions on curriculum or management of school districts, when those responsibilities are given to the State Board of Education by the Kansas Constitution. Just one example is the imposition of financial literacy graduation requirements. These decisions should be left to the SBOE and local school boards.

3. Several opponents have spoken about their concern that measures in this bill will endanger the rulings arrived at by the Kansas Supreme Court in Gannon. We share their concern. Both measures that could affect the equity ruling, such as the new mental health weighting and bilingual weighting cutoffs, and the elimination of indexed price adjustments that could affect adequacy decisions, raise the specter of more litigation.

This bill is a collection of many separate measures, covering a wide swath of education policy. We are so close to concluding the litigation over school equity and adequacy, we urge the Committee to either set this omnibus bill aside, or to consider its many measures as separate bills in the second half of this biennial Legislature, so that they can get the committee scrutiny and chamber attention they deserve, and not hold up the final resolution of ongoing school litigation.

Ultimately, we suggest that Kansans—including members of this Committee—are ready for an end to this process, and ready to let teachers teach and children graduate with every opportunity the state can provide. HB 2395 will only extend it further.

Please set this bill aside, and consider a simple, transparent bill to fully fund public education.

Thank you for your time.

Do you like this post?
Sign Up

if you are new to MainStream.

Sign In

if you're a Member or part of our network.