Kochs' position was not considered in voting for HB2506

We completed the 2014 regular Legislative Session around 11 p.m. on Sunday night. The biggest challenge was meeting a July 1st State Supreme Court deadline requiring improved equity in our funding of K-12 education. We passed the Conference Committee Report on Senate Substitute for House Bill 2506 Sunday night. Although there were many provisions I will highlight some of the most important as follows:

Appropriations- The bill appropriates $109,265,000 for Supplemental General State Aid (local option budget equalization aid) and would make a revenue transfer of $25,200,786 to the Capital Outlay Fund from the State General Fund. This appropriation was made to insure that all students, regardless of whether they live in a poor school district or a rich district, receive an equal education (equity in education). The equalization funding will result in substantial property tax relief. Our 77th District will be impacted in the following way:

Augusta (USD 402)- Additional capital outlay aid of $129,073 and property tax reduction of $613,389.

Douglass (USD 396)- Additional capital outlay aid of $53,812 and property tax reduction of $260,464.

Rose Hill (USD 394)- Additional capital outlay aid of $66,336 and property tax reduction of $455,489.

Andover (USD 385)- Additional capital outlay aid of $631,078 and property tax reduction of $1,130,588.

2. Policy Statement- The bill states that the intention of the Legislature is to provide a K-12 funding system that provides students with the seven “Rose” capacities to insure quality student outcomes. The funding system would have to be sufficiently flexible for the Legislature to consider all available financing resources.

3. Local Option Budget Authority Expansion- School districts with an LOB authority of 30% (all but 12 districts) couldraise the authority to a maximum of 33% with approval by the voters in a mail-out ballot election.

4. K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission- The bill establishes this commission to study and make recommendations to the legislature regarding opportunities to make more efficient use of taxpayer money.

5. Due Process rights of teachers- Under current law teachers are allowed a three year probationary period before being granted “due process rights”. Unfortunately, once a teacher obtains these rights he or she must perform in an egregious manner in order to loose his or her job. I have a huge amount of respect for teachers, including my wife Betty, but if “due process rights” are so important why are they not needed in the first three years of a teaching career. Certain expectations should be met whether a teacher has been on the job for 3 years or 25 years. There are already safe guards that protect a teacher’s rights. Administrators certainly don’t have the benefit of “due process”. If an administrator dismisses a good teacher without cause his or her job is on the line.

School Boards will establish policies to protect the rights of teachers. The vast majority of our teachers do an outstanding job and have nothing to be concerned about by this change in state law.

Some of the funding for the law will come from reductions in other portions of the budget but the majority will come from the 2014 state general fund ending balance. At the present time the ending balance is right at $700 million, which is well above the 7% statutory requirement.

Addendum- The article was written before I had a chance to read the view of Mr. Bush in Tuesday’s paper.

I don’t appreciate the suggestion that I would make any vote solely based on a recommendation by the Koch brothers or Americans for Prosperity, although I do support their Republican agenda. Their position was the last thing on my mind when I voted in favor of HB2506. I have received contributions from many sources over the past 8 years. I would imagine that some legislators have even received contributions from the education lobby but I would not accuse them of opposing the bill for that reason.

Also, Mr. Bush might want to get his facts straight concerning the assertion that parts of the bill were added at a 4 a.m. meeting that was not open to the public. The suggested meeting was to allow the conferees to sign a conference committee report and was announced to the public at a meeting of the full House.

As legislators we are criticized for being unwilling to compromise. In this case, to obtain the necessary votes to pass the bill in both the House and the Senate required several education policy changes in order to obtain the funding requirement of the Court. This is the compromise that I was thinking of when I pushed my green light.

I am proud to serve with our legislative delegation. Each member is on the job every day working hard and making tough decisions like the one we made on HB 2506.

In conclusion, I appreciate the willingness of Mr. Bush to print my legislative updates in the Times-Gazette.

If you have questions I can be reac