First, I want to thank all of you who have been communicating with legislators about our priorities for the 2021 Legislative Session of the Kentucky General Assembly! I know your efforts make a difference for public education, our students, and the professionals who serve them. I encourage you to stay in close contact with your legislators and continue to advocate for a strong education budget and other policies that will advance education in our state. Continue to use the KASS Legislative and Advocacy Priorities when you’re talking to legislators and others. When we speak from a common voice, we are more effective in our advocacy!
KASS WEEKLY LEGISLATIVE UPDATE ZOOM PODCAST SERIES
Below are links to the latest KASS Weekly Legislative Update Zoom Podcasts! In these informational podcasts, we bring you important updates on the happenings in Frankfort and occasionally Washington DC with guests who provide insights and expertise on public policy matters impacting public education. With the busy superintendent in mind, we try to keep each podcast to an hour or less. As we continue to refine the product, we welcome your feedback and suggestions. Feel free to share with anyone who may be interested and enjoy the podcasts!
Commissioner Jason Glass along with Director of Government Relations Chuck Truesdale join Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton this week to discuss a variety of issues facing Kentucky schools.
Hear insights and comments from Rep. Steve Riley and Rep. Scott Lewis along with Union County Superintendent and 2021 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year Patricia Sheffer.
THE STATE BUDGET IS THE PRIORITY
The budget remains the big prize of the 2021 Legislative Session. Work will continue on the budget plan (HB192) in the budget conference committee. Again, we anticipate both A&R Committee Chairs along with members of leadership in both chambers will serve on the budget conference committee. In light of the federal relief funding that will help with the costs associated with the pandemic and supporting efforts to address the education recovery needs of students, legislators will want to know what state budgetary needs our schools have for FY22. It is important to help our legislators and others understand that the federal funds are one-time/short-term funds that will support our pandemic response along with the recovery needs as we come out of the pandemic including the education recovery needs. The federal funds should supplement – not supplant – the state funding, which provide the ongoing, foundational programming for our schools. Because the SEEK base is foundational to education funding in Kentucky, it must be the priority in our advocacy. Not only does it impact ongoing costs for providing education in FY22, the SEEK base has a significant impact on future funding as well. The responsibility of the state is to provide adequate and equitable funding for public education as called for in our state constitution. Our advocacy is always more impactful when we share real stories related to our position on policy matters. Be prepared to share the actual costs of full-day kindergarten, transportation, or other important priorities moving forward. Below are the priority talking points for the state budget.
Quick Talking Points:
- Provide an inflationary increase to the SEEK Base.
- Continue to appropriate the full actuarially determined contributions to TRS.
- Funding of the Statutory Requirement for the Medical Insurance Trust Fund for Retiree Health Insurance.
- Continue to equalize local nickel taxes levied by school boards for facility improvements.
More Detailed Talking Points:
Provide an inflationary increase to the SEEK Base: We need at least a modest increase in the SEEK base to offset inflationary trends impacting FY22 including an anticipated growth in real property assessments. We continue to hear from folks in the construction and real estate markets that business has been good. As you know, when property assessments increase and the SEEK base stays flat, the net effect is a loss of revenue for the local district. While we support pay increases for school district staff, it must come from a reliable, recurring revenue stream and be “across the board” for all staff. The best reliable and recurring revenue stream is SEEK. Funding SEEK is a priority.
Continue to appropriate the full actuarially determined contributions to TRS: The pension fund of TRS has benefitted as a result of the General Assembly’s recent commitment to fully fund the ARC and pay down the unfunded liability. This is a long-term commitment that needs to be sustained. The system has benefited positively from the investment by the Legislature and strong performance growth of the fund. In fact, it has grown from $1.8 billion in 1985 to $20.7 billion in 2020, despite negative cash flows (Contributions minus benefits paid out).
Funding of the Statutory Requirement for the Medical Insurance Trust Fund for Retiree Health Insurance: Full funding of the statutory required contribution to the Medical Insurance Trust Fund for Retiree Health Insurance as approved by the legislature in 2010 is a critically important investment as well. This fund is quickly approaching full funding, projected as soon as 6 years from now. Though it is ahead of schedule, the fact is the fund is NOT 100% yet. We support maintaining this investment to keep this fund on track to full funding as was envisioned when we all joined together in 2010 to address this important issue. It is important to remember that this partnership between the state, TRS members, and school districts saved the state over $5 billion. Let’s stay on track with this investment.
Continue to equalize local nickel taxes levied by school boards for facility improvements: The partnership between local communities and the state is exemplified in the facility funding investment that support new school projects in Kentucky. We support the full funding of the equalization which is so important to these projects which improve the schools and provide a boost to the local and state economies.
It is very important you and your local stakeholders communicate the importance of the state budget in funding public education. The Council for Better Education SEEK Overview Reports tell a compelling story of how local communities are paying an increasing proportion of the education costs. In fact, on average statewide, local communities are providing about 52% of the total SEEK funding which is a 12% increase since 2008. Public education is a state responsibility by constitution and the foundational funding should be provided to ensure adequate and equitable funding for education across our Commonwealth.
Urge Legislators to Vote NO on HB149 and SB25
HB 149, sponsored by Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, proposes the formation of Education Opportunity Accounts with the intent of providing tax credits to wealthy donors to give families the ability to use public dollars for private school tuition and for education-related expenses for all families. While KASS does not oppose the right of families to choose the educational setting and program for their children, we strongly oppose any privatization of public funds for education. This bill proposal, which originates from groups outside of Kentucky, is an effort to privatize public funds for education under the guise of school choice. Its sister companion in the Senate is SB25, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester.
We need to contact our legislative delegates urging them to oppose these bills.
Below are links to a couple of strong pieces that support our position on the damage Education Opportunity Accounts will do to public education. Share them with others to spread the word.
- Voucher would drain much-needed resources from Kentucky’s public schools | Opinion | Kentucky New Era
- Voucher Proposal Takes Dollars from Kentucky’s Public Schools and Gives Them to Unaccountable Private Schools – Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (kypolicy.org)
TALKING POINTS IN OPPOSITION TO EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY ACCOUNTS – We are gaining some traction with legislators about the real problems with this bill proposal. We are finding the most traction with the negative impact on state revenues in an already lean budget along with no economic return on the investment. Tax credits should be limited to investments that create jobs and revenue for the state. This proposal does not. In fact, the General Assembly’s Report of the Taskforce on Tax Expenditures recommended sunsetting most existing tax expenditures including tax credits. Many legislators simply do not like tax credits of any kind. Another salient point is the fact there are many worthy causes, so why does this “pet project” deserve a tax credit. Most donors give because the support the cause, not to earn a tax credit. Why does this cause deserve more than others?
- The bill does not target low-income families. Households making $96,940 per year for a family of four would be eligible – that number becomes $121,175 in income in the second year! In most KY communities, this is not disadvantaged. As a result, this proposal will leave our most vulnerable and disadvantaged students even further behind.
- The bill would mean lost General Fund Revenue, with a potential loss of $205 million in the next five years. This would be the only tax credit in Kentucky to balloon automatically over time. In fact, in just over 10 years, Kentucky stands to lose more than $1 billion in lost revenue with no economic return on investment. Use this graphic to show this impact to Kentucky revenues.
- This bill shift funds that could have been used to support public schools statewide to private schools which are concentrated in the population centers. Rural communities will lose in this funding shift, placing more pressure for local communities to raise taxes.
- The bill does not create accountability for participating schools. Parents do not really have “choice” if they don’t have any data to compare between schools. Private schools do not participate in the state accountability system, do not have to comply with Open Meetings and Open Records, do not have to show data on disproportionality in disciplinary actions, expulsions, and do not have to serve English Language Learners. They can also cherry pick from among the applicant pool to accept only the highest-performing students and turn away students that may be more difficult to serve. Because of the lack of accountability, the funds will be more susceptible to misuse, fraud, and malfeasance.
- The bill allows outright discrimination, creates privacy concerns, and could expose families to predatory vendors. Section 11(4) allows education service providers to discriminate against students and families based on their religion or sexual orientation at a minimum. The bill also prohibits unaccompanied youth from participating in the program. Predatory marketing could suck up program dollars without providing any measurable benefit to students and families. And, the bill does not require education service providers (ESPs) and account granting organizations (AGOs) to be FERPA compliant.
- We oppose any tax credits that don’t have a clear economic return on investment. This proposal has no economic return for the state. It doesn’t create new jobs. It doesn’t create a new revenue stream for Kentucky. Why should this “pet project” receive a tax credit while other interests do not? I had one person say, “I want a tax credit for donations to our local Boys and Girls Club, or Big Brothers/Big Sisters.” Another said, “This is like cutting the State Police to give someone a credit for putting in a home security system.” Individuals, including the wealthy, already get a tax deduction for donations to private schools and public schools. There is no need to favor this proposal over other worthy causes for a tax credit. In fact, the Kentucky General Assembly’s taskforce that studied tax expenditures recommended no new tax expenditures including tax credits.
Here are the detailed talking points and information in opposition to HB149 and its sister bill in the senate. Additionally, you can use the KASS Legislative and Advocacy Priorities to support your conversations with legislators.
KASS Board of Directors Votes to Support HB 258
HB258 – sponsored by Rep. Ed Massey, R-Hebron – TRS New Tier of Benefit Proposal – provides a new tier of benefits for teachers hired on or after January 1, 2022. A true hybrid plan that includes a defined benefit Foundational Component (social security replacement component) and a defined contribution Supplemental Component (401k-like component). With our recommended improvements included, it will provide a path to a secure, reasonable retirement for professional educators. The ACTUARIAL ANALYSIS of HB258 projects savings of $3.57 billion over 30 years. This proposal does NOT change any benefits for existing TRS members, active or retired. We have worked closely with Rep. Massey and others on this bill proposal. Click this LINK for more details and information. This bill will be heard for discussion only at the House State Government Committee at Noon EST on Thursday, February 4th. Afterwards, Rep. Massey is planning a press event for the bill proposal. Stay tuned!
Other Bills of Interest
SB5, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester– refines the immunity of the state, private persons, volunteers, professional engineers and architects, and persons providing essential services during an emergency, providing liability relief. Every dollar spent defending frivolous lawsuits is a dollar we lose to help educate children. We worked directly with President Stivers and his staff on designing this targeted legislation to help provide additional liability relief due to an emergency like the current pandemic. We have partnered with many organizations on this including KASA, KSBA, and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. The following link has our talking points along with the many partners supporting this bill: SB5 Quick Talking Points Supporting this Bill.
HB258 – sponsored by Rep. Ed Massey, R-Hebron – TRS New Tier of Benefit Proposal – provides a new tier of benefits for teachers hired on or after January 1, 2022. A true hybrid plan that includes a defined benefit Foundational Component (social security replacement component) and a defined contribution Supplemental Component (401k-like component). With our recommended improvements included, it will provide a path to a secure, reasonable retirement for professional educators. This proposal does NOT change any benefits for existing TRS members, active or retired. We have worked closely with Rep. Massey and others on this bill proposal. Click this LINK for more details and information.
HB208 – sponsored by Rep. Regina Huff – R-Williamsburg – provides several relief measures to school districts that were approved last session in SB177. KASS supports this bill and is working with Chair Huff and other partners on it.
Here are links to some important information regarding the Legislative Session:
Legislative Message Line – 800-372-7181
PARTNER BLOGS OF INTEREST:
News From Frankfort | JCPS (kyschools.us)
Kentucky Education Policy Blog (kyedpolicy.blogspot.com)
Again, it is very important we communicate with our legislators throughout the 2021 Legislative Session, particularly on the priorities above. As always, feel free to contact me or Greg Coker for any questions or assistance.
Thanks and Lead Onward!