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Under the Dome - March 18, 2013

Latest Defined Benefit KPERS Plan called a "Risky Experiment"

Governor Brownback today introduced a new, risky defined contribution style approach for the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS).  A Texas financial firm, Dimensional Fund Advisors, told a House Pensions Committee that the state should put their faith in a new "managed" denfined contribution plan developed by their company.  What they did not say is that this "product" is unproven, as no other public employer in the United States is using this plan. They also falied to tell legislators just what the cost would be to implement this new plan and how it would impact employees and their retirement.

During the prolonged KPERS debate over the last year, one irrefutable fact has been made very clear: a defined contribution plan will cost Kansas taxpayers billions more in their hard earned money and put Kansas public sector workers at risk while only benefitting special interests.

It's apparent the primary goal of this latest scheme is to direct money out of KPERs towards tax cuts for millionaires and corporations. The Governor's own budget document confirms this: "from changing those non-vested members with less than five years of service to the new system the former statutory required KPERS payment would be used to eliminate the state individual income tax".

As the Executive Director of KPERS testified early this session before the House Appropriations Committee, the cash balance plan, signed into law last year by the Governor, shores up the system and positions Kansas to extinguish the unfunded liability by 2033.  A defined contribution plan does nothing to address the unfunded liability issue. 

Below are the members of the House Pensions Committee currently considering this new scheme (SB 117).  Contact them today and tell them the retirements of our police, fire fighters, teachers and other public sector employees should not be used as some guinea pigs for this new "experiment". 

Rep. Steven Johnson, Assaria

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7696
  • Office

Vice Chair
Rep. Jim Howell, Wichita

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7665
  • Office

Ranking Minority Member
Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, Kansas City

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7688
  • Office

Rep. John Alcala, Topeka

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7371
  • Office

Rep. John Barker, Abilene

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7674
  • Office

Rep. Daniel Hawkins, Wichita

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7631
  • Office

Rep. Kevin Jones, Wellsville

  • Office Phone: 785 296-6287
  • Office

Rep. Jim Kelly, Independence

  • Office Phone: 785 296-6014
  • Office

Rep. Charles Macheers, Shawnee

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7675
  • Office

Rep. Richard Proehl, Parsons

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7639
  • Office

Rep. John Rubin, Shawnee

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7690
  • Office

Rep. James Todd, Overland Park

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7695
  • Office

Rep. Virgil Weigel, Topeka

  • Office Phone: 785 296-7366
  • Office

New voucher bill in House Education Committee

It's like a game of whack-a-mole in the House Education Committee where as soon as one privatization scheme gets knocked down another pops its head up.

First they killed the special education voucher bill only to have a wide-open charter schools bill pop up. As soon as that one was dispatched with, up pops a special education tuition tax credit (essentially voucher) bill.

So today was the hearing on the third attempt to privatize public education, HB 2400.

Speaking for the bill were Mike O'Neal of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, James Franko of the Kansas policy Institute, Jonathan Small of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and a respresentative of the Kansas Catholic Conference. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is the Oklahoma version of KPI.

Opponents were the Kansas Association of Special Education Administrators, Wichita Public Schools, KASB, KNEA, Shawnee Mission Schools, Cowley County Special Services Cooperative, and NW Kansas Education Service Center.

KNEA made the following points in testimony:

  • It allows corporations a 70% tax credit for "scholarships" of up to $8,000 for low income students with IEPs to attend a private school. (p 6, lines 5-16)
  • It creates yet another massive hole in the state budget - potentially a $10 million hole in revenue collections annually. This at the same time that the budget committees are proposing enormous reductions in post-secondary education funding and even the elimination of the state match for very low income families in the state's 529 college savings plan. (p 6, lines 21-22)
  • It provides a "benefit" for students on IEPs but again there is nothing to say the IEP must be implemented or followed at all. 
  • It asserts that non-accredited schools are every bit as good as accredited schools.
  • It requires no reporting whatsoever on the performance of students granted such scholarships - there would be no accounting to the state of whether or not this program ever benefited even one student.
  • It does all of this at the same time the state has been found to be underfunding the public school system in Kansas and is about to enter mediation in an attempt to settle the Gannon lawsuit before going into further litigation.
  • It does this following year of cuts in funding to the public schools of Kansas.

The hearing will continue later when it is expected that an Oklahoma legislator will talk via Skype.

Shawnee Mission mom to complete a 60-mile walk from Merriam to Topeka in support of public schools

You've probably heard the story by now, but if not...

Heather Ousley, a mother from Merriam has been walking since Saturday. In a Facebook posting, Ousley said this is her version of March Madness - She's mad, it's March, so she's marching on Topeka.

Along her walk, Ousley has been joined by Shawnee Mission NEA members and other supporters for portions of the trek. She will join Shawnee Mission NEA members at the KNEA building tomorrow morning before setting off on the last leg of the journey - from the KNEA building to the Statehouse.

At 9:30, Ousley will hold a press conference in the Capitol to talk about the issues that inspired her walk and to call on legislators to care for our children, fund our schools, and honor our teachers.

Find out more about Heather's journey on Facebook:

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