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Will Brownback sign school finance bill? Emporia, Wichita audiences hear different answers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, April 15, 2014, at 8:01 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, June 30, 2014, at 11:54 a.m.


How they voted

• Here’s how south-central Kansas senators voted on a compromise school funding bill, HB2506. It passed 22-16.

Republicans voting yes: Michael O’Donnell, Mike Petersen and Susan Wagle, Wichita; Terry Bruce, Hutchinson; Forrest Knox, Altoona; Clark Shultz, McPherson

Republicans voting no: Steve Abrams, Arkansas City; Dan Kerschen, Garden Plain; Carolyn McGinn, Sedgwick

Democrats voting no: Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Wichita

Not voting: Les Donovan, R-Wichita; Ty Masterson, R-Andover

• Here’s how south-central Kansas representatives voted on the compromise HB2506. It passed 63-57.

Republicans voting yes: Steve Brunk, Mario Goico, Daniel Hawkins, Dennis Hedke, Mark Hutton, Mark Kahrs, Les Osterman, Gene Suellentrop, Wichita; Will Carpenter, El Dorado; David Crum, Augusta; Pete DeGraaf, Mulvane; George “Joe” Edwards, Haysville; Kyle Hoffman, Coldwater; Jim Howell, Derby; Steve Huebert, Valley Center; Kasha Kelley, Arkansas City; Les Mason, McPherson; Virgil Peck, Tyro; Marc Rhoades, Newton; Joe Seiwert, Pretty Prairie; Jack Thimesch, Cunningham

Republicans voting no: Steve Anthimides, Wichita; Steven Becker, Buhler; Don Schroeder, Hesston

Democrats voting no: Carolyn Bridges, John Carmichael, Gail Finney, Tom Sawyer, Pat Sloop, Ponka-We Victors, Jim Ward, Brandon Whipple, Wichita; Jan Pauls, Hutchinson; Ed Trimmer, Winfield

Absent or not voting: Roderick Houston, D-Wichita

An Emporia radio station recorded Gov. Sam Brownback saying he will sign a controversial school finance bill into law, about three hours before he told reporters in Wichita he hasn’t made up his mind.

In a presentation to local leaders at Emporia State University on Monday, Brownback said he will sign a bill containing allocations for the university. Those allocations are contained in House Bill 2506, an education budget bill that provides additional money to comply with a Supreme Court order that found inequities in funding between rich and poor school districts.

The bill also would change state law to strip veteran K-12 teachers of due process protections from summary dismissal.

Emporia-based KVOE radio has posted on its website an audio clip recorded Monday morning in which the governor says: “Emporia State, when I sign the budget, and I will, will receive $572,000, over $572,000, in salary cap restoration for this fiscal year.”

The KVOE reporter who recorded Brownback’s remarks, AJ Dome, said the governor didn’t elaborate and that questions from the audience and media were not allowed at the event.

The statement Brownback made in Emporia conflicts with statements he made hours later following a similar event, where he hailed legislative action to provide additional funding for Wichita State University, which is also contained in the bill.

In Wichita, the governor told reporters he hadn’t made up his mind on HB 2506 and when asked directly if he might veto the bill, he said “Sure, and we will consider that,” according to an Eagle reporter who was there. The comment was confirmed by an audio recording by TJ Rigg, an editor with the campus newspaper, The Sunflower.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Tuesday she spoke with the governor and that he told her he had not made a decision on the bill yet.

Asked about the KVOE recording, she said: “Certainly, he never intended to say he’s made a decision on the bill.”

State Sen. Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, attended the Emporia State event.

“I came away with that he had every intention of signing the bill,” said Longbine, who voted against it.

The section of the bill generating the most conflict redefines teachers in a way that takes away state tenure and due-process rights that protect them from arbitrary firing.

Under current law, teachers with more than three years’ experience who think they’ve been unjustly fired have a right to receive written notice stating the reasons for the decision and can appeal their dismissal before an independent hearing officer or arbitrator.

If the governor signs HB 2506 or allows it to become law without his signature, teachers will become essentially at-will employees of their districts who can be fired without being told why.

The only protection they will have is if they allege a constitutional rights violation, such as discrimination based on race, age or gender.

When Brownback came to Wichita State, a handful of retired teachers showed up to protest the bill and ask that he veto it. They said they were there on behalf of current teachers who were working in their schools when the governor made his appearance.

Brownback said he had officially received the bill Monday morning, a week after it passed the Legislature.

That started a 10-day clock for the governor to veto the bill or make it law.

“We’re still reviewing the bill itself. I’m not going to announce anything right here,” Brownback told reporters in a news conference after a private meeting with university officials.

“I won’t take the full 10 days on this because it’s really time sensitive and there are a number of issues that are involved in it,” he added. “But I do want to take adequate time to be able to look at all the provisions in it and then dealing with it, be able to have some sensibility about what all the provisions in it, what their nature will be and its impact.”

Brownback also foreclosed the possibility that he might use line-item veto authority to remove the controversial tenure provision and keep the funding for the universities and K-12 schools intact.

Brownback said his office legal staff has researched that and concluded he can’t do it.

Contributing: TJ Rigg of The Sunflower

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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