Reports and Some Concerns About “Lunch Shaming”

Feb 28, 2018 by

Slowly getting back to the session!

The turn-around break has everyone back in Topeka but things were relatively quiet today.

The House K-12 Budget Committee met to receive reports on CTE programs and out of state students. We’ve heard these reports earlier this year in other committees.

At issue is an attempt by some legislators to have CTE programs funded based on the actual costs of such programs. Currently, they are funded with a .5 weighting factor. After much study, the Department of Education continues to recommend the current funding protocol.

Out of state students attend some Kansas schools along the borders because their parents might work in Kansas or the Kansas school is significantly closer to their homes than the school in Nebraska or Oklahoma. Some legislators are quite frustrated that these children receive state funding to attend our schools and yet sometimes come from families that don’t pay Kansas taxes.

School Lunch Issues Discussed

The Senate Education Committee met to discuss school lunch programs. Some parents in Senator Baumgardner’s district contacted her about a practice they called “lunch shaming.” Under this program students who have expended their lunch accounts can be provided an alternative lunch until the account is paid. These lunches might be a cheese or peanut butter sandwich and a piece of fruit.

The parents report that a child can get a lunch, take it to check out only to have it taken away and thrown in the trash with the child sent back to the alternative lunch line. Baumgardner had issues with the throwing away of this food as well as the disposal of food left over at the end of the day.

Staff from the KSDE and from the Kansas City, Kansas and Spring Hill School Districts led the committee through explanations of how food service is covered by the federal and state governments and the many rules that must be complied with in order to receive meal reimbursements. The two food service directors also noted that their districts do not use an alternative lunch – every child needing a lunch is given the regular meal and the district works to secure reimbursement from parents and guardians. Kansas City noted that at the end of the year, they have to transfer more than $50,000 from other programs to cover the costs of providing the lunches.

We’re not sure where the committee might be going with this information. It’s too late to introduce legislation in the Education Committee.

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School Finance Study Consultants Brief Legislators, Educators

Feb 24, 2018 by

Dr. Lori Taylor, Bush School of Government, Texas A&M University

We’ve had two days of presentations and conversations with Dr. Lori Taylor and Jason Willis – the consultants hired by the legislature to conduct a cost study of school finance.

Friday, it was a meeting with the two finance committees – the House K-12 Education Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance. There was very little interaction in that meeting after the two hour PowerPoint presentation by Taylor and Willis. Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) limited the legislators to one question each so very little was revealed.

Today Taylor and Willis met with educators at the KASB building in Topeka and this was a much more interactive time. There were about 50 people in attendance – Superintendents, School Board members, Principals, Parents, Deena Horst and Ann Mah of the State Board of Education, Senator Anthony Hensley, and Representative Nancy Lusk. KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti, KNEA President Mark Farr, and KNEA Director of Teaching and Learning Idalia Shuman were there as well.

Asked who she got advice from in making her decision to review data only back to 2016, Taylor said she had met with a “professor from KU” and Walt Chappell, among others. The mention of Chappell brought quite a response! Chappell has been an outspoken opponent of increasing school funding. And some were wondering if the KU professor might have been Art Hall, the Koch-endowed economics professor.

There were a number of alarming things in the presentation.

Taylor challenged the way Kansas considers poverty asserting that using the federal poverty level might not be appropriate for Kansas where the cost of living is less than in New York City. A change in this would have a major impact on at-risk funding.

How she might be considering “efficiencies” is another concern. This came up in particular reference to bilingual instruction and raised issues of equating “cheap” as “efficient.” For example, grouping all Spanish speaking students in one classroom to reduce personnel costs might be efficient in terms of cost (you only need one bilingual teacher instead of several) but would be less effective in teaching children English as they would have no English speaking role models in class. After questioning from Desetti, she indicated that she agreed effectiveness had to be part of any study and not just efficient in terms of cost. That was a relief!

Another bone of contention was the issue of the cost of labor and specifically teachers. Taylor plans to look at the cost of labor relative to “what teachers will accept” now. KNEA and some superintendents raised other issues including the better pension benefits and due process protections in our neighboring states. Taylor indicated that she would try to look at the impact of pension differences. Another thing she seemed unable to answer specific questions about was how to assess the widely varying benefit programs across the state.

One of their most common refrains was “we don’t have a dataset for that.”

You can see their full PowerPoint presentation by clicking here.

The legislature is off on Monday and Tuesday. Under the Dome will be back on Wednesday.

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The Politics of Due Process; Dyslexia and Guns

Feb 22, 2018 by

As we started the day yesterday, we noted that HB 2578, the combined bullying and due process for teachers bill was below the debate line. Today then would be the last day to debate and vote on the bill before turn-around.

We were working with Republican legislators and House Republican leadership in an attempt to get the bill moved up for debate and had hopes that it would happen. At the same time, House minority leader Jim Ward (D-Wichita) notified the House that he would move to have the bill pulled up onto the debate calendar if Speaker Ryckman (R-Olathe) did not do so today.

That brings us to today. The bill was not above the line which triggered a vote on Ward’s motion. That motion failed on a vote of 36 – 81. Six Democrats were absent today (we assume due to the weather conditions) bringing Democratic votes down to 34; two Republicans, Joy Koesten (R-Leawood) and Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) joined them.

While this was a very disappointing vote, it was not an unexpected outcome. In our 20 years under the dome, we have almost never seen a caucus break with their leadership on a procedural matter. We had hoped that this time would be the exception to the rule, but sadly it was not.

Yesterday, Speaker Ryckman had the bullying bill and the due process restoration bill re-introduced in the House Taxation Committee. This action means that both issues will survive the turn-around and be available for debate and action during the second half of this session.

We will continue to work with leadership to get a floor debate and vote on both the bullying bill and the due process bill. The new due process bill is HB 2757 and the new bullying bill is HB 2758. Both should be available on the legislative website soon.

You can help by contacting Speaker Ryckman and Majority Leader Hineman and asking them to please bring HB 2757 and HB 2758 up for debate and action on the floor as soon as possible.

Dyslexia Task Force Adopted; Gun Safety Bill Set Aside

The House advanced to a final action vote two bills; Sub for HB 2602 would create a task force under the State Board of Education to bring back recommendations on how to effectively address dyslexia in schools. This compromise bill is intended to reveiw all the concerns brought by parents and all the issues brought by educators and find a way to create common ground. The idea was floated by Rep. Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka). KNEA supports this bill.

The House chose not to take up HB 2460, a bill allowing school districts to offer gun safety classes but then to restrict the curriculum to the NRA “Eddie Eagle” program in grades K-8 (later amended to add options for middle school). The bill was permissive in that it would not require schools to offer such programs. KNEA believes the underlying bill is fine except that the decision on which program to use should be left to the local school board as it is a curriculum decision. There are programs available from other organizations including 4-H. It was said that an amendment would be offered to allow Eddie Eagle or other evidence-based programs but the bill was skipped over. Perhaps this is in light of the sensitivity to gun issues in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school massacre.

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One More Day Until Turn-Around – So What About the Due Process and Bullying Bills?

Feb 21, 2018 by









Both chambers have been consumed with floor debate yesterday and today on long lists of bills, but none of those bills are of urgent interest to us.

Tomorrow will be the final day for debate before the turn-around break.

Our major interest at this time is HB 2578, the bullying bill that includes the restoration of due process for Kansas teachers.

The bill sits on the floor but so far has stayed below the debate line. If not passed by tomorrow it will be dead. In light of that Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita) announced this morning that if the bill is not above the line tomorrow, he will offer a motion to bring it up for debate at that time. Challenges of that sort of leadership decisions don’t always succeed. Contact your state Representative and ask him/her to support all efforts to bring due process to the floor for debate and action.

This afternoon the House Tax Committee met and introduced both the bullying bill and the due process restoration bill as stand-alone bills. Since the Tax Committee is exempt from timelines, this action means both bills will still be alive after turn-around regardless of what happens tomorrow.

So if HB 2578 is not considered tomorrow, we will turn our attention to bringing both bills out of committee for debate on the floor. Both bills are important and strongly supported by KNEA. We are confident that there is bipartisan support for both bills on the House floor.

The restoration of due process is a legislative recommendation in the report of Education Commissioner Watson’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teacher Vacancies and Supplies. The Task Force was clear that until teachers are respected by the legislature, there will be no progress on solving the looming teacher shortage in Kansas.

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How about a two-tiered class system for teachers? House Ed Committee says no thanks.

Feb 19, 2018 by

House Ed Committee Rejects Another “Compromise” on Due Process

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand called a meeting today for the specific purpose of addressing due process. Aurand has repeatedly expressed his opinion that due process restoration cannot pass the Senate and so the House must negotiate against its own position and somehow compromise on the issue.

This year it came in his bill, HB 2483, which would establish two tiers of teachers by restoring due process to those who had earned it prior to repeal in 2014 and provide nothing for any teachers hired since. He had an amendment to the bill that would still restore full due process to those who had earned it but provide a very limited due process (the same as in the 1980’s) for new teachers. The new teachers would have an impossible hill to climb in succeeding in a challenge under the bill as Aurand put in only three conditions under which a hearing officer could rule against the district.

In response to those who oppose a two-tiered system, Aurand also put a provision in the bill that would allow the bargaining agent (usually KNEA) to move all veteran teachers into the limited due process system.

The debate quickly showed that the committee was in no mood to establish a bill that did not restore full due process to all Kansas teachers. They repeatedly said that they did not need the bullying bill and due process bill separated and that the two issues were linked since bullying has to do with bullying of students and staff. Rep. Melissa Rooker pointed out that there are eight statutes providing real due process to students including those brought to the district’s attention for bullying but no such protections for teachers.

As to the argument of the need for the House to compromise their own position to appease the Senate or the Speaker or the Governor, Rep. Ed Trimmer said that if one of those three were to torpedo the bullying bill because they did not want to provide rights to teachers, that decision would be on those people and not the members of the House.

The Aurand amendment failed on a vote of 6 t0 10. The Committee then moved to the underlying motion to pass the original two-tier bill. That motion had been offered by Rep. Sutton. That motion failed on a unanimous voice vote.

At that point, Aurand said he recognized that the issue was done; that he recognized the committee’s position and would not go any further including not offering a standalone bullying bill.

Rep. Diana Dierks noted that the actions of the committee should not be taken as any disrespect for the Chairman but instead reflected a heartfelt desire of the majority to do right by Kansas teachers.

So here is where we are as of tonight.

The full restoration of due process rights for Kansas teachers in included in the bullying bill, HB 2578, which is on the floor but below the debate line meaning it is available for debate and passage but will not be considered tomorrow.

We will be watching for it to come up above the line and working with both Republicans and Democrats to urge its consideration.

House Higher Ed Committee Hears Repeal of In-state Tuition; Will Not Work Bill

The House Higher Education Committee held a continued hearing on HB 2643, a bill repealing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented workers (these children would have to have graduated from a Kansas high school, been in the state at least three years, be admitted to college and sign an affidavit promising to apply for citizenship as soon as they are eligible to do so). The “savings” from the bill would be used to offset tuition for foster children.

KNEA opposed the bill as did many other organization including KASB.

KNEA would be delighted to support a bill that provides tuition assistance to foster children but not at the expense of other Kansas students. Opposition to the bill was overwhelming while Kris Kobach was the primary proponent.

At the end of the hearing, the Committee Chair, Kevin Jones, announced they would not be working the bill. This means that unless the bill is referred to a timeline exempt committee, it is dead for this year.

Senate Fed & State Goes Crazy

Despite all the good news in the House committees, the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee decided to push the ultra-conservative envelope today and passed two alarming bills out of committee.

The first, SCR 1611, calls for a constitutional convention under which the United States Constitution could simply be tossed out and delegates appointed by state politicians could re-write the whole darn thing. While the resolution is specific to what they want to change, there can be no limits put on a constitutional convention.

KNEA opposes SCR 1611.

The Committee also passed out SB 340, the campus free speech act under which colleges in Kansas would have essentially no ability to control rallies and protests on campus. All outdoor areas of campus would be “free speech zones” and if any one student invited a speaker to hold a rally, the college would have no choice but to allow it in whatever outdoor place the speaker wanted. We imagine that Richard Spencer and Louis Farrakhan are both planning their Kansas college tours right now!

Colleges would even be prohibited from stopping events based on other experiences. So, for example, while Spencer’s events create havoc (see Charlottesville, Virginia), a college could not use the safety of students as an excuse to restrict Spencer’s use of the campus. Combine this with a new House bill that would allow 18-year-olds to carry weapons on campus and we can only envision disaster.

KNEA, believing that the safety of students is paramount in determining what events will be permitted on campus, opposes SB 340.


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