KNEA/KPAC Makes Additional Candidate Recommendations

Jul 18, 2018 by

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KNEA & KPAC are continuing to interview candidates ahead of the upcoming primary elections in August.  As we have new recommendations we will continue to update our recommended candidates list and use our Under the Dome advocacy blog to distribute these updates.

There are new recommendations for House Districts 13, 27, & 107.

In House District 13, KNEA/KPAC recommends the re-election of Rep. Larry Hibbard (R).

In House District 27, KNEA/KPAC recommends the election of Karen Snyder in the Republican primary.

In House District 107, KNEA/KPAC recommends the re-election of Rep. Susan Concannon (R).

We expect to have another update after the weekend.

 

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KNEA / KPAC Primary Election Candidate Recommendations

Jul 10, 2018 by

Click to view and download recommended candidates list.

In this edition of Under the Dome, we share with you our recommendations for the August primary elections. When you see them, you’ll probably be wondering about the race for Kansas Governor or the Congressional races.

Two of the congressional races are listed, but two are not and there is no recommendation in either the Republican or Democratic Gubernatorial races. There’s actually some good news at least for some of these races. So let me take this column to explain our thinking!

Gubernatorial Races

KNEA does not have a recommendation for the Democratic Primary. The reason is simple.

The Democratic candidates have completed and returned questionnaires to KNEA and no one candidate stood higher than the others on our issues. Every Democratic candidate for Governor is a strong supporter of our public schools, our students, and all our school employees.  Additionally, the two candidates who served in the Kansas Legislature – Senator Laura Kelly and former Representative Josh Svaty – both had excellent legislative voting records on issues of importance to KNEA.

The race would appear to be a tight one between Kelly and Svaty. Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also enjoys significant support. Public schools, our students, and Kansas educators would be well-served by any of these candidates and we are hard-pressed to elevate one above the other.

We urge our Democratic members to look closely at all these candidates and consider their positions on public education as well as their individual positions on issues of importance to each of you personally.

And as you cast your ballot, consider yourself lucky to not have a bad choice when it comes to supporting public education.

As for the Republican Primary, it would seem that only one candidate has any interest in being considered by KNEA – Jim Barnett.

Barnett is the only Republican to return a questionnaire to KNEA and his questionnaire reflects general alignment with KNEA positions regarding public education. Barnett has also continued to reach out to teachers and KNEA members throughout his campaign – including contacting and meeting with KNEA local affiliates and UniServ Councils – seeking their input and sharing his perspectives. While his KNEA voting record as a State Senator was not stellar, he appears to have studied the issues more closely and adjusted his positions in his time out of the Legislature. Unfortunately, Barnett’s candidacy is an extreme longshot while Governor Colyer and Secretary of State Kobach go head to head for the nomination.

We know where Colyer and Kobach stand on some issues thanks to reports in the press. Here, for example, both the Colyer and Kobach campaigns express support for private school vouchers and tuition tax credits.

In speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Kobach again expressed strong support for vouchers, in addition to reductions in education spending and grading schools A through F. The Wichita Eagle opined on this back in May.

Republican educators need to understand that only Jim Barnett was willing to participate in our recommendation process. Colyer and Kobach have stated positions contrary to KNEA positions on a number of issues and we have no confirmable information on the positions of other Republican candidates. Jim Barnett submitted a questionnaire and has held a number of press conferences and press releases that indicate strong support for public education, children, and educators.

Click Here to view the recommended candidates list.

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TOO MUCH TO WRITE, SO LET’S GO TO THE VIDEO…

Apr 5, 2018 by

Mark Desetti, Director of Government Relations with Marcus Baltzell, Director of Communications.

 

CLICK HERE to contact your Senator.

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With Dozens of Education Pros in Attendance, State Board Sends Clear Message

Jan 26, 2018 by

Today, the Kansas State Board of Education conducted an unscheduled meeting to respond to yesterday’s letter from House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Senate President Susan Wagle accusing Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis of distributing certain transportation funds without authority to do so.  The letter also directed the board to suspend Mr. Dennis from employment while an investigation is conducted.  CLICK HERE to read the complete details behind this accusation.

Over the last 24+ hours, the education community throughout Kansas has expressed rock-solid support for Mr. Dennis.  That support overflowed on social media but also within the boardroom at today’s hearing where dozens of education professionals gathered as a show of solidarity.

Upon convening the meeting, it was announced that there would be two closed executive sessions.  The first was for the purpose of consulting with board attorneys and the second was to discuss how to handle the employment issue relative to Mr. Dennis and in response to the Ryckman / Wagle letter.  After the second closed-door session, a motion was put forth by board member Sally Cauble.  In her motion, Cauble stated that the board’s duty was to advise Commissioner of Education Randy Watson when requested regarding employment matters.  Further, Commissioner Watson had requested guidance from the board.  Cauble’s motion recommended to “fully support continued employment for Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis and his staff.”  The motion passed 9-1 with board member John Bacon being the sole no-vote (according to media reports).

While today’s proceedings captured the attention of nearly everyone within the education profession, our soon-to-be Governor, Jeff Colyer, was conspicuously silent and thus far has not weighed-in on the issue.  However, four former Kansas Governors, as well as several state leaders, pledged support for Mr. Dennis prior to today’s hearings.

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Courts & Committee Wrestle With Due Process

Jan 24, 2018 by

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas NEA supports full restoration of due process and fair dismissal rights for all Kansas teachers.

Action in the Supreme Court

Today, Kansas NEA General Counsel, David Schauner, argued before the Supreme Court that the action taken by the Kansas Legislature in 2014 effectively took away earned property (due process rights) and did so without any due process and in violation of the 14th Amendment.  Today’s case was brought before the court on behalf of two teachers, KNEA members, who are unwilling to allow their property rights – and ultimately those of thousands of their colleagues – to be taken from them by the government without challenge.  If these teacher members of KNEA prevail and the Supreme Court finds that the state did unlawfully strip them of their rights in 2014, it will not mean a full restoration of due process for all Kansas teachers.  However, with a bill to do just that sitting in the House Education Committee, KNEA and its members are demonstrating absolute resolve and determination to restore these rights for all Kansas teachers.

An attorney for Flinthills USD 492, where one of the teachers worked prior to having been terminated without cause in 2015, argued that the only recourse for citizens challenging an action of the Legislature was to cast a ballot in an election.  One of the Justices asked the school district’s attorney if he believed that a dead-of-night ‘lock-in’ by the legislature represented sufficient due process to pass a bill that had no hearing and was amended to include the elimination of due process for teachers.  He answered in the affirmative.

We can’t help but wonder how the complainant school districts in the ongoing Gannon school funding case reacted to hearing an attorney representing a school district argue that the only remedy for what may be a defective legislative process is a vote on election day.  Apparently, this school district believes that once voted into power, the Kansas Legislature has unlimited authority to pass any law, anytime, and without any opportunity for public input – including the taking of property.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed by anyone with an eye on the current Kansas Legislature that the chambers have a long history of defective and deceptive practices.   An investigation by the Kansas City Star found that the Kansas Legislature has made a practice of working in secret, refusing to identify themselves as bill sponsors and routinely practicing a procedure known as “gut and go” in which bills are stripped of their original contents and filled with completely unrelated policy in order to advance ideas that might find opposition in a public hearing.

Just this week, bills have been introduced to clean up these processes and afford citizens true transparency in order to see clearly what their elected officials are doing in Topeka.  We believe that Senate Substitute for House Bill 2506 passed in 2014 is the living legacy of a legislative defect.  It was the bill that log-rolled the elimination of teacher due process and a number of other controversial issues into it, while most Kansans were sound asleep.

As for today’s case, we’ll have to wait and see if the Supreme Court agrees with KNEA and with many in the Legislature today that defective Legislative processes shouldn’t cost citizens their 14th Amendment property rights.

Action in the House Education Committee

What might have started as a promising hearing in the House Education Committee ended as it did last year with the Chairman, Rep. Aurand (R- Belleville) ignoring the will of the committee.  A bill before the committee (HB 2483) seeks to restore due process only for those teachers who earned it prior to legislative action to eliminate due process in 2014 AND who have also maintained uninterrupted employment in the same district.  No other teachers would have due process rights nor could they earn them.  Effectively, this bill creates a two-class system and as those who would have their rights restored leave the profession, due process would be phased out entirely.

The only proponent of this bill was the committee Chairman Rep. Clay Aurand.  Rep. Aurand first sought to use the tiered KPERS system as an analog for what this bill would accomplish.  KNEA’s lobbyist Mark Desetti pointed out in his comments that the KPERS tiered system came about through many discussions, open hearings and in response to a need to stabilize the system.  However, due process rights were stripped from teachers without any hearing (or even a bill introduction) and in the dark of night in April of 2014 and only after Representatives were locked into the House Chamber to secure a final vote.

Rep. Aurand continued to suggest that compromise is needed in order to craft a new fair dismissal policy for teachers.  What Aurand failed to acknowledge is that a compromise would require one group (KNEA) to forfeit one of its core values.  KASB has already stated a position indicating support for having school boards be the final arbiter in termination disputes. In effect, they have no need to compromise because their position is already assured.  It should be noted that Rep. Aurand is also a sitting school board member in Kansas.

Comments from committee members indicate that a majority support fair dismissal procedures for all Kansas teachers.  As the hearing drew to a close, Rep. Stogsdill (D- Prairie Village) made a motion to bring last year’s bill (HB 2179) which restores due process for all teachers, up for action in the committee.  However, Chairman Aurand ruled the motion out of order.  He then stated that he has no intention of working either bill without substantive compromise.  Rep. Ousley (D- Merriam) then pointed out that Rep. Aurand acknowledged earlier during the hearing that the full House of Representatives passed the bill restoring full due process for all teachers last year, establishing a House position.  Rep. Ousley suggested that Chairman Aurand was directing the House to compromise their own position.  It would appear that Chairman Aurand believes that the will of a committee Chair should supersede the will of the majority of the Kansas House of Representatives.

No further action has been indicated at this time.  We will continue to advocate for the full restoration of due process rights as they existed prior to 2014.  We will keep you informed as the session moves forward.

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