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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Red Alert on Healthcare

Sep 21, 2017 by

From Alliance for a Health Kansas:

Just two months ago you helped stop reckless legislation that would have stripped health coverage from millions of Americans.

But a handful of Senators in Washington, intent on taking health care coverage away from millions and remaking Medicaid, have cooked up a new bill.

The latest ACA repeal bill is called “Cassidy-Graham” and — like each of its predecessors — it eliminates patient protections in the insurance market and slashes federal funding for the Medicaid program.

How will it affect Kansas? Here are a few low-lights:

  1. It will end our opportunity to expand KanCare, costing our state billions — much more than we would ever gain under any version of repeal and replace.
  2. It will gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
  3. It will cut coverage and services for those who rely on Medicaid — primarily seniors, people with disabilities, and children.
  4. It will result in tens of thousands of Kansans, and millions of Americans, losing their health coverage.

KS Senators Moran & Roberts

Call Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts. Find the office closest to you, tell them to VOTE NO on Cassidy-Graham, and urge them to get back to work on bi-partisan solutions to improve the ACA.

Senator City Phone
Pat Roberts Dodge City 620-227-2244
Jerry Moran Hays 785-628-6401
Jerry Moran Manhattan 785-539-8973
Jerry Moran Olathe 913-393-0711
Pat Roberts Overland Park 913-451-9343
Jerry Moran Pittsburg 620-232-2286
Pat Roberts Topeka 785-295-2745
Pat Roberts Wichita 316-263-0416
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Senate to Vote on Tax Bill Tonight! Urgent Action Needed NOW!

May 30, 2017 by

Things are happening under the dome.  We’ll have a full recap tomorrow.  In the meantime, please read the following message from our coalition partners at Rise Up Kansas.  Then, TAKE ACTION!


Tonight, the Kansas Senate will vote on a bill to end the most harmful provisions of Governor Brownback’s failed tax experiment.

The bill, CCR for HB 2067, would be a MAJOR step in the right direction for Kansas. It closes the LLC loophole, repeals the March to Zero, and reinstates a third income tax bracket – three key policy components of comprehensive tax reform that are essential to putting Kansas back on a path to recovery.

But we need your help to make it happen. 

Click Here to take action now with our easy action alert tool!

After you take action, please share the link with your friends and family. The vote will happen tonight, so we need to share this alert as much as possible in the limited time remaining. 

The legislative session is already in overtime, and this might be our last chance for a good tax bill to pass. We can’t afford to throw away this shot.

Sincerely,

Rise Up, Kansas Coalition

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KNEA President Op-Ed

May 23, 2017 by

CLICK HERE  to read an Op-Ed by KNEA President, Mark Farr, responding to last night’s House vote on SB 30 (rolling back the Governor’s failed tax experiment).

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