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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Approaching Turn-around & The Continuing Saga of Due Process

Feb 16, 2018 by

Almost Halfway Home

It’s a pro forma day under the dome which means legislators did a quick check in this morning, then headed for home.

Monday will be the last day for committee hearings with Tuesday marking the lead up to “turn around” – the time by which bills must pass the chamber of origin in order to be debated in the second chamber. The exception is for bills that are in time-line exempt committees. Those committees are House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means, Senate Assessment and Taxation, and the House committees on Calendar and Printing, Appropriations, and Taxation. A bill can also be “saved” by being referred by leadership to an exempt committee.

Both chambers will spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on the floor trying to pass whatever bills they have available before they begin the turn around break on Friday. The second half of the session will begin on Wednesday, February 28.

A few legislators will not get Friday off, however. Dr. Lori Taylor who has been hired to conduct the new school finance cost study will be in Topeka to meet with members of the House K-12 Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance with whom she will discuss the cost study. The study is expected to be delivered on March 15, a full two weeks past the deadline for a school finance the Attorney General requested at the beginning of the session.

As of today, no bills dealing with any part of school finance have advanced.

“Konspiring” with Kobach?

House Higher Education Budget Chairman Kevin Jones (R-Wellsville) surprised everyone (everyone that is except Kris Kobach) by rescheduling a hearing on HB 2643 from next Monday to yesterday. The last-minute change meant that many opponents of the bill had not had the opportunity to sign up as conferees. Kobach seemed to be the one person who knew about the change.

HB 2643 would disallow in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants and use the savings to provide post-secondary tuition relief for foster children. As a reminder in-state tuition rates for the children of undocumented immigrants are only available to children who have graduated from a Kansas high school, have been in the country for at least three years, and sign an affidavit of their intent to pursue citizenship as soon as they are able.

While KNEA would normally rejoice over a bill to provide tuition assistance to foster children, we cannot support one that also puts post-secondary education out of reach of other young people.

With general outrage of the sudden change of times, Jones decided to continue the hearing on Monday. KNEA will submit testimony at that time.

What Happened with Due Process Yesterday?

Well, nothing. Committee Chair Clay Aurand canceled the scheduled meeting of the House Education Committee and announced that there would be a committee meeting on Monday for the express purpose of dealing with due process.

This gives you the opportunity over the weekend to call and email the members of the House Education Committee and let them know that the real option is to call upon Clay Aurand and Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) to let HB 2578 to come up for action on the House floor. It sits available for action at this time.

This bill makes improvements to the statute on school district bullying plans and restores due process to all Kansas teachers. There is no need to pass any other bullying or due process bills out of committee. Let them take up the one that is already on the floor and put both issues to rest in the House of Representatives. Once that is done we can get on with the business of passing a school funding fix that will satisfy the Supreme Court and keep our schools open.

House Education Committee Members (*denotes those who voted YES to pass an amendment to the bullying bill which restores due process for K-12 teachers).  Click to view contact information for each member.

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School funding fix? Not important. Attack Teachers? By any means necessary.

Feb 15, 2018 by

Clay Aurand

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand seems content to ignore school funding and allow schools to close, choosing instead to spend his time ensuring teachers are expendable chattel.  

If you’re House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand, you are feeling quite exhausted today.  You’ve spent the last three days trying to slam the door shut on any bill brought before your committee to restore due process for K-12 teachers.

If you’re Aurand, you willfully ignore the ticking clock that will ultimately signal an end to Supreme Court patience and the closing of public schools leaving students to pay the price.

If you’re Aurand you’ve taken no concrete steps to deal with the funding crisis in the K-12 budget committee where you are a member. You haven’t introduced a bill to solve the problem, you haven’t spoken of solutions. Instead, you’ve spent all of your time and energy to ensure that teachers continue to be treated with insult and injury in the House Education Committee where you are the Chair.  You ignore the fact that the full House took a position last year in support of restoring due process when it passed a bill to do just that.  But in your committee, you are judge and jury and when the majority doesn’t bend to your personal will you make it clear that you will not allow any vote contrary to your ideology; you will not permit your committee to show Kansas teachers appreciation and respect. You will not tolerate a bill that protects teachers from arbitrary and capricious terminations even if the majority of members of the House vote for just such a bill.

And then you couch your actions in worry about bullying when you are the biggest bully of them all.

And to be clear on the bullying issue, that bill has already been passed out of the education committee on a unanimous vote. It has been read in on the floor of the House and is ready at any time to be voted on. There is absolutely no need to pass the bill out of committee again today.

If you’re  school board member and Representative Clay Aurand, it’s more important to focus your energy on ensuring teachers have no ability to advocate for students than to make sure schools will open for those students in the next school year.

How did we get here?  Remember that last year, when a bill to restore due process came before his committee Chairman Aurand would not allow the bill to be worked, regardless of the fact that a majority of his own members wanted to debate and vote on the bill.  When it became clear that the committee was ready and willing to overrule him, he simply ended the committee meeting and refused to allow the bill to be worked.  Restoring due process instead came before the full House as a floor amendment and passed last year.  But Clay Aurand is clearly not one to be satisfied with a result passed by a majority of House members when that result defies his own personal will.

This year, Aurand again proclaimed that he would not entertain a bill restoring due process to all Kansas teachers in his committee.  On Monday, Representative Valdenia Winn offered an amendment to a bullying policy bill which would restore due process.  Her motion to amend was seconded by Rep. Good (R-El Dorado) and after trying unsuccessfully for nearly an hour to find some procedural maneuver to kill the amendment, it was adopted on a vote of 9 to 7.   Several Republicans joined Democrats in a bi-partisan show of support for Kansas teachers.  Finally, Aurand could turn his focus to other committee matters and look towards a school funding solution; but instead, he spent the intervening hours conspiring to subvert the democratic majority vote in his own committee.

What did he try to do?  In committee yesterday, Aurand with help from Rep. Willie Dove (who also voted against restoring due process) hatched a scheme to gut another committee bill, insert the bullying policy bill leaving the due process amendment out entirely.  That’s right, the one that was passed by a majority of his own committee.  We can’t help but wonder why Aurand is expending so much energy to continue the insult against teachers while ignoring his responsibilities to work towards a school funding fix.  The answer is that for Aurand keeping schools open must take a back seat to ensuring that teachers can be fired for no reason at all.  And Aurand is trying to do this using the “gut and go” maneuver that is a standard practice of the most secretive legislature in the nation – a practice that has come to be seen as part and parcel of a Legislative desire to hide their actions from the public.

How did he fail (for now)? In their rush to trash the democratic process, Aurand and Dove tried to gut a bill that never had a hearing.  Rules of procedure do not allow a committee to take action on a bill that has never had a hearing.  Aurand and Dove either didn’t know that rule, didn’t care or most likely were too focused on succeeding with their sneak-attack to realize they were running afoul of the rules.  But, Clay Aurand is clearly not one to let small things like democracy or fully funded schools get in his way.  We fully expect that Aurand, Dove, and others are conspiring right now to manufacture a way to end the possibility that K-12 teachers may have due process restored.  What we know- based on their actions- is that they are almost assuredly NOT working on a school funding fix as they should be.

What can you do right now?  Use the contact information below to call AND email committee members and Chairman Aurand.  Let them know that you expect them to be working on a SCHOOL FUNDING FIX and to stop wasting valuable time and energy scheming ways to subvert democracy in an effort to stop the will of the majority who have voted to restore due process for K-12 teachers.  *The vote was a division vote (not recorded, but by raised hands) those who voted aye (yes) are noted by the asterisk.

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Temporary Teachers and Braille Materials

Feb 13, 2018 by

COUNTDOWN TO MARCH 1, ATTY GENERAL DEADLINE FOR SCHOOL FUNDING FIX

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Teaching as Community Service

The House K-12 Budget Committee today had a briefing on the Teach for America Program. It’s clear that they want to expand their presence in Kansas.

Teach for America recruits college students to be temporary teachers in hard to staff schools. These students are given some training over the summer and then dropped into a school with a very challenging student population (high poverty, high numbers of ELL students). They generally spend two years teaching and then leave for better-paying jobs.

The TFA representativeness assured the committee that their recruits leaving teaching to become doctors and lawyers and serve on boards of directors where they become community leaders.

The students, however, are left in schools with a constant staff churn while the future doctors and lawyers get essentially some time with community service.

We would love for high achieving young people to become teachers in all schools but we want those people to seek a career in teaching; to provide continuity for our students. Teaching should not be community service on one’s way to a better paying job.

Frankly, it is possible for us to do better. Kansas ought to invest in teachers. Pay them well, provide benefits and a sound retirement system. Hold them to the highest standards for entry into the profession. Respect them. These future doctors and lawyers could never aspire to be doctors and lawyers without excellent career teachers.

We don’t need Teach for America. We need a system that values, rewards and respects career educators.

House Ed Debates Braille Services in Private Schools

The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2613 which would require public school districts to provide assistive technology, sign language interpretation, or Braille materials to students in private schools.

The bill came about in response to a lawsuit against the Blue Valley School District. According to the parents suing, the district unilaterally changed their daughter’s IEP by requiring her to receive her Braille services in the public school. Blue Valley had apparently been providing Braille materials to her private school for four years.

The debate in committee boiled down to issues of curriculum – the public district would be required to provide materials that would not benefit any public school children because the private school curriculum is different – and opportunity – if the child has to go to the public school for services, then she is being denied the opportunity of attending a private school.

Questions by Committee members focused on cost and reflected continuing frustration that the state is funding special education well below the statutory requirement to reimburse 92% of excess costs.

This won’t be an easy issue for the Committee as both sides of the argument had compelling arguments.

The bill was not worked today.

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Schools Can Make Use of More Funding Effectively & Teachers Can Use Due Process

Feb 12, 2018 by

 

Due Process Restoration is Adopted in House Education Committee

It was a contentious debate but by the end of the House Education Committee meeting today, statutory due process for Kansas teachers was adopted. It will now go to the full House for consideration.

While working HB 2578 dealing with bullying policies, Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) moved to amend the contents of HB 2179 into the bill. This was not a “gut and go;” it was an addition. HB 2179 had a hearing last year but Committee Chair Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) adjourned the committee without working the bill. It later passed the full House as an amendment to another bill but was not taken up by the Senate.
Aurand was taken by surprise by the Winn amendment which was seconded by Rep. Mary Martha Good (R-El Dorado). A lot of discussion ensued with opponents of due process trying to stop the amendment through parliamentary maneuvers, none of which worked.

Rep. Steven Crum (D-Haysville) asked Chairman Aurand if he would consider taking up HB 2179 on its own later this week and then holding a vote immediately after on HB 2578. Without saying yes or no, Aurand went on to take a vote on the Winn Amendment. It was adopted on a vote of 9 to 7.

Rep. Willie Dove then offered an amendment to the underlying bullying bill that would further enumerate what district bullying policies should address. The Dove amendment was adopted.

Rep. Jene Vickrey tried offering a motion to pass the original bill (HB 2578) without amendments but was ruled out of order.

HB 2578, bullying policies and teacher due process, was then passed out of committee favorably for passage on a motion by Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway). It must now be considered by the full House of Representatives.

K-12 Budget Committee Hears from Superintendents – Lots of Uses for Additional Funds

Superintendents from Olathe, El Dorado, and Garden City appeared before the K-12 Budget Committee to fill in the members on how they would use an additional (perhaps) $200 million per year.

Their responses were almost identical despite their geographic differences. First and foremost – money would be used for personnel. All expressed the urgent need to raise teaching salaries but also salaries of licensed support personnel and hourly employees including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians. The point is they just can’t compete. Personnel costs would also include efforts to hire more counselors, social workers, psychologists, and classroom teachers to reduce class sizes.

Also brought up was the cost of health insurance with one superintendent saying that a beginning teacher would be left with only $2000 per month after paying for her share of the family health insurance premium. Superintendent John Allison of Olathe indicated that the KPERS retirement system for new teachers was a deterrent to recruiting teachers from other states but that the fact that his teachers have due process protections in their contract is a draw.

In summary, all the superintendents knew exactly how to put additional funds to work to improve schools, teaching, and learning.

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