Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia: Penultimate Meeting?

Nov 29, 2018 by

The Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia met this week in an effort to begin (and hopefully finish) drafting their final report to the Legislature which is due on January 30, 2019. It didn’t take long to become clear that more time would be needed.

They did hear from each of their four subcommittees and begin to discuss the draft reports from each. Those subcommittees and their members are:

  • The Subcommittee on Evidence-Based Reading Practices, Rep. Brenda Dietrich, chair. Members are Jennifer Bettles, Jaime Callaghan, Christine Middleton, and Sonja Watkins.
  • The Subcommittee on Pre-Service and In-Service Professional Development, Dr. David Hurford, chair. Members are Alisia Matteoni, Jeanine Phillips, Jeri Powers, and Angie Schreiber.
  • The Subcommittee on Screening and Evaluation Process, Sen. Bruce Givens, chair. Members are Sarah Brinkley, Tally Fleming, and Jennifer Knight.
  • The Subcommittee on Current State and Federal Law, Laura Jurgensen, chair. Members are Mike Burgess and Lori McMillan. This subcommittee is made up of the ex-officio, non-voting members of the Task Force.

Each of the first three reports generated significant discussion which quickly challenged the agenda set by Task Force Chairman Jim Porter. Dietrich and Hurford both were also carrying edits to their reports as well as suggestions that certain recommendations would be abandoned or dramatically altered.

Among all the recommendations, perhaps those generating the most discussion and concern were the ones dealing with teacher training.

One recommendation under evidence-based reading practices calls for the State Board of Education to “provide training for all Kansas teachers to create dyslexia-friendly classrooms by incorporating strategies and approaches described in Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (IDA).” The limits to the ability of the SBOE to require training to all teachers including those in private and unaccredited schools ran up against the desire by many on the Task Force to see that every teacher in every kind of school, every teacher from pre-K through high school, creates a dyslexia-friendly classroom.

Similar discussions arose during the discussion of the report on pre-service and in-service professional development. Some wanted to see new master’s degree programs established in dyslexia, others sought endorsements. Some wanted specific numbers of annual hours of training for all teachers, others argued that such annual trainings would end up being something “people just sit through mindlessly like the blood-borne pathogens training.” A recommendation calling for the creation of new positions as “Classroom Dyslexia Educator,” “Dyslexia Practitioner,” and “Dyslexia Trainer/Supervisor” will likely be dropped.

Near the end of the meeting, Laura Jurgensen, an attorney and chair of the Subcommittee on Current State and Federal Law, urged each of the groups to be very precise in their language. They must consider the impact of phrases like “all teachers” and “all districts” and to remember that everything has a cost. Jurgensen pointed out that monies for education are directed to certain programs and tasks. Any recommendation that has a fiscal impact would require either shifting money from some current programs and efforts or finding a new funding stream.

Chairman Porter will ask that the Task Force, in some form, be maintained in order to have annual meetings for the purpose of evaluating progress. Staff pointed out that this Task Force will cease to exist on January 30 but that the Legislature could create another one or one could be appointed by the Governor or the State Board of Education.

It is noteworthy that no subcommittee had recommendations for the Legislature. All recommendations are directed toward the State Board of Education and some would naturally fall to the State Board of Regents.

The Task Force will meet again on January 10 at which time they will work to finalize the recommendations and to merge the four subcommittee reports into one document.

The subcommittee reports are not currently available online.

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We Had an Election!

Nov 7, 2018 by

Governor-Elect, Laura Kelly

The 2018 election is finally over and the preliminary results are in. It’s what you might call a “mixed bag.”

On the one hand, on the federal level, the Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Kansas is part of that change with the defeat of Kevin Yoder and the election of Sharice Davids in CD 3 which includes Johnson and Wyandotte Counties and part of Miami County. The new House of Representatives is likely to act as a check on President Trump and especially the wishes of his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Kansas has also elected a Democratic Governor and sent Kris Kobach back to the private sector- although no one really believes he will be gone for long. The extreme conservative ideology of the Brownback administration will be replaced by an administration known for cooperation and compromise. We look forward to that!

But there are some significant changes to the Kansas House of Representatives and the possibility of big changes in our Senate as well despite the fact that only one Senate seat was on the ballot this year.

So what follows is our preliminary analysis. We should let you know that we are working off the Secretary of State’s preliminary election results and final results won’t be available for a while yet. While not likely, it is possible that some results could change.

Additionally, we warn you that when looking at new Republican legislators it is sometimes difficult to be certain whether they will fall into the Moderate or Conservative camps once they start voting. We rely on the wisdom of those who have some familiarity with them but it’s not a scientific analysis!

Here we go!

The Democrats

The House Democratic Caucus has declined by one seat, going from 40 to 39. While six incumbent Democrats lost their re-election bid (Adam Lusker HD 2, Debbie Deere HD 40, Tim Hodge HD 72, Ed Trimmer HD 79, Steve Crum HD 98, and Eber Phelps HD 111), five new Democrats were elected making it almost a wash.

The six incumbent Democrats who lost were all defeated by Conservative Republicans.

The five new Democrats are Susan Ruiz in HD 23 who defeated Moderate Republican Linda Gallagher, Rui Xu in HD 25 who defeated Moderate Republican Melissa Rooker, Brandon Woodard in HD 30 who won an open seat where incumbent Randy Powell retired, Mike Amyx in HD 45 who will replace retiring Moderate Republican Tom Sloan, and Dave Benson in HD 48 who defeated Conservative incumbent Abraham Rafie.

Three of the new Democrats are replacing Moderate Republicans while two took seats from Conservatives.

The Moderate Republicans

Moderate Republicans picked up four seats currently held by Conservatives: Mark Samsel HD 5 replaces Conservative Kevin Jones who lost his primary for Congress, J.C. Moore HD 93 who defeated Conservative John Whitmer in the primary and went on to win the general, Nick Hoheisel HD 97 who will replace retiring Conservative Les Osterman, and Bill Pannbacker HD 106 who will replace retiring Conservative Clay Aurand.

But Moderate Republicans lost three seats they currently hold to Democrats in the general (Gallagher, Rooker, and Sloan) and an additional six Moderates will be replaced by Conservatives who defeated them in the primary. Those six are HD 8 where Chris Croft defeated Patty Markley, HD 28 where Kellie Warren defeated Joy Koesten, HD 39 where Owen Donohoe will replace retiring Shelee Brim, HD 74 where Steven Kelly defeated Don Schroeder, HD 75 where Will Carpenter defeated Mary Martha Good, HD 80 where Bill Rhiley defeated Anita Judd-Jenkins, HD 87 where Renee Erickson will replace retiring Roger Elliott, and HD 104 where Paul Waggoner defeated Steven Becker.

That’s a loss of 11 Moderate Republican seats offset by three Democrats resulting in Conservatives taking eight Moderate seats.

The Coalition

So with Democrats down by one seat and Moderate Republicans down by 11, the Conservatives will have a solid block that can control leadership elections and then the appointment of committee chairs and vice chairs.

In analyzing the Democrat/Moderate coalition that managed to reverse the Brownback tax disaster and restore a sound school finance system, we must look at a couple of factors. First, Democrats usually vote as a solid block in favor of public education which means there will almost certainly be 39 votes in support of public education issues. Sadly 39 votes cannot pass good legislation or defeat bad legislation. That means the Democrats must have the support of 24 Republicans to get to the necessary 63 vote majority.

Our legislative agenda is tied to the ability of Democrats and Moderate Republicans to work together to overcome the Conservative plurality. We believe that the new House will have just enough solid Moderate Republicans to reach the 63 vote threshold with the 39 Democrats. There are also an additional eight or nine Republicans who vote sometimes with the Conservatives and sometimes with the Moderates. If we can move some of those Republicans to support the coalition, we might be okay.

That’s where the cooperation comes in. With diminished numbers of Moderate Republicans and Democrats, it will be more important than ever that these two factions work together and cooperate in developing and passing good legislation that helps our schools and keeps our state moving forward.

In the Senate

While only one seat was up in the Senate- a special election to finish the term of SD 13 currently held by Richard Hilderbrand who was appointed to the seat when former senator Jake LaTurner became State Treasurer. Hilderbrand survived a challenge from Democrat Bryan Hoffman to retain the seat so the Senate remains 30 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one Independent.

But the actual membership and make-up of the Senate will be changing.

Democratic Senators Laura Kelly and Lynn Rogers were elected as Governor and Lieutenant Governor meaning new Senators will be selected to replace them. Republican Senator Vicki Schmidt was elected as Insurance Commissioner and a new Senator will be selected to replace her. These selections are made by the precinct committee chairs in the District representing the party of the departing Senator. So Democratic precinct committee chairs in SD 18 will pick a Democratic replacement for Kelly, Democratic precinct committee chairs in SD 25 will pick a Democratic replacement for Rogers, and Republican precinct committee chairs in SD 20 will pick a Republican replacement for Schmidt.

There is no telling yet who their replacements might be. They could be chosen from out of the House meaning some new House members would then need to be selected in the same manner or they could select entirely new people. In the case of Vicki Schmidt, the selection depends on the ideology of the precinct committee chairs. If they are mostly conservatives then Moderate Republican Schmidt could be replaced by a Conservative.

There is also much speculation about two other Senators. Independent John Doll left the Republican Party to run as Greg Orman’s running mate. What will he decide to do? Will the Republicans welcome him back? Will he stay as an independent or will he become a Democrat? Will he decide to resign from the Senate? The other one is Republican Senator Barbara Bollier whose public endorsements of Democrats Laura Kelly for Governor and Sharice Davids for Congress brought the wrath of Senate Republican leadership down upon her. What will happen to her if she returns as a Republican? Will she be given the worst assignments or welcomed back? Might she become a Democrat or another Independent?

So the Senate is still up in the air as to how it will look come January.

We have a new Governor!

We are very excited that the election of Laura Kelly as Governor means the door has finally been shut on the extreme conservative administration of Sam Brownback.

Kelly and her Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers are staunch supporters of public schools and public school educators. Kelly has twice won the KNEA “Friend of Education Award” and Rogers has served as a member of the Wichita Public Schools School Board. Both are known for an ability to reach across the aisle to seek compromise for the good of the state.

We are confident that Kelly will do her utmost to include all legislative factions in the process of crafting good legislation to address the issues facing Kansans but also that she will be willing to use her veto pen should she be presented with legislation that turns back the progress made during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

We look forward to working with her throughout her time as Governor.

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YOUR VOTE COUNTS. SO, CAST IT!

Nov 5, 2018 by

Have you voted yet? We really want to know because EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

You don’t have to look far to see how important every vote is. Just this past August, right here in Kansas, Kris Kobach won the GOP primary for Governor by just 343 votes out of 314,890 cast. And in Kansas House District 104, moderate and pro-public education Representative Steven Becker lost to an extreme conservative by just 9 votes  out of 4,081 cast.

(By the way, if you live in HD 104 in Reno County, don’t count Becker out – write him in!)

We’ve said this so many times before but it is still true. Why risk being the one vote that could have made a difference? VOTE!

We came across this article on NPR, Why Every Vote Matters — The Elections Decided By A Single Vote (Or A Little More), and found it to be the best argument for making sure you get to the polls to cast your vote. Our favorite story in the article is the election in which Kevin Entze, a police officer from Washington state, lost a GOP primary in a state House race by one vote out of more than 11,700 cast. And then he found out that one of his fellow reserve officers forgot to mail in his ballot. “He left his ballot on his kitchen counter, and it never got sent out,” Entze told Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Every vote really does matter to public school educators because every aspect of your professional life is impacted by the decisions politicians make.

How much funding your school gets is decided by the politicians elected as state Senators, Representatives, and Governor. How much you get paid and what your health benefits will cost is determined by the politicians on your school board. They also decide when you get new textbooks, what your supply budget will be, and how many students will be in your classroom. Rules for renewing your license are determined by the politicians on the State Board of Education.

You have to abide by their decisions and so you must use your vote to protect your profession.

So, if you have not yet voted in this election, you simply have to do so tomorrow, November 6.

You can’t let the weather deter you. You can’t let yourself lose track of the time and get there too late. Casting your vote is the most important thing you will do tomorrow for your career, your profession, and your students.

 

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Lesson from Alaska…Are you listening, Greg?

Oct 30, 2018 by

Kansas is not the only state to face a three-way governor’s race this year.

There are three names on the Alaska ballot as well. One is incumbent Alaska governor and Independent candidate Bill Walker who finds himself challenged by Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Mike Dunleavy.

But what makes the Alaska race different from the Kansas race is the fact that the independent candidate in Alaska announced he was dropping out of the race and endorsing the Democrat.

Walker came to the conclusion that he would simply be a spoiler in a three-way race and that, in his words, “Alaskans deserve a competitive race.” Walker knows that his positions are more in line with Democrat Mark Begich than with Republican Mike Dunleavy. He realized that Begich had a better chance of winning than he did and that he and Begich would simply split the moderate vote, handing the election to conservative Dunleavy.

Following Walker’s decision, there were tweets aplenty here in Kansas urging independent Greg Orman to do the same. Orman, who has not gone beyond 10% of voters in multiple polls, is likely to play the role of spoiler and hand the Kansas governor’s race to Kris Kobach.

And in big news today, Orman’s treasurer resigns, endorses Laura Kelly!

The Wichita Eagle reports that Greg Orman’s campaign treasurer, former state Senator Tim Owens, has resigned from the Orman campaign and endorsed Democrat Laura Kelly. In a press release from the Kelly campaign, Owens said, “This is a critical election for Kansas. We cannot risk the future of our state.” Click here to read the Eagle story.

All of this leads us to remind ourselves that a lot is at stake in this election. To that end, we’d like to share an article we published in our last print edition of EDTALK, “Orman? Kobach? What about Orbach?”

 

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Nothing Good is Ever Said in These Last Three Weeks

Oct 18, 2018 by

We have entered the worst period of every election cycle – the last three weeks before election day. This is the time that is designed for creating doubts, generating confusion, and taking the voter’s mind off what is really at stake.

For us, in Kansas, there is much at stake in this election. Fundamentally, this is about whether we continue to make progress on restoring the state budget and funding our schools or we turn back and embrace the failed economic policies of Sam Brownback once again.

You might think we are talking about the race for Governor – and we are – but it is so much more. In 2016 voters sent a wave of new Democratic and Moderate Republican legislators to the House and, working together, that coalition did marvelous work. They reversed the failed Brownback tax plan even delivering enough votes to override his veto. They voted to expand Medicaid and again the House delivered enough votes to override Brownback’s veto (sadly the Senate fell short). They delivered a new school finance formula modeled on the one Brownback’s allies repealed and while that formula is still considered somewhat inadequate in funding, it has been found to be structurally constitutional. And the House twice voted to restore due process protections for teachers that Brownback’s allies had stripped in 2014.

All of these important votes were accomplished not by the Democrats or the Moderate Republicans but by the Democrats and Moderate Republicans working as a coalition – as a team – to deliver results for the people of Kansas.

The political goal of KNEA and our Political Action Committee (KPAC) has been to preserve and increase the membership of that coalition. To that end, we promised legislators of both parties that if they stood strong for the issues we believe in, we would stand strong with them at election time.

Unfortunately, a number of our Moderate Republican friends lost their bid for re-election, falling in the primary to a conservative candidate allied with Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and the remnants of the Brownback majority. This makes it critical now that we support and re-elect every member of the House Democratic Caucus and every remaining member of the Moderate Republican Caucus. And at the same time, we must help Democrats defeat some of the conservatives in those races where a moderate Republican does not exist. 

Simply put, we need more coalition seats. Trading coalition seats does not build our capacity to pass good legislation and defeat bad legislation. Trading seats is a zero-sum game.

We acknowledge that a Democrat who defeats a Moderate Republican is very likely to be a solid vote for good policy and school funding. But it does not strengthen the coalition’s ability to hold off the conservative agenda. The only way we build legislative strength is to defeat more Brownback/Kobach ideologues.

We also acknowledge that there is another alternative – electing a Democratic House majority; electing 63 Democrats. That would mean holding the 40 Democratic seats they now have and defeating another 23 Republicans. We have yet to meet anyone who believes that is possible in one election cycle.

So when KPAC considers recommending candidates, we do it with one thing in mind – how can we elect a pro-public education majority in the legislature. Not “how can we elect a Democratic majority.” Not “how can we elect a Moderate Republican majority.”How can we elect a pro-public education majority of legislators regardless of party? 

So in these last three weeks, voters are being bombarded by mail that has little to do with policy and everything to do with sowing doubt and confusion. It is mail filled with references to obscure votes alleged to prove a candidate is evil. It is mail about their personal lives or something once “liked” on Facebook. It is mail with a photo of the time they were in the same room as Nancy Pelosi or Kevin Yoder.

Here is what we suggest. Don’t read the mail. Throw it in the recycle bin, shred it, line your birdcage with it. Just don’t read it. Instead turn to organizations you trust. We hope that includes KNEA. But maybe it’s the Mainstream Coalition or Moms Demand Action. Maybe it’s the Fraternal Order of Police or the Kansas Organization of State Employees. But go to them and look at their candidate recommendations/endorsements. And then cast your vote for those candidates. You’ll be doing the right thing.

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Steven Becker, HD 104, is a Write-in Candidate!

Oct 15, 2018 by

Reno County, You Have a Choice!

If you live in Reno County and specifically in House District 104, you may have thought that you had no choice about who your Representative would be in the 2019 legislative session. 

Well, now that’s not true!

Incumbent Representative Steven Becker lost his bid to once again be the Republican nominee in the August Republican primary by nine votes and since no Democrat has filed for the seat Becker’s loss meant that, without some miracle, voters would have no choice in the general election this November. By nine votes in a partisan election, the rest of the voters would have been denied any voice in their representation at all.

But sometimes miracles do happen. 

After much soul-searching and with lots of pleas from his friends, Representative Steven Becker has announced he will seek re-election via a write-in campaign.

Those who care about public education could not be happier. Becker was defeated by an extreme conservative challenger whose only campaign strategy was to accuse Becker of being an independent thinker – more specifically, Becker served as a Republican elected official who would not promise to march lockstep with the failed Brownback agenda. 

For two terms Becker distinguished himself as one of the most thoughtful, independent voices in the Kansas House. Becker voted for what was good for his district and the state of Kansas and not what was demanded of him by  Sam Brownback or the anti-education, anti-government crowd supported by Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. 

Becker supported public education; he supported public school educators; and he supported sound economic and tax policies that are fair to all Kansans and allow the state to provide for good schools, safe roads, and quality care for seniors and those who need a helping hand. 

That’s why Steven Becker was deemed a friendly incumbent legislator by the Kansas NEA Political Action Committee. And that’s a designation that continues into his write-in campaign. 

This November, all residents of Kansas House District 104 will have a choice – a choice to continue moving Kansas forward with a good school finance plan and sound tax policy or to return to the failed and reckless policies of Sam Brownback. 

The Kansas NEA Political Action Committee supports the re-election of Steven Becker to the Kansas House of Representatives and urges all friends of public education to write-in the name of STEVEN BECKER for House District 104 on their ballot in this election. 

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