KNEA/KPAC makes late recommendation: Vicki Schmidt for Insurance Commissioner

Jul 23, 2018 by

KNEA/KPAC last night interviewed Republican candidates for Insurance Commissioner and has voted to recommend Vicki Schmidt for election in the Republican primary.

Vicki is currently a Republican state senator from Topeka and has an outstanding legislative record in support of public schools, students, and public school teachers. She serves as Chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee and as Vice-Chair of the Robert G. Bethell  Joint Committee on Home and Community-based Services and KanCare Oversight. In the past, she has also served on the Senate Education Committee.

As a practicing pharmacist, Vicki knows the challenges faced by under-insured and uninsured Kansans. We are confident that Vicki Schmidt will fight hard to find ways to bring quality, affordable health care coverage to every Kansan.

At a time when some legislators are looking to force all school employees into one high deductible state insurance plan – a plan that will drive up out of pocket expenses for school employees and reduce coverage – it is critical to have an advocate for educators and affordable health care in the office of Insurance Commissioner.

KNEA/KPAC is proud to recommend Vicki Schmidt for Insurance Commissioner.

Hate Campaign Mail? Vote NOW!

Need we remind everyone that early voting is now open around the state?

You don’t have to wait until election day to cast your ballot. Look over your candidate lists, head to an early voting site, and cast your ballot TODAY!

As an added bonus, candidates usually track advance voting records and remove the names of those who have cast their ballots from their mailing lists. That’s right – you have the opportunity to avoid some, if not all, of the nasty campaign mail just by voting early!

Click here for a link to the KNEA/KPAC recommended candidates. We hope you’ll review it and then head out to VOTE!

And if you’ve never voted early before, read this testimonial in the Shawnee Mission Post.

“It’s hard to describe the rush I felt participating in America’s electoral representative democracy. The births of my children are the closest I can come. And I’m not even sure that fully does it justice.”

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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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Dyslexia Task Force Holds First Meeting

Jul 13, 2018 by

The Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia met yesterday in the Statehouse for what was essentially a meeting designed to learn about each other – what each person brings to the task force – and to review the charges put to the task force by the Legislature.

Dyslexia legislation has been an annual debate for many years. In the 2018 Legislative Session, a bill was brought forward that would have mandated every elementary child be screened specifically for dyslexia by the school district. Testimony in the education committees was often heated as parent advocacy groups and special education directors shared opposing stories of what is possible, legal, and achievable.

Rep. Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka), a member of the House Education Committee and a retired public school superintendent, working with other legislators including Rep. Tom Cox (R-Shawnee) who brought the original bill, came up with the idea of forming a task force to bring recommendations back to the Legislature. KNEA strongly supported the task force formation. When the House passed the task force bill and sent it to the Senate, Senate Education Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) worked with her committee to ensure that teachers would be members of the task force. KNEA worked with Baumgardner and the members of her committee to make sure the teacher voice would be on the task force. As a result, four teachers are members of this task force: Jennifer Bettles, Sarah Brinkley, Jeri Powers, and Tally Fleming.

The four charges given to the task force are:

  • Research and recommend evidence-based reading practices to address dyslexia or characteristics of dyslexia for use by schools;
  • Research and recommend high quality pre-service and in-service professional development activities to address reading difficulties like
    dyslexia, including identification of dyslexia and effective reading interventions to be used in schools and within degree programs, such
    as education, reading, special education, speech-language pathology, and psychology;
  • Study and examine current state and federal laws and rules and regulations, and the implementation of such laws and rules and
    regulations that affect students with dyslexia; and
  • Identify valid and reliable screening and evaluation assessments and protocols that can be used and the appropriate personnel to
    administer such assessments in order to identify children with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia or the characteristics of dyslexia as part of an ongoing reading progress monitoring system, multi-tiered system of supports, and Child Find special education eligibility for students.

Members of the task force were divided into four subcommittees assigned to address the four charges.

Those assignments are as follows:

Subcommittee 1; Research and recommend evidence-based reading practices to address dyslexia or characteristics of dyslexia for use by schools;

  • Rep. Brenda Dietrich, chairperson, Member House Education Committee
  • Jennifer Bettles, Title Reading Specialist, Herington Elementary, Herington USD 487
  • Jaime Callaghan, Director of Student Services, Auburn Washburn USD 437
  • Christina Middleton, Parent of a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia, Founder of Decoding Dyslexia Johnson County
  • Sonja Watkins, Principal, Hugoton USD 210

Subcommittee 2; Research and recommend high quality pre-service and in-service professional development activities to address reading difficulties like dyslexia, including identification of dyslexia and effective reading interventions to be used in schools and within degree programs, such as education, reading, special education, speech-language pathology, and psychology;

  • Dr. David Hurford, chairperson, Professor, Pittsburg State University
  • Alisa Matteoni, Parent of a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia, Board member International Dyslexia Association KS/MO Branch
  • Jeanine Phillips, Parent of a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia, Founder of Fundamental Learning Center, Wichita
  • Jeri Powers, Reading Specialist, Prairie Ridge Elementary School, Desoto USD 232
  • Angie Schreiber, Center Director, Cradle to Career Literacy Center

Subcommittee 3; Study and examine current state and federal laws and rules and regulations, and the implementation of such laws and rules and regulations that affect students with dyslexia;

  • Laura Jurgensen, chairperson, Attorney, KSDE
  • Mike Burgess, Disability Rights Center of Kansas
  • Lori McMillan, Professor, Washburn University School of Law

Subcommittee 4; Identify valid and reliable screening and evaluation assessments and protocols that can be used and the appropriate personnel to  administer such assessments in order to identify children with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia or the characteristics of dyslexia as part of an ongoing reading progress monitoring system, multi-tiered system of supports, and Child Find special education eligibility for students.

  • Senator Bruce Givens, chairperson, Special Education Administrator
  • Sarah Brinkley, K-6 low incidence special education teacher, Logan Elementary School, Seaman Schools USD 345
  • Tally Fleming, Classroom teacher, LaCygne Elementary School, Prairie View USD 362
  • Jennifer Knight, Parent of a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia, Families Together, Inc.

Subcommittees met to briefly discuss their charge and  possible action plans for moving forward. They will hold other meetings between now and when the full task force meets again on September 13.

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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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Kansas Supreme Court Rules in Gannon

Jun 25, 2018 by

Key takeaways from today’s ruling:

  • Funding remains inadequate, specifically relating to needed calculations for inflation in future years.
  • The current funding system can continue to operate this year, and the Kansas Legislature has until April 2019 to provide a remedy to the Court (the Court retains jurisdiction).
  • The Court recognizes that the Legislature has made progress.
  • KNEA President, Mark Farr, points out that Kansans need to vote and that retaining a strong coalition of common-sense, public education supporters in the Legislature is vital this election year.

“Our schools will open this fall as expected, and the Supreme Court did its duty according to the Constitution.  Today is a step forward for Kansas kids and communities and ensures that we will continue the progress the Legislature made in 2018 to Constitutionally fund our public schools,” KNEA President, Mark Farr.

At 3:00 this afternoon the Kansas Supreme Court issued its ruling the Gannon school finance case. The ruling has been expected.

The question front and center for most Kansans is whether or not schools will open on time for the 2018-19 school year. The answer is “YES.”

The second most asked question is whether or not the ruling would require a special legislative session. The answer is “NO.”

But before one concludes from this that the court found the Legislature’s work meets both adequacy and equity in school funding as required by the constitution, one has to review the entire decision. And indeed, the Court has ruled that, while the latest changes to the school finance formula do not violate the equity standard, the Legislature has not met the adequacy requirements.

Specifically, the ruling says, “The State has not met the adequacy requirement in Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution under its proposed remediation plan.”

The decision then goes on to assert that the state can meet adequacy if the State makes some “timely financial adjustments in response to the problems identified with the plan and its accompanying calculations and then completes that plan, the State can bring the K-12 public education financing system into constitutional compliance with the adequacy requirement.”

As in last year’s decision, the Court set a tight timeline for compliance calling upon the Legislature to finish its work and submit briefs to the Court on or before April 15, 2019. Response briefs will be due April 25, and oral arguments will be conducted on May 9 at 9 a.m. The court’s decision will be communicated by June 30.

In the meantime, SB 19 (passed in the 2017 session) can remain in effect while SB 423 and SB 61 (both passed in the 2018 session) can be temporarily implemented. The Court will retain jurisdiction.

The Court, as in previous school finance decisions, did not tell the Legislature how much more funding was necessary to meet adequacy but instead referenced financial adjustments that need to be made relative to adequacy, specifically surrounding inflation in future years as outlined in the State’s current plan.

Several issues were raised by the plaintiffs regarding some changes made in the latest legislation related to equity, but the Court sided with the State on those issues, ruling that equity is not violated.

The Court has now done its Constitutional duty and issued a ruling. It is up to the Legislature in 2019 to craft additional remedies to meet funding adequacy. In the meantime, schools will be opening on time, and the funds provided by the 2018 Legislature will be available for use in meeting the needs of our students.

The fact that the decision is not a slap at the Legislative response to the last Gannon ruling but instead calls upon the next Legislature to make some adjustments is a credit to the hard work of a broad coalition of Democrats and Moderate Republicans elected in 2016 who served in the last two legislative sessions. Much progress was made thanks to their efforts and Kansas is on the road to constitutional compliance.

It reminds us of the importance of elections. The Kansas NEA Political Action Committee met this last weekend and a list of recommended, pro-public education candidates will be released to our members shortly. Now that there is a direction on school funding, we need to elect the kind of Legislators that will understand and work to meet the needs of our great public education system.

“Supporting those candidates who support public education is our duty as professionals and as citizens.  My call is for every citizen to help strengthen the Legislature so that we may continue the progress we’ve seen.  We need Kansans to vote!” KNEA President, Mark Farr.

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Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Gannon School Finance Lawsuit

May 22, 2018 by

The Kansas Supreme Court today heard arguments from Plaintiffs and the State in the school finance case that will determine whether or not this year’s school finance bill will meet constitutionality on both equity and adequacy.

Although it is not officially part of the evidence in the case, a central point in arguments today became the school finance cost study done this year by Dr. Lori Taylor of Texas A&M University. Conservatives in Legislative leadership had hoped Taylor’s study would demonstrate that our schools were already adequately funded. Instead, the study suggested that in order to meet the goals of the state’s education plan Kansas needed to invest an additional $1.7 to 2 billion.

Justice Eric Rosen went so far as to say “Here, you all are always battling your own expert…” in response to the state taking a position contrary to the Taylor study.

Questioning was sharp and, as always, it is difficult to say for certain where the Justices are going although most observers agree that they appear to be skeptical about the adequacy of the latest legislative attempt.  As we’ve indicated in previous posts, the Court’s skepticism was not completely unexpected.

The Court has promised a ruling by June 30 although it is hoped that the ruling will be sooner – especially if it might require the convening of a special legislative session.

To read more coverage of the hearing, visit one of these news reports:

The Lawrence Journal-World

The Kansas City Star

The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Wichita Eagle

Kansas NEA remains confident that whatever the Court rules, the Kansas Legislature will take their responsibility seriously and address the situation in a way that ensures our schools are open in August – that every new Kindergartener and Kindergarten parent will experience that first day together and that every rising high school senior will begin their final year on time and on track to graduate.

While the uncertainty of funding is difficult for everyone, KNEA has planned for contingencies to ease the concerns of our members throughout the state. Whatever the decision and whatever actions have to be taken, Kansas NEA will be there to work with policymakers and to protect the education of our children and the well-being of Kansas educators.

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