Time to Act- Attacks Ratchet Up

Mar 8, 2016 by

Rep. Bradford & Sen Melcher leading attacks.

Rep. Bradford & Sen Melcher leading attacks.

First Bill on House Floor Tomorrow is Expansion of Vouchers

Representative Kasha Kelley (R-Arkansas City) will be carrying HB 2457 on the House floor tomorrow.

This bill is a radical expansion of a program that will do damage to our public schools, the state budget, and the education of low-income students.

Current law limits these tuition tax credits to at-risk children in Title I Priority or Focus schools. This bill opens the door to all students without regard to how they are performing in school or if the school is a highly successful one. It opens the door to students who are not now in public schools. It opens the door to half the families in Kansas by setting the only requirement as a family at or below 185% of the federal poverty rate.

The changes contained in HB 2457 would do the following:

-Remove any requirement that the program serve children with learning needs,

-Encouraging “cherry picking” of high achieving students,

-Remove $10 million from potential state revenue that could be used to better fund existing public schools and establish a ratcheting effect such that the loss to the state would increase by 25% annually.

-Allow state dollars to be used to send children to unaccredited, unaccountable private and home schools.

What legislators fail to consider is the return on investment of this plan? They question whether or not our schools are producing results worthy of investment. What is relationship between spending and learning outcomes? Yet in this bill the legislature is willing to give away millions in taxpayer money on schools that won’t report results to anyone.

This bill is not about helping children. It is all about the privatization of education in Kansas.

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We said it would happen.

They start out slow and then all of a sudden, it’s an all-out assault on our public schools, our profession, and our teachers.

This week in rapid succession, the legislature will try to divert millions of tax dollars to private schools, dismantle teachers professional associations, take school finance away from the State Department of Education, and limit bond and interest state aid for property poor school districts.

We told you this day would come and here it is. We will be asking you to take action now and over the days to come. Stay alert, stay engaged, and hold your legislators accountable for their votes and actions!

It starts NOW!

Melcher Continues on His Anti-Union Crusade

Well, at least when it comes to one union – the Kansas National Education Association. Senator Jeff Melcher (R-Leawood) has spent a significant amount of his time in the Senate trying to destroy teacher unions and public sector unions in general.

This time, he has Senate Bill 469 which would require a recertification election annually for any teacher association to retain representation rights. The bill will get a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. KNEA will join with the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators, and the Kansas School Superintendents Association in united opposition to the bill.

Here are a few of most anti-teacher sections (emphasis ours):

If the professional employees’ organization fails to receive votes from a majority of all professional employees in the represented unit, or if no election is held within the time period required under subsection (b), the professional employees’ organization shall no longer be recognized and the professional employees shall be unrepresented.

If a professional employees’ organization is no longer recognized after an election held pursuant to this section, the terms of any agreement between the professional employees and the board of education shall continue and remain in effect for the remaining term of such agreement, except for any provisions involving, in any manner, the professional employees’ organization, including, but not limited to, organization security, dues and fees and grievance and arbitration.

A new professional employees’ organization may be recognized in accordance with K.S.A. 72-5416, and amendments thereto, provided the professional employees’ organization is not substantially similar to or affiliated with any professional employees’ organization that lost its recognition as the exclusive representative within the immediately preceding 12 months.

The secretary may establish by rules and regulations a fee schedule for the purpose of paying the expenses of conducting elections held pursuant to this section. Such fees shall be collected from professional employees’ organizations participating in such elections.

House Ed Begins Debate on Bond Review Committee

The House Education Committee met today to work HB 2486, a bill creating the bond review process under which districts that receive state aid for bond and interest.

The intent of the proponents is to get more control over the amount of money spent on school construction bonds year by year. The bill has a number of components that seem intended to rein in costs such as limiting state aid to areas used for direct instruction of students and disallowing aid for athletic facilities including school gyms.

A very complex amendment was offered by chairman Highland. Highland, wanting to give committee members time to digest the amendment, announced that neither the bill nor the amendment would be voted on today. The matter will be taken up on Friday.

Issues debated today included whether or not this bill would make equity in the formula worse and even if the bill actually did control costs.

Most interesting part of the discussion was when Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) used as an example the Lansing School District. He asserted that there was a rumor that state aid would decline so a bond issue was rushed through and a brand new state of the art high school was built. Additional funds are being used to refurbish the old high school into a new middle school. Bradford said it was inappropriate for taxpayers around the state to help Lansing build the new facility when they already had a “perfectly good high school.” It’s rare when a legislator speaks against the interests of his own constituents.

Undermining Department of Ed and Local Control

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Quiet Under the Dome Today

Jan 22, 2016 by

Early session Fridays are generally pro-forma days on which committees do not meet, both chambers convene early in the day, and legislators head home for the weekend.

Today was no exception.

The consolidation bill, HB 2504, was a big part of our discussions at KNEA this morning. Consolidation discussions are nothing new in the statehouse but they rarely go very far. We have yet to see how one might fare with the more conservative House and Senate of 2015-16.

This bill requires all counties with fewer than 10,000 students to consolidate into a count-wide district. In counties with more than 10,000 students, districts would be consolidated such that no district would have fewer than 1,500 students. The districts in the Coalition of Innovative School Districts would not be dissolved but could have additional territory added to them.

The State Board of Education would redraw the lines in 2017 and be required to redraw them every 10 years in the future.

We are interested in what our readers think about this idea and would ask you to complete a simple three question survey at https://gpsimpact.typeform.com/to/m1NEgc.

You might also want to look for a back home legislative forum this weekend as an opportunity to ask you legislators what they think of mandatory school consolidation every 10 years.

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When is Consolidation, Not Consolidation?

Jan 21, 2016 by

Well, it’s here, the first major attack on public schools of the session. House Bill 2504 is titled “An Act concerning school districts; relating to the realignment thereof.” But as William Shakespeare famously said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) is not shy about taking credit for the bill. We suppose he wants us to believe that it is not a consolidation bill, but that’s exactly what it does.

In any county with fewer than 10,000 students, there will be a county-wide school district. In any county with more than 10,000 students, each school district will have at least 1,500 students. (That’s consolidation.)

The State Board of Education is going to draw up new school district boundaries and tell folks where they will go. But wait! There’s more! The SBOE will draw new boundaries every 10 years! That’s right. Your child or you as a teacher could wind up in a new school district every 10 years.

The bill will limit the number of administrators in the new districts. The state will take “surplus” property such as district vehicles and sell them to raise money for the state general fund. The so-called innovative school districts are kind of held harmless except that they can have territory added to them.

Now, specifically for our readers who are school employees, you could be a new employee of a newly “realigned” district every 10 years.

And what about our communities? Does it serve our communities to shift their school district boundaries every 10 years? What will this bill eventually do to our local schools? As the state requires more students in a school district, will they want to see more children in a school?

Ask your legislators how they feel about the forced consolidation of Kansas school districts, cutting the number of districts in half. Ask your legislators if redrawing school district boundaries every 10 years will provide the stability children and communities need to thrive. Ask your legislator if it isn’t better policy to let local communities make these decisions for themselves.

Find your legislator’s email by clicking here.

House members’ email addresses are firstname.lastname@house.ks.gov.

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