Supreme Court Takeover – TAKE ACTION!

Feb 2, 2016 by

Big Day on the House Floor Tomorrow! Governor Brownback Wants Control of the Supreme Court!

House Concurrent Resolution 5005 will be debated on the House floor tomorrow. This resolution has been demanded for several years by Governor Brownback and legislators opposed to the school finance decisions handed down by the Kansas Supreme Court

Under the Kansas Constitution, a Supreme Court Nominating Commission first reviews the qualifications of persons who wish to be appointed. That commission, made up of representatives of the legal profession, chooses the three most qualified applicants to the Governor who selects one of the three to sit on the Supreme Court. This is known as the “merit selection system.” It is in the constitution to ensure that selection of justices is not a political decision and that justices are not subject to the prevailing political winds and instead focus on the law itself.

HCR 5005 would give the Governor full power to select justices on his/her own subject only to a confirmation vote by the Kansas Senate. As has become all too common in the federal system which HCR 5005 mimics, the selection of justices would become highly politicized in an attempt to ensure that the courts will uphold the political ideology of the Governor regardless of the rule of law.

KNEA opposes HCR 5005. Since it is a constitutional amendment, it would have to be placed on the ballot for a vote of the people. To get on the ballot the resolution must get a supermajority in the legislature – 84 votes in the House.

Let your Representative know that HCR 5005 is bad policy. Keep our courts objective and focused on the law, not politics. Click here for a House roster with links to emails.


House Ed Committee Hears Tax Credit/Voucher Bill

On day two of Bradford week in the House Education Committee, a hearing was held on HB 2457. This bill takes the current corporate tax credits for private school vouchers law and expands it exponentially.

HB 2457 would:

  • make the tax credits available to corporations and individuals,
  • eliminate the requirement that an eligible student is an at-risk student,
  • eliminate the requirement that an eligible student is in a public school now,
  • eliminate the requirement that an eligible student is currently in a Title 1 Priority or Focus school,
  • set income eligibility as 250% of the federal poverty level which is more than $60,000,
  • change the tax credit from 70% to 100%,
  • increase the tax loss to the state treasury to $12.5 million.

The proponents of the bill were Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing), the Kansas Policy Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Success for Kansas Students (represented by former public school superintendent Bart Goering), Bishop Wade Moore of Wichita (founder of Urban Preparatory Academy), and the Kansas Catholic Conference.

Opponents were parent groups Game on for Kansas Schools, Kansas Families for Education, the Kansas PTA, Mainstream Coalition, and the Goddard Education Foundation; public school groups KNEA, KASB, Northwest Kansas Educational Service Center, USD 501 Topeka, and USD 204 Bonner Springs; individual opposing were David Hand of Kanopolis and Marvin Miller of Wichita.

We will continue to watch this bill in the event that the committee chooses to work the bill.

Want to weigh in with the Committee members? Click here for Committee roster with links to their emails.

Tomorrow the Committee will have a hearing on HB 2504, Bradford’s massive school consolidation bill.

What do you think about expansion of tax credit vouchers for private schools?  Take our survey now.

 


House Commerce Committee Considers Bargaining Transparency

A bill requiring public collective bargaining meetings to be held in open meetings, HB 2325, had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee today. KNEA testified as neutral on the bill since its provisions already apply to the Professional Negotiations Act under which teachers and community college/tech college instructors negotiate.

Appearing in support of the bill were AFT/Kansas and the Kansas Organization of State Employees. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce submitted written testimony in support. Negotiations under the Public Employer Employee Relations Act (PEERA) are not currently open. Our fellow public employee unions felt opening the meetings would be beneficial to the process.

Opposition came from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Kansas State Troopers Association.

No action was taken on the bill today.


House Judiciary Committee Hears Bill Criminalizing Teaching Materials

Senate Bill 56 rose from last year’s dustbin to get a hearing the House Judiciary Committee today. This bill was thought to be bottled up in Committee and is evidence that no bad idea ever really dies under the dome.

This is the bill that removes the “affirmative defense” from teachers.

Let’s say a parent files a complaint that you taught pornography by having your students read The Scarlet Letter in your literature class or you showed a photo of Michelangelo’s David in your art history class. Under current law you can use the affirmative defense of the literary, artistic, or educational value of the materials. This bill essentially says the complainer is right.

While we doubt that there would be many teachers dragged before grand juries, the bill would cause school districts and teachers to self-censor materials. If one has a student in class whose parent is likely to disapprove of a book, one will no longer teach that book.

This is a terrible policy that jeopardizes the quality of education in every building. It would apply to public and private school teachers in Kansas.

KNEA strongly opposes this bill. We urge you to ask the members of the committee to reject this censorship bill and protect the integrity of instructional programs. Click here to access a roster of committee members with links to their legislative email addresses.

Click here to read the bill. Note that it removes the defense from K-12 teachers but retains it for post-secondary instructors.

 

 

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Criminalizing teaching! Capital Improvement! Active Shooter Protection!

Feb 1, 2016 by

Hearing Tomorrow on Bill to Criminalize Teaching of “Controversial” Materials

Senate Bill 56 which was passed by the Senate last year has been resurrected in the House Judiciary Committee. It will have a hearing tomorrow at 3:30.

This is the bill that removes the “affirmative defense” from teachers.

Let’s say a parent files a complaint that you taught pornography by having your students read The Scarlet Letter in your literature class or you showed a photo of Michelangelo’s David in your art history class. Under current law you can use the affirmative defense of the literary, artistic, or educational value of the materials. This bill essentially says the complainer is right.

While we doubt that there would be many teachers dragged before grand juries, the bill would cause school districts and teachers to self-censor materials. If one has a student in class whose parent is likely to disapprove of a book, one will no longer teach that book.

This is a terrible policy that jeopardizes the quality of education in every building. It would apply to public and private school teachers in Kansas.

KNEA strongly opposes this bill. We urge you to ask the members of the committee to reject this censorship bill and protect the integrity of instructional programs. Click here to access a roster of committee members with links to their legislative email addresses.

Click here to read the bill. Note that it removes the defense from K-12 teachers but retains it for post-secondary instructors.


House Ed Hears Bill Establish Review Panel for Capital Improvement State Aid

The House Education Committee held the first of three hearings on the so-call “Bradford Bills.” The first was HB 2486 which establishes a review board for determining if a district’s building project will be eligible for state aid, a key component of the equity provisions in school finance.

The proponents of the bill were Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and Walt Chappell. Chappell was the most outrageous, asserting that the quality of facilities has no impact on student learning. In fact, the opposite has been shown repeatedly in research.

While KASB appeared as neutral on the bill, KNEA, Kansas Families for Education, Galena Superintendent Brian Smith, Topeka Superintendent Julie Ford, USD 497 School Board VP Marcel Harmon, Bonner Springs school board member Bonnie Welicky, and Kansas PTA President Denise Sultz all provided testimony against the bill.

KNEA argued that facilities do have an impact on student achievement as well as teacher recruitment and retention. While we have an appreciation for the Legislature’s frustration with the unpredictability of the dollars necessary to fund capital improvement state aid, it would be better to makes changes as part of the new school finance system to be written later.

Tomorrow they will hear HB 2457, the radical expansion of the tuition tax credit program and Wednesday will be HB 2504, the mandatory consolidation bill.


Senate Ed Committee Learns About Product for Protecting Students from Shooters

The Senate Education Committee listened to a presentation by the Overland Park based SafeDefend company.  According to SafeDefend’s promotional literature, “SafeDefend enhances your current school safety plan and any system or process currently in place. With the swipe of a finger [and about $500 per box].”  According to the founder and his staff, meetings with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies indicate that current response plans for dealing with a crisis such as an active shooter are not effective.  SafeDefend is a locked ‘safe box’ which could be placed in a classroom or other school room and is activated by a finger print scanner.

The SafeDefend box is interconnected and upon activation by authorized personnel, the box notifies a number of agencies but also sets off a variety of visual and audible alerts that an emergency is ongoing on campus.  Presenters noted that their research indicates that a majority of active shooter situations come from students who are carrying firearms to school rather than from outside the building.  Thus, school lockdown protocols are ineffective in these situations according to SafeDefend.  Additionally, SafeDefend indicated that communities can’t expect timely response by ambulances or law enforcement in order to mitigate active shooter emergencies or the resulting physical trauma inflicted.  According to SafeDefend, the box contains tools and supplies to break windows for escape and to “stop the bleeding” until emergency responders arrive.

SafeDefend is being used in some schools and other municipal buildings which are noted on the SafeDefend website.  SafeDefend representatives report that their product is an effective insurance policy and gives faculty, staff and parents peace of mind.  Following their presentation, Chairman Abrams stated that their presentation before the committee was not to be interpreted as an endorsement of their product.  The meeting adjourned with no other discussion or action.

 

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Your Action Needed Now!

Feb 6, 2015 by

House Ed Committee to debate changes to PNA!

Take action now!

On Tuesday of next week, the House Education Committee is set to debate and possibly vote on HB 2034, the “minority report” bill changing collective bargaining for teachers.

This bill is opposed by KNEA, the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators/KS, and the Kansas School Superintendents Association.

The four educational organizations have offered a separate bill with suggested improvements to the Professional Negotiations Act that would make bargaining more efficient, more effective, and more focused.

Contact the members of the House Education Committee and urge them to reject HB 2034 and instead adopt the agreement offered by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA.

The members of the committee are listed below. Their names are linked to their email addresses.

Ron Highland

Jerry Lunn

Valdenia Winn

John Barker

Tony Barton

Sue Boldra

John Bradford

Carolyn Bridges

Rob Bruchman

Diana Dierks

Willie Dove

John Ewy

Amanda Grosserode

Dennis Hedke

Nancy Lusk

Charles Macheers

Marc Rhoades

Chuck Smith

Ed Trimmer

 


Anti-education

Governor Brownback and the Kansas Legislature are ramping up their attacks on the education community in the hopes that Kansans will “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Yesterday Brownback announced $44.5 million in cuts to education ($28.3 million from K-12; $16.2 million from higher ed) to take effect in March. The cuts are needed thanks to the reckless income tax cuts passed at the Governor’s behest. Revenue continues to plummet and the promised “shot of adrenaline to the heart of the Kansas economy” has not materialized. Yet still, Brownback insists that his plan is working and he will “stay the course.”

The legislature is also considering changes to LOB state aid calculations that would reduce school funding by $39 million and they will be delaying capital outlay payments to schools to address a “cash flow” problem.

The cuts announced yesterday include a 1.5% across the board cut to K-12 schools (about $42 off of Base State Aid Per Pupil this year) and a 2% cut to higher education. Specified were cuts to each of the Regents 4-year institutions and an additional $4.5 million to be cut from community colleges and tech colleges.

Anti-KNEA

But apparently part of the problem is that the KNEA is controlling school board elections. That’s why Sen. Mitch Holmes needed to introduce legislation moving school board elections to November. Said Holmes, “The teachers unions do not want to give up the majority they currently enjoy in low turnout, off-cycle elections,” (Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article9366713.html#storylink=cpy)

We suppose Holmes wants you to believe that teachers unions control the school boards and that’s why school spending goes up – you know, to cover the enormous salary increases being granted by the union-controlled school boards.

In reality, moving school board elections to November and making them partisan will simply result in turning local elections into the kind of election circus one sees with state and federal elections. Imagine the kind of mail you’ll be getting for school board candidates!

Anti-intellectual

Another big part of the problem in Kansas today is apparently being caused by liberal elite college professors writing in our newspapers. Sen. Forrest Knox has introduced a bill to require that the Regents universities adopt policies prohibiting professors from identifying themselves as professors when writing editorials or op-eds. We wouldn’t want readers to know that the writer might be educated or knowledgeable on the topic of the editorial especially if that editorial might be critical of Governor Brownback or the Kansas Legislature.

There is speculation that this bill is directed at a group of Kansas professors writing as Insight Kansas. Included in Insight Kansas are political science professors like Burdett Loomis at KU and Chapman Rackaway at Fort Hays State. (Read more here: http://cjonline.com/news/2015-02-05/legislation-bans-professors-using-titles-newspaper-columns)

Anti-piano

And now we need to stop that piano! It seems that the Kansas City, Kansas School District purchased a grand piano for $48,000. The Governor cited this purchase in his press release announcing his education cuts. Brownback said the district should have hired a teacher instead.

Facts conveniently ignored by critics of the purchase:

  • The piano replaces one that is at least 40 years old.
  • The piano was for Sumner Academy, a nationally recognized high school that has an arts focus.
  • The piano is used to help students prepare for concerts and auditions when applying for prestigious post-secondary music programs.
  • Sumner Academy and the KCK Schools serve predominantly low-income students who would otherwise not have access to such an instrument.

But we should not be surprised. This is the Governor that made a name for himself early in his first term by ending the Kansas Arts Commission.

So, pay no attention to the “men” behind the curtain. The first string they pulled dismantled the state’s revenue stream. Now they’re dismantling state services, silencing dissent, and hiding behind straw pianos.

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