Transparency (n.) – when Kansas extremist legislators admit to open attacks on public education.

Mar 10, 2016 by

silentHouse Ed Returns to Their Extremist Agenda Tomorrow; Plans Include Stripping Due Process Rights from Higher Ed Instructors!

House Education Committee Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego) announced publicly today that he will bring SB 136 back into committee for a hearing tomorrow. This made many of us curious given that SB 136 contains only current law on collective bargaining – it is the bill that contained the education community’s PNA proposal that passed in another bill.

Now why would a committee have a hearing on a bill that already passed, albeit under a different number? The only reason is that one intends a “gut and go.” Highland, under questioning from Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City), admitted that he intended to gut SB 136 and insert the contents of HB 2531, the anti-due process bill. So this bill will be coming out of the House Education Committee yet again tomorrow.

But in addition, we’ve just learned that he will also bring back HB 2292, the bill repealing Kansas learning standards! Look for amendments to this bill and then sending it back to the floor.

CLICK HERE to Keep the Pressure On! Don’t be silenced!

 


True to Her Word, Senator Lynn Pushes Anti-teacher Bill out of Committee

Waging her war on Kansas teachers, Senator Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) railroaded Senator Jeff Melcher’s (R-Leawood) anti-teacher bill designed to stop collective bargaining for teachers in Kansas out of committee this morning. She had to cut off a Democratic senator from trying to make an amendment; she had to cut off KNEA General Counsel David Schauner’s response to a committee member’s question, but she got her way.

Senate Bill 469 would require the recertification of all teacher representative organizations every three years. This would be done via elections run by the Kansas Department of Labor.

Among the provisions specifically written to diminish teacher rights to representation are:

  • The Department of Labor would be required to conduct nearly 300 representation elections. If the department were unable to conduct all of these elections due to manpower constraints, those districts in which elections were not held would automatically be decertified. Teachers would be statutorily denied a representative for at least 12 months and lose their contract protections.
  • SB 469 mandates elections through the Department of Labor but requires the teachers to pay the Department for those elections – a classic “unfunded mandate.” Even if there was no challenge in the election, teachers would be billed by the Department of Labor for an unnecessary election.
  • Under this bill, representation would be denied unless one organization received more than 50% of the votes of all eligible voters. If people chose not to vote, it would essentially be counted as a vote for no representation. If the Senators on the Commerce Committee were held to the same super majority standard in their elections, not one would be serving in the Senate today – even the two who were unopposed in their last election! Those Senate seats would remain vacant until the next election, denying representation to all the voters in those districts.

Make no mistake about this bill. Its sole purpose is to deny teachers representation and ensure that collective bargaining cannot take place. The only proponents for the bill (other than Lynn, Melcher, and other anti-union, anti-teacher legislators) were the Kansas Policy Institute’s Dave Trabert, the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, and the Association of American Educators, an alleged teacher organization funded primarily by right wing foundations for the purpose of ending collective bargaining.

The Kansas AAE has successfully de-certified a few KNEA locals using the process currently in law and then left those teachers to fend for themselves at the bargaining table. Passage of SB 469 would assist KPI, AFP, and AAE in eliminating collective bargaining for nearly all teachers without having to do any work whatsoever.

Opposition to the bill came from all Kansas education organizations (KASB, KNEA, USA, KSSA), a number of private citizens, and other labor organizations.

The bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration sometime next week.


Sen. Masterson Pulls SB 311 in Response to Overwhelming Public Criticism

Citing public outcry and bad press, Senator Ty Masterson (R-Andover) abruptly cancelled the hearing on SB 311 which would transfer education funding from the Department of Education to the Department of Administration. Masterson said it was impossible to have a rational discussion of the issue given the level of negative press. The hearing drew a large number of opponents ready to testify. There is enormous suspicion about the motives behind a bill that would take school funding out of the department controlled by the State Board of Education and shifting it to a department controlled by the Governor.

This should not be surprising given the number of attacks launched on schools, school administrators and board members, and teachers by this legislature.

This year we’ve seen serious consideration of HB 2457 transferring millions of dollars into unaccredited private schools via tax credits, SB 469 intended to destroy teacher organizations, HB 2292 eliminating Kansas education standards, and HB 2531 denying due process to community and technical college instructors.

And it’s not over.

 

 

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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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Approaching Drop Dead Day

Mar 27, 2015 by

Payroll Deduction, PEERA Bill Now in Ways & Means

House Bill 2096, the bill crafted by the Senate Commerce Committee that contains SB 179 dismantling collective bargaining for state and municipal employees and SB 212 banning the use of payroll deduction by public employees (including school employees) for any voluntary deductions.

There was an attempt on the Senate floor to limit the ban on voluntary deductions to only voluntary deductions for union or association dues. That attempt failed. The bill was then passed over on the floor and later referred by leadership back to the Ways and Means Committee.

The bill now sits in the Committee where it could be worked and sent back to the floor. It is also possible that it will simply stay there and remain available until the end of the 2016 Legislative Session.

We will continue monitoring the bill.


Senate Commerce Committee to Hear Bill on Reclassifying State Employees

House Bill 2391 passed the House and is now in the Senate Commerce Committee. There will be a hearing on this bill on Tuesday of next week.

HB 2391 contains the Governor’s proposal to move more state employees into unclassified positions. Such a move would enable government agencies to more easily terminate employees who would no longer be under the collective bargaining agreement. Critics believe this bill will open up public employees to political decisions including being let go for a lack of support for the administration’s legislative positions.

We will continue to watch this highly controversial bill.


Out of Sight; Out of Mind

Perhaps that’s what Governor Brownback was thinking when he quietly gathered his staunchest legislative allies and signed SB 7, the repeal of the school finance formula, in a closed ceremony.

The signing was not announced and no reporters were permitted access to the event. The signing was announced in a press release later.

Normally, bill signings are treated like real ceremonies where the Governor greets the press and tries to secure positive press reporting. Columnists have speculated that the Governor either did not want to answer difficult questions from the press or be asked about his support for bill opposed by nearly everyone involved in public education. The only support for the bill in hearings came from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Policy Institute, and the Tea Party-aligned Kansans for Liberty.


Conference Committees and Floor Time

Next week it will be mostly conference committees and floor debates as the Legislature works its way towards April 3 – Drop Dead Day. This is the date by which all legislation – with the exception of the big budget and revenue bills – be passed, killed, or deferred until next year.

The Legislature will be on break from April 4 through April 28, returning for the annual “veto session” on April 29.

We, too, will not be posting daily until the return. Look for occasional postings until then.

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Bad PNA Bill Voted Down in Senate!

Mar 25, 2015 by

Senate votes down Melcher PNA bill

Video Update:

Yesterday we reported that the Senate had approved an amendment by Sen. Jeff Melcher that changed the PNA bill agreed to by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA into a bill that all opposed. The Melcher amendment would have allowed the negotiation of only minimum salaries and prohibited the negotiation of any fair dismissal or due process procedures in non-renewals. Additionally the amendment ended the continuing contract law and fact-finding as part of the negotiation process.

The Senate had earlier pass a PNA bill agreed to by educators on a unanimous vote but yesterday, 20 of those senators reversed course in voting for the Melcher amendment.

The bill – now in HB 2326 – was up for a final action vote on the floor of the Senate this morning. A preliminary count on the vote showed the bill with only 18 votes – three short of the required 21 for passage. A call of the House was put on to force some who had passed to vote.

As those votes were cast, the vote turned to 19 ayes and 21 nos. With the bill losing, other Senators then changed their vote and the bill was defeated on a vote of 13 to 27.

At this point, the bill is considered killed although there is the possibility that someone might try a motion to reconsider the bill. We will be watching for this the rest of today and on Monday.

Voting NO on the bill were:

Bowers, Denning, Donovan, Faust-Goudeau, Fitzgerald, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Holmes, Kelly, Kerschen, King, LaTurner, Longbine, Love, McGinn, O’Donnell, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pettey, Schmidt, Smith, Wagle, Wilborn, and Wolf

Voting YES were:

Abrams, Arpke, Baumgardner, Bruce, Knox, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, Olson, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Pyle, and Tyson


Senate Ed Committee Finishes Hearing on Abrams Finance Bill

The Senate Education Committee met over lunch again today to finish the hearing on SB 294, Senator Abrams’ pilot school finance proposal.

Testifying today were Chris Brown of the Tea Party’s Kansans for Liberty, Mark Tallman of KASB, Mark Desetti of KNEA, and Cheryl Semmel of USA/KS. All testified as neutral suggesting that the bill had some interesting ideas but also raised concerns.

KNEA specifically mentioned concerns about the proposed Success Incentive funds. While the plan is to reward school districts whose graduates move into higher education or the workplace in the 24 months following graduation, there is no way currently to gather the data required for making all of these decisions. Additionally, they don’t account for those who choose to take low-wage jobs after graduation to save money for college. The plan will also likely raise very serious concerns for those who already have problems with the sharing of individual student data.

Since the bill is double-referred to both Education and Ways and Means it must be approved by both committees in order to be sent to the floor. It is awfully late in the session for such major legislation to be considered.

We’ll be tracking this bill over the next week.


Legislature to be out until next week

Today is second turn around, the day by which bills must have been voted on by the second chamber in order to go on. Bills that don’t get through the second chamber and are not in an exempt committee will die tonight.

Of course, as all of us learned last April, no bad idea ever dies. Please remain connected and vigilant through the last Legislative day sometime in May!

 

 

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Senate reverses on PNA; sides with KPI, KCC instead of Educators

Mar 24, 2015 by

Melcher leads attack on teachers

Senator Jeff Melcher led the attack on teachers in the Senate today, convincing 19 others to abandon the bill the Senate earlier approved 40 to 0 and reflected the agreement among KNEA, KASB, KSSA, and USA/KS on improvements to the Professional Negotiations Act.

Melcher, who has focused his time in the Senate on stripping public employees of any rights they might enjoy in law, offered an amendment on a PNA bill today that does four things:

  • It ends fact-finding in the bargaining process,
  • It sunsets all current contract provisions on their next expiration date,
  • It bans the negotiation of salary provisions beyond “minimum salaries,” and
  • It prohibits districts and unions from negotiating due process provisions in their contracts.

In his summation on the Senate floor, Melcher told the body that teachers would appreciate this bill because it would free school districts to increase their salaries and set Kansas on the path to terminating 7 to 10% of all teachers. Melcher maintains that firing these teachers will put Kansas top in the world in education.

Voting with Melcher to gut collective bargaining for teachers were:

Abrams, Arpke, Baumgardner, Bruce, Denning, Donovan, Fitzgerald, Holmes, King, Knox, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Pyle, Smith and Wilborn.

Voting to respect the education community’s agreement on professional negotiations were:

Bowers, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, Kerschen, LaTurner, Longbine, McGinn, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pettey, Schmidt, Tyson, and Wolf.

Present but not voting were:

Love and O’Donnell

Coming to the floor this bill had the support of KNEA, KASB, KSSA, and USA/KS. With the Melcher amendment, all four organizations oppose the bill.

The bill will be subject to a final action vote sometime tomorrow.

It is critical that you contact your Senator TONIGHT by phone and email. Tell them that these attacks on teachers must stop. Vote NO on HB 2326.

Click here to access a Senate roster with office phone numbers and emails.

Debate on payroll deduction and PEERA bill halted

HB 2096 was taken up by the Senate today but after a vote on one amendment, the bill was pulled from debate and set aside on the calendar. It could come up later so keep watching.

As the bill was being debated, an amendment was offered by Sen. Garrett Love that would have stripped out the Baumgardner amendment. That amendment banned payroll deduction for any voluntary contributions – union dues, United Way, car payments to credit unions, etc. Baumgardner had argued if the state needed to get out of the business of helping others collect money, then it should be applied fairly and not only to unions.

The Love amendment failed on a vote of 13 to 19 with 7 Senators present and passing and one absent.

When the amendment failed, the bill was passed over. It could come back tomorrow.

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