KPERS Sweep; School Finance & Sex Ed; Anti-Common Core Guru

Feb 16, 2016 by

Budget Conference Committee Okays Taking from KPERS

It didn’t take long after both chambers passed a budget bill for a conference committee to hammer out an agreement.

One of the most important issues in the budget that we are tracking is the Governor’s desire to use KPERS money to balance his budget on paper.

The House bill allowed a delay in payments to KPERS into the next fiscal year. In essence, this action would make the state appear to have more money at the end of this fiscal year and give the illusion of a balanced budget.

The House had amended the bill such that the money would be required to be given to KPERS in the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest. The Senate budget bill removed the delay in KPERS funding so that KPERS payments would be made on time. It didn’t take long for the conference committee to take the House position.

With this action, it is looking more likely that the KPERS payments will be delayed and members of KPERS will have to keep their fingers crossed hoping the legislature and Governor do not renege on the promise to make the payment with interest.

The real problem in all of this is that the budget does not work. The delay balances the budget on paper only. Nothing is being done in either chamber to address the root cause of the problem – a series of reckless tax cuts that have turned the state’s revenue stream into a trickle. And nothing has been done or is even been talked about openly about dealing with the Supreme Court’s equity decision in the Gannon school finance lawsuit.

School Finance and Sex Education in House Committee

The House Education Committee held a hearing today on a classroom based school finance bill proposed by Rep. Scott Schwab (R-Olathe). Schwab’s bill, HB 2596, would require the legislative post audit division to calculate the cost of education on a per classroom basis for each congressional district. Based on that calculation, a district would get a certain amount of funding per classroom with additional funding for administration and capital costs.

In the first year, this plan would be piloted in one district from each congressional district and then apply to all districts the next year. Every year, an increase in funding based on the consumer price index would be applied and every 10 years costs would be analyzed again to make additional adjustments.

Schwab told the committee that his bill was “not ready for the floor.” He was providing a framework for a committee discussion. He urged the committee to listen to others and consider changes. “If you like the premise and want to make amendments, go ahead and do so. If you don’t like the premise, then okay, don’t do it,” he told the committee.

Chairman Highland (R-Wamego) left the hearing open in case they want to hear from others on the idea.


In a surprise move, Highland suggested they turn their attention to HB 2199. This bill from last year changes participation in human sexuality education from district choice on student opt in or opt out to mandating opt in. In addition, it would require district policies that guarantee any student who has not opted in will not be exposed to any of the materials from the class.

The bill was a response to a complaint from a parent in the Shawnee Mission School District. His daughter had taken a photo of a poster from the district’s adopted curriculum that she and her parents found offensive.

This bill would things very difficult for teachers in human sexuality programs. Essentially no materials could be out in a classroom that is used for classes other than human sexuality. Additionally districts would have to ensure that students who had opted in to the program did not share and materials with their friends who had not.

At the time of the original incident, the Shawnee Mission School District took action to ensure that the poster would not be used in the program, addressing the parental complaint. Not satisfied, the parent sought legislation.

The bill had passed out of committee last year and was never taken to the full House for debate. It was referred to an exempt committee at the tail end of the session and so was alive for reconsideration this year.

Representative Tony Barton (R-Leavenworth) made the motion to pass the bill out favorable. The motion passed and the bill now goes back to the full House for consideration.

House Ed Committee to Hear from Tea Party Darling, Duke Pesta

Duke Pesta, and English professor from the University of Wisconsin at Osh Kosh, is the invited guest of the House Education Committee for their meeting tomorrow.

Pesta is revered in Tea Party circles for his vitriolic attacks on the common core standards. He is the Academic Director of Freedom Project Education, an on-line high school providing a “K – 12 classical education with a Biblical foundation and Americanist perspective.”


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New Common Core Ban Bill; House Passes Budget

Feb 11, 2016 by

New House Bill Would Essentially Ban Education

Today’s bill releases includes HB 2676. This is a rehash of a Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) bill from last year that prohibits the use of any standards related to the Common Core or developed by any consortium or any other organization. As we reported on last year’s version, this bill would ban AP, IB, SAT and ACT, all of which are aligned to common core standards. It would also end participation in the Lexia reading program – a program singled out by conservatives in the legislature as a preferred reading intervention program. Lexia too is aligned with the common core standards.

This bill includes another proposal from last year dealing with a requirement for prior written consent from every parent before any data can be collected on a student.

“’Prior written consent’ means that a parent or legal guardian’s signature is required on a written document that notifies the parent or legal guardian what data will be collected, how the data will be collected, how the data will be used, what person or entity the data will be shared with and the dates over which the disclosed data will be used.”

Wow. You might want to read this one! Click here for a copy.

Sponsors of the bill, in addition to John Bradford, are Republicans Joe Scapa, Tony Barton, Blake Carpenter, JR Claeys, Pete DeGraaf, Willie Dove, Estes, Randy Garber, Mario Goico, Houser, Becky Hutchins, Dick Jones, Kevin Jones, Mike Kiegerl, Jerry Lunn, Macheers, Connie O’Brien, Jan Pauls, Virgil Peck, Randy Powell, Rahjes, Read, Marc Rhoades, Rubin, Seiwert, Sutton, Jene Vickrey, Weber, and Whitmer.

House Passes Budget Bill on Final Action

The House passed SB 161, the budget bill debated yesterday on a vote of 68 to 56. There was some thought that the Gannon decision handed down this morning might impact the vote since the ruling will require approximately $50 million in additional funding for K-12 schools.

A number of traditional Republicans and Democrats explained their NO votes, decrying the failure of the legislature to address the real issue – tax breaks that have eaten away at the state’s ability to fund services.

The bill also delays payments to KPERS. While an amendment offered by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Asaria) were adopted that would require KPERS to be paid within the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest, it does not ease the concerns of hard-working teachers and other public employees who have watched as the legislature drained funds from the highway fund. There is little faith outside of the statehouse that revenues will recover sufficiently to meet state needs.

The roll call vote is as follows:

YEA: Anthimides, Barker, Barton, Billinger, Boldra, Bradford, Campbell, B. Carpenter, W. Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, E. Davis, Dove, Esau, Estes, Ewy, Garber, Goico, Gonzalez, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Hemsley, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Hutchins, Hutton, Johnson, D. Jones, K. Jones, Kahrs, Kelly, Kiegerl, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mason, Mast, McPherson, Merrick, O’Brien, Osterman, Pauls, R. Powell, Prroehl, Rahjes, Read, Rhoades, Rubin, Ryckman, Ryckman Sr, Scapa, Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, C. Smith, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber, Whitmer, K. Williams.

NAY: Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Becker, Bollier, Bruchman, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Curtis, DeGraaf, Dierks, Doll, Edmonds, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Helgerson, Henderson, Henry, Hibbard, Highberger, Hill, Hineman, Houston, Jennings, Kelley, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Moxley, Ousley, F. Patton, Peck, Phillips, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Scott, Sloan, S. Swanson, Thompson, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, Wolfe Moore.

The Senate is debating a similar budget bill today. They began general orders debate at 3:00. The budget bill is third up and after a debate on a gun bill. We’re looking for a long night and so will report on the outcome tomorrow.

Education Committee Actions

The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2532, a bill putting financial literacy into the Rose Standards. The bill was supported by Committee Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego), KNEA, KASB, the Kansas Chamber, and State Treasurer Ron Estes. Walt Chappell was listed as a proponent but asked the committee to replace this bill with one that would mandate a course in financial literacy as a graduation requirement. No action was taken on the bill.

The Senate Education Committee worked Senate Bill 323, the Jason Flatt Act on suicide prevention. The bill would require training for teachers and principals on recognizing signs of potential suicide. KNEA support the bill while asking the Committee to ensure that teachers could not be held liable should a child actually commit suicide. The bill was amended so that the required training is one hour each year. They also added the liability protection and parental notification. The bill will now go to the full Senate.

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CONTACT YOUR SENATOR! VOTE NO ON HB 2096! Common Core Bill Voted Down

Mar 20, 2015 by

HB 2096 – the anti-public service bill – goes to the full Senate next week

Keep contacting those Senators!

The Senate Commerce Committee gutted House Bill 2096 and inserted into it the contents of SB 179, ending the Public Employee Relations Board and enacting severe limitations on collective bargaining rights for state and municipal employees, and Senate Bill 212, prohibiting all public employees from paying association or union dues via payroll deduction.

By putting these two anti-worker bills into the House bill, they successfully stop the House from any ability to have the bills heard in committee or ended. The House can only vote up or down on the bill on a motion to concur in the Senate changes. This end run around the legislative process is commonly known as railroading or ramrodding. It was used to pass the school finance bill that ends the current formula and cuts funding for most school districts.

This bill is the latest in the war on public employees being waged by conservatives in the Legislature. So far they have prohibited public employees from using payroll deduction for PAC contributions, ended fair dismissal rights for teachers, attempted to repeal the professional negotiations act, reclassified state employees to end fair dismissal rights, and now voted to dismantled protections in PEERA (bargaining for state and municipal employees) and ban payroll deduction for dues.

This bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration. If it passes the Senate, it will go to the House. We are almost out of time for consideration so the votes are likely to happen in the next couple days.

Make yourself heard!

Click here for a roster of Senators with phones and emails!

Phone them and leave a message. THEY MUST HEAR FROM KANSANS EVERYWHERE!

Once you have phoned, send an email.

Click here to access the KNEA Legislative email portal!

Talking points you might use:

  • I do not need big government to protect me from my own decisions. I work hard for my pay and I should get to decide for myself how to manage it.
  • HB 2096, as passed out of the Commerce Committee, prohibits me from making voluntary payroll deductions. How can government restrictions on my choices possibly be good policy?
  • Local communities and local governments should be free to make their own decisions about how to manage employee relations and payroll systems. HB 2096 undermines local control.
  • This bill is mean-spirited and unjustifiable. I ask you to stand up for the people who police our streets, fight fires, teach our children, and serve our state and community. VOTE NO on HB 2096.

House Committee Kills Common Core Repeal Bill

The House Education Committee met today to work HB 2292, the bill that would have immediately repealed all curriculum standards, end participation in the AP and IB programs and jeopardize Kansas participation in many other programs including the SAT’s National Merit Scholarships.

Rep. Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa) offered an amendment that would let the current standards stand until the State Board developed new ones in 2017 as part of the regular standards review process. The Grosserode amendment would also require that before any new standards were implemented they would need to be approved by both chambers of the Kansas Legislature.

Grosserode’s amendment was rejected by both those who support the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards and those demanding an immediate repeal of the standards.

Subsequent amendments by Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) were similar to the Grosserode amendment but without legislative approval. Those amendments failed as well.

Proponents of standards repeal repeatedly acknowledged that they did not have enough votes in the House for outright repeal tried repeatedly to soften the bill in an attempt to gain support.

After dispatching with the last Bradford amendment, the question was called on the underlying bill. The bill was defeated in committee.

Second turnaround approaches

For the most part, today marks the end of regular committee meetings. Next week, both chambers will be working to clear the backlog of bills that have come out of committee in anticipation of Wednesday, the day by which bills must have be acted upon by the second chamber.

They will likely adjourn on Wednesday leaving a couple of days for conference committees to hammer out differences until the full Legislature returns on March 30. They will be in session from then through potentially April 3, the “drop dead day” for bill consideration.

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Common Core and Collective Bargaining

Feb 23, 2015 by

A bill to ban common core and just about everything else

The House Education Committee held a hearing today on HB 2292, a bill brought forth by opponents of the common core state standards (known in Kansas as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards) that they hope will repeal the current standards and replace them with standards developed in 2003.

The bill goes much farther than common core. This bill ends anything done by a board or consortium outside of Kansas. It would end use of the SAT, the PSAT, and the AP Tests from the College Board. It goes on to specifically call out the AP tests and the International Baccalaureate Programs, requiring that those programs be rewritten to align with the 2003 Kansas curriculum standards.

In testimony on the bill KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti pointed out that, if passed, the bill would end National Merit Scholarships in Kansas, eliminate the potential for college credits for Kansas high school students through the AP program, and severely limit the chances of Kansas high school students for scholarships or entry into selective post-secondary programs.

Desetti also noted that the Legislature in adopted the Kansas Reading Initiative had specifically chosen the Lexia Reading program. But since Lexia aligns their program with the Common Core State Standards, the bill would prohibit school districts from using it.

The Common Core State Standards are supported by the United States Military to ensure that the children of military families can be certain of a basic set of educational standards no matter where the family is posted. Kansas, as a state with a strong military presence, would not be well-served by repealing the standards.

There were many conferees in the hearing today on both sides of the bill. No questions were permitted of the conferees and no action was taken on the bill.

Five Collective Bargaining Bills – Where They Stand

SB 136/HB 2257 – This is the consensus bill crafted by the education community (KASB, KNEA, USA/KS, KSSA). This bill would change the dates for notice and impasse to a more reasonable timeline; allow each side in the negotiation to notice no more than five items for negotiation thus limiting the number of items on the table in any given year; require salary to be negotiated every year; and provide training for bargaining teams. HB 2257 has not been given a hearing and sits in the House Education Committee. SB 136 had a hearing the Senate Education Committee but has not been acted upon. KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, KSSA all support these bills.

HB 2034 – This is the so-called “minority report” bill. It was crafted by Dave Trabert, Mike O’Neal, Dennis DePew, and Sam Williams. The bill limits negotiations to only salary and hours. If both sides agree, other topics could be negotiated but either side could refuse to negotiate on those items. HB 2034 had a hearing in the House Education Committee and was voted out. It now sits on the House calendar pending action by the full House. KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, KSSA all oppose this bill.

HB 2236 – This is a 2013 bill resurrected by the House Commerce Committee. This bill radically restricts collective bargaining and ends the exclusive representative provisions of the PNA. The Association could still be a negotiating representative but the contract would apply to members only. Any individual teacher could request that the board bargain an individual contract. The board would have no obligation to enter into individual negotiations and could simply make a “take it or leave it” offer. HB 2236 had a hearing in the House Commerce Committee and was voted out. It now sits on the House calendar pending action by the full House. KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, KSSA all oppose this bill.

SB 176 – This bill was introduced by Senator Melcher. It would end negotiations on anything except minimum salaries. Nothing else would be negotiable even if both sides wished to negotiate. This bill also ends provisions in the PNA for mediation and fact finding and allows the local school board to issue a unilateral contract as soon as impasse is declared. This bill had a hearing in the Senate Education Committee but no action has yet been taken. KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, KSSA all oppose this bill.

Today’s hearing on collective bargaining for teachers

Let’s repeat, the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, the Kansas School Superintendents Association, and the Kansas National Education Association spent the last 18 months crafted a consensus bill to make changes to the professional negotiations act which all four groups could support and would make bargaining more efficient, effective, and focused. That bill is SB 136 in the Senate and HB 2257 in the House.

But there must be some people who just can’t stomach the idea of the entire education community rallying together in support of one bill. We keep seeing bills tossed out to essentially end collective bargaining for teachers.

First there was HB 2034, the so-called “minority report” bill, supported by Dave Trabert of KPI. In a hearing on this bill in the House Education Committee, the four education groups testified against it while Dave Trabert supported it. Naturally the committee ignored the educators and sided with the Kansas Policy Institute. HB 2034 now sits on the House floor.

And despite having HB 2257 in Committee, Chairman Ron Highland has declined to hold a hearing on the education community’s bill.

Up in the House Commerce Committee, a hearing was held on HB 2326. This bill ends the exclusive representative provision in the PNA that allows employees to choose an organization to represent all the employees in bargaining. Under this bill a school board could still negotiate with the local association but the contract would only be for members of the association. Non-members could ask the board to negotiate with them individually but the board could simply make a take it or leave it offer.

Again, the whole education community testified against the bill which was supported by KPI, Walt Chappell, Steve Roberts, and Ken Willard. This Committee too chose to ignore educators and approve the anti-PNA bill. HB 2326 now sits on the House floor with HB 2034.

Over in the Senate, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on SB 136, the educators’ bill, but took no action on it.

Today, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on SB 176, a bill the limits negotiations to “minimum salaries” and ends all provisions for mediation and fact finding. Walt Chappell, Steve Roberts and KPI all testified in favor of the bill while KASB Executive Director John Heim testified against it on behalf of the four education groups.

Walt Chappell told the Committee that collective bargaining has allowed teachers to work only 2/3 of the day, the other third being spent in homeroom, planning periods, and other non-teacher activities. Chappell asserted that “You can hear a pin drop in schools 15 minutes after the last bell” because teachers all leave for the day.

Trabert told the Committee that he had spoken with superintendents and the superintendents were in favor of the bill (despite the fact that the Kansas School Superintendents Association opposes the bill). When asked who these superintendents are and why they don’t come to testify in support, Trabert said they were too intimidated to come forward and that he would protect their anonymity. Sen. Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) challenged this saying that she found it absurd that the leaders in school districts, the ones making the most money at the apex of authority, could somehow be too scared to come to a public hearing and make their position known.

The committee took no action on the bill today.

A little light reading!

If you’re a faithful reader of Under the Dome, you’ve probably had occasion to roll your eyes and wonder to yourself, “What are they thinking?!” Frankly, so do we. Today we came across this editorial in the Salina Journal and found it a particularly good summary of how crazy things can get up here.

Don’t think, just vote Republican, shut up (The Salina Journal, 2/22/15)



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Sex clubs, sex ed, school sports and the PNA

Feb 17, 2015 by

Everything we always wanted to know about sex

We managed to sit through a day of sexually-oriented hearings under the dome.

We started in the Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee where they were scheduled to discuss a bill on background checks and fingerprinting of teachers but first they held a hearing on bill more strictly regulating sexually oriented business (or SOBs as people are now calling them over there).

A long list of proponents of the stricter regulations appeared before the committee followed by an opponent who represents the clubs but not the book or “gift” shops.

We learned a lot that we did not particularly want to learn and unfortunately for us, the hearing took up the entire committee meeting and so the discussion teacher fingerprints never happened. It will be scheduled for another day.

Later in the day, we attended a hearing in the House Education Committee on HB 2199, a bill to mandate that all sexuality education programs be offered on an “opt-in” basis. Current law allows the local school board to decide whether to make sex education opt-in or opt-out.

Under an opt-in policy, no student would participate in sex education unless the parents signed permission for the student to participate; under opt-out, all students would participate unless the parents directed the school not to place the student in the program.

This bill came up last year after a child in a Shawnee Mission middle school photographed a poster that was part of the district’s curriculum and shared it with her father. The poster mentioned explicit sex acts (text only) and one can certainly see how parents could be distressed over its use. In response the Shawnee Mission school district removed the materials and changed to an opt-in program. HB 2199 would prohibit local school boards from using opt-out options.

The bill proponents did support the intent of the bill but later began to call our reading lists and the common core standards as issues of concern. One proponent suggested that Shakespeare could be appropriate for high school seniors. Another favorite topic was the book Fifty Shades of Gray as evidence of a need for a change.

Opponents of the bill were members of the clergy – a United Methodist pastor, a United Church of Christ pastor, and a Rabbi – all of whom argued the mandating opt-in would in fact dramatically reduce participation in programs and create roadblocks to the reduction of unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and STIs.

No action was taken on the bill today.

Senate Ed finishes work on homeschooler sports bill

Last week the Senate Education Committee was working SB 60, a bill to allow homeschooled or private school students to participate in public school sports and activities.

A number of amendments offered by Senator Vickie Schmidt (R-Topeka) were adopted that would:

  • Non-public school students must pay the same participation fees as public school students,
  • Non-public school students are subject to KSHAA rules,
  • District liability insurance must cover non-public school students,
  • Non-public school students must attest to academic requirements,
  • There is no guarantee of a spot on the team; the coach/sponsor decides,
  • Non-public school students must submit proof of immunization.

But the Committee ran out of time before considering the last Schmidt amendment. Today, they brought the bill back and adopted the last Schmidt amendment which would require these students to have proof of health insurance to participate.

The bill was then passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation.

Senate Education to hear bad collective bargaining bill tomorrow

You will remember that we reported on a hearing the Senate Education Committee on SB 136, the PNA modification bill crafted and supported by KASB, KNEA, USA/KS, and KSSA. The entire education community stood up in favor of a specific bill modifying PNA. No one appeared in the committee to oppose SB 136. Sounds like a pretty easy decision – all educators support it, no one opposes it.

But…tomorrow the Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on SB 176, the bill we described above and in yesterday’s report. A bill the whole education community opposes; a bill which will send the teaching profession back to the turn of the century (and we’re talking about 1899-1900, not 1999-2000!

You can contact the members of the Senate Education Committee on this issue by clicking on their names below:

Sen. Steve Abrams

Sen. Tom Arpke

Sen. Anthony Hensley

Sen. Vickie Schmidt

Sen. Dan Kerschen

Sen. Pat Pettey

Sen. Molly Baumgardner

Sen. Dennis Pyle

Sen. Jeff Melcher

Sen. Caryn Tyson

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald


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