Dyslexia and Due Process

Mar 14, 2018 by

Dyslexia Task Force Bill Gets Senate Hearing

The Senate Education Committee held a hearing today on Sub for HB 2602, a bill establishing a Task Force to study issues around the handling of dyslexia in schools and make recommendations to the legislature. Dyslexia has become a perennial issue in the education committees.

A number of parents of students with dyslexia testified in favor of the bill as did the Disability Rights Center and KNEA.

In remarks to the Committee, KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti noted that this task force, like most legislatively established education task forces, has no teachers. “Those working directly with our children have no voice on the task force,” said Desestti. “There is a belief, apparently, that teachers are waiting for groups of legislators, administrators, and parents to tell them how to do the job for which they are trained and licensed.”

Desetti also noted that one parent told the committee that her child’s second-grade teacher told her in a conference that perhaps her child was dyslexic and should be evaluated. This led to a diagnosis by a medical professional and much-needed support for her child. But another parent said that when she asked a teacher if her child might be dyslexic, the teacher told her, “We are not allowed to mention the ‘D’ word!”

“Both are true,” said Desetti. I have heard that some school administrators or boards of education have directed teachers not to suggest dyslexia as a possible explanation for a child’s reading difficulties. I also know that those classroom teachers are the  best advocates for a child after the child’s own parents.”

Here, one teacher advocated for her student with the parent. The other teacher admitted she was directed not to advocate if such advocacy included the word “dyslexia.” Kansas, Desetti noted, is one of only two states in the nation that provides absolutely no job security protection or due process for teachers. Teachers want to fight for their students but what happens to a teacher – an at-will employee – who breaks with an administration that told her not to mention dyslexia?

We want teachers who stand up for the best programs and support for every child. If our teachers had due process it would provide the platform for them to be strong advocates. We’re still looking for the Senate to take up the issue.

We Must Let Those Reps Who Voted YES on Due Process Know How Much We Appreciate Their Support

73 members of the Kansas House of Representatives voted to restore due process rights to Kansas teachers, sending the bill over to the Senate where it awaits a hearing now.

Recent news has revealed that while Kansas teachers are 42nd in the nation in teacher salaries, they are dead last in pay when compared to private sector workers in their own state. For every dollar earned in the private sector in Kansas, a Kansas teacher earns 71 cents. On top of that, the retirement system for new Kansas teachers is significantly worse than that provided in our neighboring states. And then, to add insult to injury, the Kansas Legislative Research Department reported that Kansas is one of only two states in the nation that have no job security measures – such as due process – for teachers. These are three big reasons why Kansas is struggling to find teachers to staff our classrooms and why young Kansans are choosing alternative occupations.

So we should be thanking those legislators who are trying to turn this around every chance we get.

If your Representative is one of the 73, you can click here to find a thank you note to post on your social media feeds – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, any and all channels.

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Thank a Legislator! Considering Fixes to Equity

Mar 13, 2018 by

What’s a Great Way to Say “Thank You” to Representatives Who Support Kansas Teachers?

Last week, 73 members of the Kansas House of Representatives voted to restore due process rights to Kansas teachers, sending the bill over to the Senate where it awaits a hearing now.

Recent news has revealed that while Kansas teachers are 42nd in the nation in teacher salaries, they are dead last in pay when compared to private sector workers in their own state. For every dollar earned in the private sector in Kansas, a Kansas teacher earns 71 cents. On top of that, the retirement system for new Kansas teachers is significantly worse than that provided in our neighboring states. And then, to add insult to injury, the Kansas Legislative Research Department reported that Kansas is one of only two states in the nation that have no job security measures – such as due process – for teachers. These are three big reasons why Kansas is struggling to find teachers to staff our classrooms and why young Kansans are choosing alternative occupations.

So we should be thanking those legislators who are trying to turn this around every chance we get.

If your Representative is one of the 73, you can click here to find a thank you note to post on your social media feeds – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, any and all channels.

Looking at Solving the Equity Issues

In Gannon, the Supreme Court found four provisions of SB 19 that violate equity in the school finance formula.

  • The 10% at-risk floor,
  • The expansion of capital outlay to include utilities and property and casualty insurance,
  • The election provisions on LOB increases, and
  • Basing LOB funding on the prior year’s LOB.

HB 2445 would repeal the first two and make changes to the other two to bring the formula into compliance.

The bill provides that LOB increase elections would be subject to protest petition and possible election. Schools for Fair Funding suggested that it would be more equitable to allow LOB increases based solely on a resolution and vote of the school board. The Kansas City, KS schools brought compelling evidence that school districts with a low assessed valuation per pupil have a significantly greater challenge in winning an LOB election than communities with a high AVPP.

The bill would base LOB payments on current year levels but would require districts to notify the state by April 1 of their intent to seek a higher LOB. The intent of this provision is to give the state legislature more predictability in funding needs.

The bill also would codify into law the current practice in distributing transportation aid on a “curve of best fit.” This was a recommendation of the Legislative Post Audit.

The Kansas Policy Institute testified in opposition to the bill but had no alternative ways to meet the Court’s ruling. In fact, when asked by Rep. Steve Huebert (R-Valley Center) asked what Dave Trabert’s advice would be in addressing the Court, Trabert responded that he would tell the Court, “Thank you for your opinion, we’ll take it under advisement.” In other words, just defy the Court and let our schools close. What great advice!

 

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Some Finance Talk but What about Due Process & Bullying?

Mar 12, 2018 by

What About Bullying and Due Process?

The Due Process Bill (HB 2757) and Bullying Policy Bill (HB 2758) have both been passed by the House and are not sitting in the Senate Education Committee. There has been no word yet as to whether or not Committee Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) will schedule hearings on the bills.

KNEA supports both bills and has asked the Chair to consider holding hearings.

We urge our members to contact Committee Chair Baumgardner and Vice Chair Larry Alley (R-Winfield) and politely ask them to hold a hearing on these bills. They are both important to our teachers and our students.

CLICK HERE to send a message to Senate Ed Committee Chairpersons encouraging them to hear both bills.

Beginning to Talk About School Finance…Kind Of

The House K-12 Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance both held bill hearings today that are beginning to sound like addressing school funding issues.

In the House Committee, Chairman Fred Patton (R-Topeka) held a hearing on HB 2636, a bill repealing some provisions of a law passed in SB 19, last year’s school finance bill. These provisions had the State Board of Education reviewing bond proposals if those bonds would be in excess of 14% of the district’s assessed valuation. The bill put a number of restrictions on the SBOE in those reviews – most specifically that the applications for additional bond authority do not exceed the total principal amount of general obligation bonds retired in the immediately preceding school year. And if total applications exceed that amount, the SBOE must prioritize applications.

HB 2636 would repeal all of these restrictions.

Proponents of the bill including KASB, USA, KSSA, a number of school districts, two large construction groups, and two investment banking groups. The only opponent was Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute.

No action was taken on the bill today.

Later, in the Senate committee, Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) held a hearing on SB 423 which would repeal two provisions of SB 19 that the Supreme Court found to be violations of equity.

The first of those provisions was the 10% at-risk floor under which a district that had fewer than 10% of its students eligible for free lunch would receive at-risk funding as if they did have 10%. There are only two school districts in the state that would have qualified.

The discussion indicated that some Senators still cannot seem to understand that poverty is used as a proxy for at-risk because there is a significant correlation between living in poverty and the potential for not finishing school. The money, while generated by poverty, does not follow the child. It is used to provide at-risk program support for any student who meets factors for at-risk behaviors regardless of the student’s wealth.

The second issue being repealed in the bill is the expansion of uses of capital outlay funds. SB 19 allows school districts to use capital outlay funds for utilities and property and casualty insurance. Prior to this year, this was not allowed. The Supreme Court determined that this too violated equity.

Passage of the bill would address two of the four equity issues the Court flagged.

No action was taken today.

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School Day: Due Process, Bullying, & Transportation

Mar 8, 2018 by

House Passes Due Process, Bullying Procedures

On final action today the House of Representatives passed the restoration of due process (HB 2757) for Kansas teachers on a vote of 73 to 48. The debate had taken place yesterday (see details in yesterday’s Under the Dome).

For all but one of the conservatives who blasted the idea of mandating due process for school districts as usurping local control, they had no problem at all passing an unfunded bullying mandate on the very next bill. You see, for conservative Republican legislators, local control is allowed when it disrespects a working man or woman but is perfectly acceptable when they want to force someone else to bend to their will. In other words, if I want to stop something, I cry “We must respect local control!” If I want to force something on you, “Local control is not sacrosanct.”

To find out how your representative voted on due process, click here. 

HB 2757 will now go to the Senate for consideration.

The House also passed HB 2758, the bullying procedures bill that mandates that school districts provide copies of bullying policies to all parents, post them on district websites with a prominent link on the homepage, and include certain additional items in district bullying plans.

KNEA supports this bill. The final action vote was 119 to 1 with the only NO vote being cast by Rep. Michael Houser (R-Columbus). Houser was the only conservative non-hypocrite on local control. In his explanation of vote he said if he opposed due process on the basis of local control, he would oppose another mandate for the same reason.

Transportation Bills Heard in K-12 Budget Committee

The K-12 budget committee held a hearing today on two bills changing the transportation formula.

HB 2697 would change the multiplier in the formula from 2.8 to 5 which would better address costs.

HB 2561 would codify the “curve of best fit” which is not in law but had been used for decades in the distribution of transportation funding.

These bills would dramatically improve transportation funding and, frankly, if we can’t get kids to school, they won’t be learning!

Many superintendents were in the committee room today to testify in favor of the bill. Additionally, there were many more superintendents who submitted written testimony in support.
There were no opponents to the bills.

Three conferees appeared as neutral. The first was Rep. Sean Tarwater (R-Stilwell) who addressed a bill that he had introduced on behalf of some constituents who found themselves in a different school from the prior year and were billed for transportation. Due to distance the families had free transportation one year and got a bill the next. Tarwater asked the committee to amend his bill in.

A parent from Johnson County (a constituent of Tarwater?) also appearing as neutral. Telling the story Tarwater just finished from the point of view of a parent. She had a very compelling story to tell about safe routes for schools.

The final conferee as neutral was Mike O’Neal representing the Kansas Policy Institute (we all know the KPI as Dave Trabert’s organization backed by dark money and set up to oppose school funding). O’Neal was generally happy that the legislature was responding to the LPA studies.

Senate Defeats Attempt to Call a Convention of the States

The Senate this afternoon took up a final action vote on SCR 1611, a resolution calling for a convention of the states to potentially re-write the entire U.S. Constitution.

There is a movement in the nation by those who believe the United States Government is, in their words, “out  of control.” To that end, they wish to have a convention of the states which is allowed under the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of bringing forth amendments to the constitution to “rein in the federal government.”

The problem with this is that once called, the entire constitution would be open to re-writing. Additionally, delegates to the convention are selected by politicians. Under the common amendment process – used successfully 27 times in our history – elected representatives propose amendments and the states individually vote to ratify those amendments. Such amendments are handled one at a time and not as a block re-write of the document.

In the end, the vote was 22 to 16. Since it takes a 2/3 majority – 27 votes – to pass such a resolution, it failed.

A real win for common sense!

 

 

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Due Process and Bullying Bills Both Advance to Final Action

Mar 7, 2018 by

After a vigorous debate and two attempted amendments, the House advanced to final action on a voice vote, HB 2757 which would restore due process to teachers in Kansas.

Early in the debate, Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita) offered an amendment to expand due process to all state and municipal employees.  He admitted he was opposed to teacher due process but said if it’s good for teachers it ought to be given to all public employees. It was clear to everyone present that his wish was to amend up the bill enough to pull supporters off and ultimately kill the bill.

Plenty of representatives pointed this out at the well and after a long debate, the amendment was rejected on a vote of 38 to 82.

Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) then offered an amendment to make this bill into his two-tiered system- this was the same amendment that was rejected by the Education Committee which he chairs. Under the Aurand amendment, teachers who had earned due process prior to the repeal in 2014 and were continuously employed in the same school district would have those earned rights restored. New teachers would have a decidedly different system. Under their system, while they could appeal a non-renewal to a hearing officer, the hearing officer could only consider the district’s evidence and the teacher could not provide evidence to the contrary. It’s like going to traffic court but being prohibited from making your case. Under Aurand’s system, real due process would end for all teachers as the veterans retired.

The Aurand amendment was rejected on a strong voice vote.

After the end of debate, the bill was advanced to a final action vote on a vote of 72-48 (a division vote, not a recorded vote).

Take time tonight to email your Representative. Ask him or her to support both HB 2757 (due process) and HB 2758 (bullying policies). 

Click here to use KNEA’s Contact Your Legislator portal. 

The saddest part of the day was listening to all of the teacher-bashing from conservatives. Rep. Kristey Williams, after letting everyone know she had been a teacher and was related to many others, gave a long lecture on teachers who sexually harass students and seemed to imply that due process could not be restored because teachers might use that as the opportunity for them to join the “me too” movement and allege sexual harassment by employers.

As was reiterated time and again during the debate, due process is simply that, a process by which teachers can redress a decision they believe was unfair and do so before an impartial officer.  Due process has never and will never usurp criminal law in cases of sexual misconduct or any other criminal offense.  Unfortunately, it appears Rep. Williams and others just don’t seem to comprehend that reality.

Some of the objection the conservatives used to hide their disdain for due process was instead framed as “local control.” Yes, local control, the catchphrase for why we can’t treat teachers like professionals. The conservatives are all for local control- until they’re against it. And when are they against it?

  • When they decide to stop cities and counties from making local property tax decisions.
  • When they are passing mandates prohibiting municipalities from using prevailing wages – a benefit for workers – in granting contracts.
  • When they are telling school districts what employee training they must offer and how much of it is acceptable.
  • When they are mandating NRA gun training in our schools.
  • When they are prohibiting colleges and universities from controlling access to their buildings by armed individuals.

According to these conservatives, school districts need local control over due process so their professional teaching staff remains at-will employees who can be fired at any time for any reason or for no reason at all.

So after spending a considerable amount of time trying to say that local control was sacrosanct, they turned their attention to a bill mandating additional procedures for all school districts regarding how they deal with bullying – HB 2578.

To be clear, KNEA supports HB 2578. KNEA supports mandates on our schools if those mandates will help our students. For that reason, we have supported this and other bullying bills. We supported Erin’s Law that requires training in recognizing signs of child sexual abuse. We supported the Jason Flatt Act that requires training in recognizing signs of possible suicidal tendencies in children. Who traditionally opposes them? KASB – under the argument of “local control” just as was clarified to be their position on HB 2757.

So for those of us in the gallery, it was like watching a conservative split screen. “We must allow local  control on due process!” “We can’t dare allow local control on bullying policies!”

The only hiccup in the passing of HB 2758 was an amendment offered by Rep. Sean Tarwater (R-Stilwell) which would have added three more mandates (notification of parents when their child was bullied, mandatory counseling for the target of bullying, and mandatory counseling for the bully). Additionally, it would have added a laundry list of consequences bullies would face. The list, Tarwater explained, was just a list of suggestions, not mandates.

The full House chose to keep the bill clean and rejected the Tarwater amendment on a voice vote.

After the due process bill had passed and while closing on the bullying bill, Rep. Willie Dove (R-Bonner Springs) told the body about all the teachers bullying students and being protected by the union. It was a truly offensive morning.

Here’s what people like Willie Dove seem to ignore. When I came to KNEA way back in 1998, I was immediately dispatched to a number of Kansas school districts where I provided resources and training for whole school staffs in programs for teachers to use in combating bullying and helping kids be allies of the targets and strong against the bullies.

KNEA – the UNION – was providing bullying prevention training to schools districts long before the legislature considered this to be an issue. KNEA – the UNION – was at the forefront of protecting our children.

Now that Rep. Dove and his friends know this (providing they read this blog), they understand that KNEA is the organization supporting legislative mandates on schools that protect our children and KNEA is the one organization that was providing bullying training long before the legislature even recognized it as a problem, I’m sure they’ll be issuing an apology.

But frankly, if I wait for that apology, they’ll likely have to deliver it to my grave.

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