The Politics of Due Process; Dyslexia and Guns

Feb 22, 2018 by

As we started the day yesterday, we noted that HB 2578, the combined bullying and due process for teachers bill was below the debate line. Today then would be the last day to debate and vote on the bill before turn-around.

We were working with Republican legislators and House Republican leadership in an attempt to get the bill moved up for debate and had hopes that it would happen. At the same time, House minority leader Jim Ward (D-Wichita) notified the House that he would move to have the bill pulled up onto the debate calendar if Speaker Ryckman (R-Olathe) did not do so today.

That brings us to today. The bill was not above the line which triggered a vote on Ward’s motion. That motion failed on a vote of 36 – 81. Six Democrats were absent today (we assume due to the weather conditions) bringing Democratic votes down to 34; two Republicans, Joy Koesten (R-Leawood) and Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) joined them.

While this was a very disappointing vote, it was not an unexpected outcome. In our 20 years under the dome, we have almost never seen a caucus break with their leadership on a procedural matter. We had hoped that this time would be the exception to the rule, but sadly it was not.

Yesterday, Speaker Ryckman had the bullying bill and the due process restoration bill re-introduced in the House Taxation Committee. This action means that both issues will survive the turn-around and be available for debate and action during the second half of this session.

We will continue to work with leadership to get a floor debate and vote on both the bullying bill and the due process bill. The new due process bill is HB 2757 and the new bullying bill is HB 2758. Both should be available on the legislative website soon.

You can help by contacting Speaker Ryckman and Majority Leader Hineman and asking them to please bring HB 2757 and HB 2758 up for debate and action on the floor as soon as possible.

Dyslexia Task Force Adopted; Gun Safety Bill Set Aside

The House advanced to a final action vote two bills; Sub for HB 2602 would create a task force under the State Board of Education to bring back recommendations on how to effectively address dyslexia in schools. This compromise bill is intended to reveiw all the concerns brought by parents and all the issues brought by educators and find a way to create common ground. The idea was floated by Rep. Brenda Dietrich (R-Topeka). KNEA supports this bill.

The House chose not to take up HB 2460, a bill allowing school districts to offer gun safety classes but then to restrict the curriculum to the NRA “Eddie Eagle” program in grades K-8 (later amended to add options for middle school). The bill was permissive in that it would not require schools to offer such programs. KNEA believes the underlying bill is fine except that the decision on which program to use should be left to the local school board as it is a curriculum decision. There are programs available from other organizations including 4-H. It was said that an amendment would be offered to allow Eddie Eagle or other evidence-based programs but the bill was skipped over. Perhaps this is in light of the sensitivity to gun issues in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school massacre.

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One More Day Until Turn-Around – So What About the Due Process and Bullying Bills?

Feb 21, 2018 by

COUNTDOWN TO MARCH 1, ATTY GENERAL DEADLINE FOR SCHOOL FUNDING FIX

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Both chambers have been consumed with floor debate yesterday and today on long lists of bills, but none of those bills are of urgent interest to us.

Tomorrow will be the final day for debate before the turn-around break.

Our major interest at this time is HB 2578, the bullying bill that includes the restoration of due process for Kansas teachers.

The bill sits on the floor but so far has stayed below the debate line. If not passed by tomorrow it will be dead. In light of that Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita) announced this morning that if the bill is not above the line tomorrow, he will offer a motion to bring it up for debate at that time. Challenges of that sort of leadership decisions don’t always succeed. Contact your state Representative and ask him/her to support all efforts to bring due process to the floor for debate and action.

This afternoon the House Tax Committee met and introduced both the bullying bill and the due process restoration bill as stand-alone bills. Since the Tax Committee is exempt from timelines, this action means both bills will still be alive after turn-around regardless of what happens tomorrow.

So if HB 2578 is not considered tomorrow, we will turn our attention to bringing both bills out of committee for debate on the floor. Both bills are important and strongly supported by KNEA. We are confident that there is bipartisan support for both bills on the House floor.

The restoration of due process is a legislative recommendation in the report of Education Commissioner Watson’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teacher Vacancies and Supplies. The Task Force was clear that until teachers are respected by the legislature, there will be no progress on solving the looming teacher shortage in Kansas.

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How about a two-tiered class system for teachers? House Ed Committee says no thanks.

Feb 19, 2018 by

House Ed Committee Rejects Another “Compromise” on Due Process

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand called a meeting today for the specific purpose of addressing due process. Aurand has repeatedly expressed his opinion that due process restoration cannot pass the Senate and so the House must negotiate against its own position and somehow compromise on the issue.

This year it came in his bill, HB 2483, which would establish two tiers of teachers by restoring due process to those who had earned it prior to repeal in 2014 and provide nothing for any teachers hired since. He had an amendment to the bill that would still restore full due process to those who had earned it but provide a very limited due process (the same as in the 1980’s) for new teachers. The new teachers would have an impossible hill to climb in succeeding in a challenge under the bill as Aurand put in only three conditions under which a hearing officer could rule against the district.

In response to those who oppose a two-tiered system, Aurand also put a provision in the bill that would allow the bargaining agent (usually KNEA) to move all veteran teachers into the limited due process system.

The debate quickly showed that the committee was in no mood to establish a bill that did not restore full due process to all Kansas teachers. They repeatedly said that they did not need the bullying bill and due process bill separated and that the two issues were linked since bullying has to do with bullying of students and staff. Rep. Melissa Rooker pointed out that there are eight statutes providing real due process to students including those brought to the district’s attention for bullying but no such protections for teachers.

As to the argument of the need for the House to compromise their own position to appease the Senate or the Speaker or the Governor, Rep. Ed Trimmer said that if one of those three were to torpedo the bullying bill because they did not want to provide rights to teachers, that decision would be on those people and not the members of the House.

The Aurand amendment failed on a vote of 6 t0 10. The Committee then moved to the underlying motion to pass the original two-tier bill. That motion had been offered by Rep. Sutton. That motion failed on a unanimous voice vote.

At that point, Aurand said he recognized that the issue was done; that he recognized the committee’s position and would not go any further including not offering a standalone bullying bill.

Rep. Diana Dierks noted that the actions of the committee should not be taken as any disrespect for the Chairman but instead reflected a heartfelt desire of the majority to do right by Kansas teachers.

So here is where we are as of tonight.

The full restoration of due process rights for Kansas teachers in included in the bullying bill, HB 2578, which is on the floor but below the debate line meaning it is available for debate and passage but will not be considered tomorrow.

We will be watching for it to come up above the line and working with both Republicans and Democrats to urge its consideration.

House Higher Ed Committee Hears Repeal of In-state Tuition; Will Not Work Bill

The House Higher Education Committee held a continued hearing on HB 2643, a bill repealing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented workers (these children would have to have graduated from a Kansas high school, been in the state at least three years, be admitted to college and sign an affidavit promising to apply for citizenship as soon as they are eligible to do so). The “savings” from the bill would be used to offset tuition for foster children.

KNEA opposed the bill as did many other organization including KASB.

KNEA would be delighted to support a bill that provides tuition assistance to foster children but not at the expense of other Kansas students. Opposition to the bill was overwhelming while Kris Kobach was the primary proponent.

At the end of the hearing, the Committee Chair, Kevin Jones, announced they would not be working the bill. This means that unless the bill is referred to a timeline exempt committee, it is dead for this year.

Senate Fed & State Goes Crazy

Despite all the good news in the House committees, the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee decided to push the ultra-conservative envelope today and passed two alarming bills out of committee.

The first, SCR 1611, calls for a constitutional convention under which the United States Constitution could simply be tossed out and delegates appointed by state politicians could re-write the whole darn thing. While the resolution is specific to what they want to change, there can be no limits put on a constitutional convention.

KNEA opposes SCR 1611.

The Committee also passed out SB 340, the campus free speech act under which colleges in Kansas would have essentially no ability to control rallies and protests on campus. All outdoor areas of campus would be “free speech zones” and if any one student invited a speaker to hold a rally, the college would have no choice but to allow it in whatever outdoor place the speaker wanted. We imagine that Richard Spencer and Louis Farrakhan are both planning their Kansas college tours right now!

Colleges would even be prohibited from stopping events based on other experiences. So, for example, while Spencer’s events create havoc (see Charlottesville, Virginia), a college could not use the safety of students as an excuse to restrict Spencer’s use of the campus. Combine this with a new House bill that would allow 18-year-olds to carry weapons on campus and we can only envision disaster.

KNEA, believing that the safety of students is paramount in determining what events will be permitted on campus, opposes SB 340.

 

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Approaching Turn-around & The Continuing Saga of Due Process

Feb 16, 2018 by

Almost Halfway Home

It’s a pro forma day under the dome which means legislators did a quick check in this morning, then headed for home.

Monday will be the last day for committee hearings with Tuesday marking the lead up to “turn around” – the time by which bills must pass the chamber of origin in order to be debated in the second chamber. The exception is for bills that are in time-line exempt committees. Those committees are House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means, Senate Assessment and Taxation, and the House committees on Calendar and Printing, Appropriations, and Taxation. A bill can also be “saved” by being referred by leadership to an exempt committee.

Both chambers will spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on the floor trying to pass whatever bills they have available before they begin the turn around break on Friday. The second half of the session will begin on Wednesday, February 28.

A few legislators will not get Friday off, however. Dr. Lori Taylor who has been hired to conduct the new school finance cost study will be in Topeka to meet with members of the House K-12 Budget Committee and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance with whom she will discuss the cost study. The study is expected to be delivered on March 15, a full two weeks past the deadline for a school finance the Attorney General requested at the beginning of the session.

As of today, no bills dealing with any part of school finance have advanced.

“Konspiring” with Kobach?

House Higher Education Budget Chairman Kevin Jones (R-Wellsville) surprised everyone (everyone that is except Kris Kobach) by rescheduling a hearing on HB 2643 from next Monday to yesterday. The last-minute change meant that many opponents of the bill had not had the opportunity to sign up as conferees. Kobach seemed to be the one person who knew about the change.

HB 2643 would disallow in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants and use the savings to provide post-secondary tuition relief for foster children. As a reminder in-state tuition rates for the children of undocumented immigrants are only available to children who have graduated from a Kansas high school, have been in the country for at least three years, and sign an affidavit of their intent to pursue citizenship as soon as they are able.

While KNEA would normally rejoice over a bill to provide tuition assistance to foster children, we cannot support one that also puts post-secondary education out of reach of other young people.

With general outrage of the sudden change of times, Jones decided to continue the hearing on Monday. KNEA will submit testimony at that time.

What Happened with Due Process Yesterday?

Well, nothing. Committee Chair Clay Aurand canceled the scheduled meeting of the House Education Committee and announced that there would be a committee meeting on Monday for the express purpose of dealing with due process.

This gives you the opportunity over the weekend to call and email the members of the House Education Committee and let them know that the real option is to call upon Clay Aurand and Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) to let HB 2578 to come up for action on the House floor. It sits available for action at this time.

This bill makes improvements to the statute on school district bullying plans and restores due process to all Kansas teachers. There is no need to pass any other bullying or due process bills out of committee. Let them take up the one that is already on the floor and put both issues to rest in the House of Representatives. Once that is done we can get on with the business of passing a school funding fix that will satisfy the Supreme Court and keep our schools open.

House Education Committee Members (*denotes those who voted YES to pass an amendment to the bullying bill which restores due process for K-12 teachers).  Click to view contact information for each member.

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School funding fix? Not important. Attack Teachers? By any means necessary.

Feb 15, 2018 by

Clay Aurand

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand seems content to ignore school funding and allow schools to close, choosing instead to spend his time ensuring teachers are expendable chattel.  

If you’re House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand, you are feeling quite exhausted today.  You’ve spent the last three days trying to slam the door shut on any bill brought before your committee to restore due process for K-12 teachers.

If you’re Aurand, you willfully ignore the ticking clock that will ultimately signal an end to Supreme Court patience and the closing of public schools leaving students to pay the price.

If you’re Aurand you’ve taken no concrete steps to deal with the funding crisis in the K-12 budget committee where you are a member. You haven’t introduced a bill to solve the problem, you haven’t spoken of solutions. Instead, you’ve spent all of your time and energy to ensure that teachers continue to be treated with insult and injury in the House Education Committee where you are the Chair.  You ignore the fact that the full House took a position last year in support of restoring due process when it passed a bill to do just that.  But in your committee, you are judge and jury and when the majority doesn’t bend to your personal will you make it clear that you will not allow any vote contrary to your ideology; you will not permit your committee to show Kansas teachers appreciation and respect. You will not tolerate a bill that protects teachers from arbitrary and capricious terminations even if the majority of members of the House vote for just such a bill.

And then you couch your actions in worry about bullying when you are the biggest bully of them all.

And to be clear on the bullying issue, that bill has already been passed out of the education committee on a unanimous vote. It has been read in on the floor of the House and is ready at any time to be voted on. There is absolutely no need to pass the bill out of committee again today.

If you’re  school board member and Representative Clay Aurand, it’s more important to focus your energy on ensuring teachers have no ability to advocate for students than to make sure schools will open for those students in the next school year.

How did we get here?  Remember that last year, when a bill to restore due process came before his committee Chairman Aurand would not allow the bill to be worked, regardless of the fact that a majority of his own members wanted to debate and vote on the bill.  When it became clear that the committee was ready and willing to overrule him, he simply ended the committee meeting and refused to allow the bill to be worked.  Restoring due process instead came before the full House as a floor amendment and passed last year.  But Clay Aurand is clearly not one to be satisfied with a result passed by a majority of House members when that result defies his own personal will.

This year, Aurand again proclaimed that he would not entertain a bill restoring due process to all Kansas teachers in his committee.  On Monday, Representative Valdenia Winn offered an amendment to a bullying policy bill which would restore due process.  Her motion to amend was seconded by Rep. Good (R-El Dorado) and after trying unsuccessfully for nearly an hour to find some procedural maneuver to kill the amendment, it was adopted on a vote of 9 to 7.   Several Republicans joined Democrats in a bi-partisan show of support for Kansas teachers.  Finally, Aurand could turn his focus to other committee matters and look towards a school funding solution; but instead, he spent the intervening hours conspiring to subvert the democratic majority vote in his own committee.

What did he try to do?  In committee yesterday, Aurand with help from Rep. Willie Dove (who also voted against restoring due process) hatched a scheme to gut another committee bill, insert the bullying policy bill leaving the due process amendment out entirely.  That’s right, the one that was passed by a majority of his own committee.  We can’t help but wonder why Aurand is expending so much energy to continue the insult against teachers while ignoring his responsibilities to work towards a school funding fix.  The answer is that for Aurand keeping schools open must take a back seat to ensuring that teachers can be fired for no reason at all.  And Aurand is trying to do this using the “gut and go” maneuver that is a standard practice of the most secretive legislature in the nation – a practice that has come to be seen as part and parcel of a Legislative desire to hide their actions from the public.

How did he fail (for now)? In their rush to trash the democratic process, Aurand and Dove tried to gut a bill that never had a hearing.  Rules of procedure do not allow a committee to take action on a bill that has never had a hearing.  Aurand and Dove either didn’t know that rule, didn’t care or most likely were too focused on succeeding with their sneak-attack to realize they were running afoul of the rules.  But, Clay Aurand is clearly not one to let small things like democracy or fully funded schools get in his way.  We fully expect that Aurand, Dove, and others are conspiring right now to manufacture a way to end the possibility that K-12 teachers may have due process restored.  What we know- based on their actions- is that they are almost assuredly NOT working on a school funding fix as they should be.

What can you do right now?  Use the contact information below to call AND email committee members and Chairman Aurand.  Let them know that you expect them to be working on a SCHOOL FUNDING FIX and to stop wasting valuable time and energy scheming ways to subvert democracy in an effort to stop the will of the majority who have voted to restore due process for K-12 teachers.  *The vote was a division vote (not recorded, but by raised hands) those who voted aye (yes) are noted by the asterisk.

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