A Day for Obstructionism

Feb 20, 2017 by

Aurand Stops Due Process Bill. Again.

House Ed Committee Chairman, Clay Aurand

We came into the office today ready for the 3:30 pm meeting of the House Education Committee when Chairman Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) had scheduled time for working on bills. We were anxious to see if supporters of Kansas public school teachers on the committee would finally get to vote on HB 2179, the bill restoring due process protections for teachers in Kansas.

Up to this point Chairman Aurand has used every trick at his disposal (or so we thought) to bottle the bill up in his effort to kill it and yet not me counted for voting against it. But it wasn’t long before we realized that Aurand had one more trick – in announcements at the end of this morning’s full House session, he simply announced that the committee meeting for today was canceled. He was determined that the bill would never come to a vote. Today was the last day for committee meetings and any bill not passed by Thursday of this week is dead for the session.

Aurand is trying to convince folks that he’s a good guy just hoping that KNEA and KASB can come to some sort of “compromise” on due process.  But it isn’t lost on anyone that Representative Aurand is a sitting school board member in a district without due process rights. Aurand has declared before his committee that it was never his intent to work this bill, regardless of the committee’s will to do so.  KNEA and KASB can come to compromise on some issues in the due process statute. We can find compromises that speed up the process and reduce costs, for example. But we remain and will continue to remain in opposition over the issue of whether or not a due process hearing decision is binding on the school board.

From its beginnings in the 1950’s until 1991, due process hearings ended in a decision that was advisory to the board. School boards back then did not accept any advisory opinion that went against the district and supported the teacher. That’s why in 1991, the legislature voted to change the system to a binding decision. After all, what’s the purpose of the hearing if the board can unilaterally ignore the ruling? That’s NOT due process.

Aurand’s insistence that we “compromise” on this is actually an insistence that we simply give up and agree that boards of education are infallible.

Aurand’s actions are reminiscent of the actions taken by former speaker Ray Merrick and his anti-teacher allies who crammed the repeal of due process into a must-pass finance bill at 4:00 in the morning without any opportunity for public discussion or debate. Like Aurand, who knows his committee supports the bill, Merrick knew he did not have enough anti-teacher votes to pass the repeal unless it was attached to something critical. Merrick found a way around the will of the legislature. Aurand is doing the same using his power as a committee chairman without regard to the will of the majority on his own committee.


Barker and Hawkins Stop Medicaid Expansion

Today was also the day on which we expected the Medicaid expansion bill, HB 2064, to be passed out of committee.

Yet once again, the committee chair used his power to get the committee to essentially kill the bill.

In this case, Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene) argued that Medicaid expansion would be too expensive and should wait until the Supreme Court weighed in on the Gannon school finance lawsuit. If the Court called for $500 million more for schools, then there would be no money for Medicaid expansion. Brownback has asserted that expansion would cost the state about $100 million over two years. Of course, it would also bring hundreds of millions of dollars into Kansas.

Barker made a motion to table the bill until April. It had a vote of 8 to 8 which normally kills a motion unless the Chair of the Committee chooses to break the tie. In this case, Committee Chairman Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), an opponent of expansion, voted for the motion.

What this means is that the committee can’t reconsider the bill until April but, since Thursday is the last day for bills to come out of the chamber or origin, the motion actually has the effect of killing the bill for this session.

Looks like this might be the hallmark of the 2017 legislative session. A new legislature, a majority of whom support Medicaid expansion and public school teachers and campaigned on changing the dialogue in Topeka are being denied the chance to vote on core issues because of the leaders who were installed as committee chairs.

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Taxes, Due Process, & Tempers that Flare; Just Another Day Under the Dome

Feb 15, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • KNEA supports House tax bill believing there is room for improvement, but it is a good first step.
  • The bill repeals the LLC income tax loophole beginning with tax year 2017, ends the glide path to zero income taxes, and sets three income tax brackets at 2.70 percent, 5.25 percent, and 5.45 percent.
  • This was our first chance to see how the moderate Republicans and Democrats would cooperate and they did not disappoint.
  • Fallout continues from yesterday’s House Education Committee hearing on due process.
  • Aurand’s announcement that he did not plan to work the bill at all angered not only the proponents who testified in the hearing but also the majority of committee members who are ready and willing to pass the bill.
  • Leaders from KNEA (bill proponent) and KASB (bill opponent) met to discuss concerns and look for a path forward.
  • Chairman Aurand has scheduled a committee meeting for Monday afternoon for the purpose of “considering bills already heard.” There are only three bills that this could apply to and one of them is HB 2179.
  • We urge our members and friends to continue to let Chairman Aurand know that this bill needs a fair hearing and a vote. You can email Chairman Aurand at clay.aurand@house.ks.gov.
  • SEE FULL POST FOR SPECIAL EDITORIAL REGARDING PARTISAN RANCOR UNDER THE DOME.  THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT READ FOR ALL PUBLIC EDUCATION ADVOCATES.

House Advances Tax Bill Reversing Much of Brownback’s Policy

It was a surprise this morning when the full House voted to advance House Sub for HB 2178, the tax bill crafted in the committee last week. It only took a few minutes and there was not debate at all; no amendments offered.

This is quite unusual since tax bills generally generate a vigorous debate and more than their fair share of amendments.

KNEA supports this bill. We do believe it could be improved but it is a good first step in the move to reverse the reckless and irresponsible tax cuts of 2012-13.

The bill repeals the LLC income tax loophole beginning with tax year 2017, ends the glide path to zero income taxes, and sets three income tax brackets at 2.70 percent, 5.25 percent, and 5.45 percent.

This was our first chance to see how the moderate Republicans and Democrats would cooperate and they did not disappoint. 46 Republicans and 37 Democrats vote for the bill while 36 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted NO. The bill was advanced to final action on a vote of 83 to 39.

We’ll see tomorrow how the final action vote goes!

Here’s how they voted (Democrats in bold italics):

Voting AYE were Alcala, Alford, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Blex, Brim, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Dove, Elliott, Eplee, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hineman, Holscher, Jennings, Johnson, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kelly, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lakin, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mason, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Patton, Phelps, Phillips, Pittman, Proehl, Rahjes, Ralph, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Schroeder, Sloan, A. Smith, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore.

Voting NO were Arnberger, Aurand, Awerkamp, Barker, Burroughs, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Davis, Delperdang, Ellis, Esau, Finch, Garber, Hawkins, Highland, Hodge, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Humphries, Jacobs, Jones, Landwehr, Osterman, Powell, Rafie, Ryckman, Schwab, Seiwert, E. Smith, Sutton, Thimesch, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber, Whipple, Whitmer, and Williams.

DeGraaf, Kiegerl, and Mastroni were absent.


What’s Happening with Due Process?

After yesterday’s frustrating hearing, Democrats and moderate Republicans who support teacher due process rights immediately began regrouping to find a way bring the bill, HB 2179, back for a vote.

There were some moments of difficulty – Republicans were frustrated by the attempt to force an immediate vote and Democrats angry that one man, Clay Aurand, could simply close down the committee to stop any further discussion. Aurand’s announcement that he did not plan to work the bill at all angered not only the proponents who testified in the hearing but also the majority of committee members who are ready and willing to pass the bill.

KNEA & AFTKS leaders called their KASB counterparts and invited them to come to KNEA at noon today to talk about what issues KASB had with due process for teachers. That meeting happened and it became clear that some issues could probably be easily resolved but KNEA continues to insist that due process is defined by a binding third-party review.

Prior to 1992 when hearings were held before a three-officer panel but the panel’s decision was advisory to the Board of Education, boards simply ignored the hearing panel’s decision even when that decision was unanimous. It was this that made the legislature create the binding decision that was part of the process from 1992 until repeal in 2014.

We know that today moderate Republican committee members have met with Aurand, KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti met with Aurand, and KASB representatives also met with Aurand. Aurand has scheduled a committee meeting for Monday afternoon for the purpose of “considering bills already heard.” There are only three bills that this could apply to and one of them is HB 2179.

KNEA and AFT want the bill to be worked and passed out of committee. We have committed to working with KASB, KSSA, and USA to try to find common ground but we are not interested in setting the issue aside for another year or years while teachers continue to be non-renewed with no ability short of suing a school district to challenge the decision.

We urge our members and friends to continue to let Chairman Aurand know that this bill needs a fair hearing and a vote. You can email Chairman Aurand at clay.aurand@house.ks.gov.

And by the way, Rep. Willie Dove said in committee that no teacher ever told him that they wanted due process protections. You can let him know that you are a teacher that does by emailing him at willie.dove@house.ks.gov.


[EDITORIAL] When Tempers Flare 

Sometimes, under the dome, people get a tad cheesed off. We know we do! When that happens things can be said that might be regrettable later and much of that is expressed in hyper-partisanship.

Such has been the case over the last couple of days. Things are heating up in the capitol and tempers do flare.

We are counting on a bipartisan coalition of level-headed, common sense Kansas legislators to get Kansas through this current fiscal crisis and put us back on a path to prosperity. We at KNEA also look to those legislators to restore respect and honor to the educators of Kansas.

Today, in the vote on House Sub for HB 2178, we saw what can happen when partisan wrangling is set aside for the good of Kansas. And we need more of that, not less.

That’s why we are frustrated to see messages on social media that attack Democrats for not being more “in your face” with Republicans or attack moderate Republicans for not automatically supporting every idea that comes from a Democrat.

We believe that if the due process bill gets a vote in the House – both in Committee and on the floor – it will pass. We are confident of this because of the list of co-sponsors and because of conversations we have had with members of both parties who are not signed on as co-sponsors.

We also know that those two groups, working together, can save Kansas.

The problem we face today is not the Democrats. It is not the moderate Republicans. It is leadership that puts their own ideological agenda ahead of the wishes of the legislative majority. A perfect example is Aurand’s unilateral decision to not work HB 2179 when the majority of his committee clearly wants to. This was done in the past when the speaker of the House refused to allow a bill to come to the floor for debate. We have yet to see this happen with Speaker Ryckman but it is a possibility.

KNEA has many friends in the Democratic Party and in the Republican Party. We are confident that those friends will stand up for teachers. If they don’t; if they vote for bills that do not support schools and educators, then we will challenge them. If they vote against bills that would help our schools or support our teachers, then we will challenge them.

But until then, we will work with all of them, Democrat and Republican, to ensure success for our students, our schools, and our educators. And as the votes come in, you will know who supports public schools and public school educators, and who doesn’t. Because we will tell you.

Until then, continue to support our friends. Let them know that you are following the actions of this legislature and that you fully expect them to honor the commitments they made in their campaigns to support our schools. We stand ready to embrace those who value our schools. Democrat or Republican.

 

 

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Sham Hearing On Due Process

Feb 15, 2017 by

House Ed Committee Chairman, Clay Aurand

Once again teachers were told that they would be denied due process protections in Kansas when Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand announced that he had no intention of working HB 2179 after a hearing.

This was the first opportunity for this legislature to demonstrate that they respect, honor, and value Kansas teachers but thanks to Rep. Aurand, the members of the House Education Committee were denied that opportunity. After a hearing where KNEA, AFT, the Kansas Organization of State Employees, and Kansas Families for Education stood as proponents of the bill while only KASB and Dave Trabert’s Kansas Policy Institute opposed it.

KASB was quick to point out that they did not support repeal of the due process law in 2014 but they outright opposed this bill to reinstate it. KPI supported KASB. Opponents like Rep. Willie Dove and Clay Aurand said they never heard from teachers who cared about due process. Aurand asserted that teachers would prefer more money over job security. Of course, here in Kansas, teachers get neither one.

The questions from members of the committee showed that there were enough committee votes to pass the bill. It was then that Aurand announced he had no intention of working the bill. Rep. Jim Ward, sitting in for Rep. Valdenia Winn, made a motion, seconded by Rep. Jarrod Ousley to overrule the chairman’s decision and bring the bill up for action. Knowing the votes were there, Aurand immediately adjourned the committee denying the members the chance to vote.

Once again the minority wins. They didn’t have the votes to repeal due process in 2014 until they locked the members in the chamber, using strong arm tactics to coerce a 63rd vote. Today, when the votes were there to pass the bill out of committee, the Chairman threatened to wield absolute power and adjourn the hearing.  He then made good on his threat.

Yes, a sham bill hearing. And legislation that would benefit Kansas teachers is quashed.

The whole situation is a shameful display of disregard for Kansas teachers. KASB says they opposed repeal of due process but they also oppose reinstating it. How can they have it both ways? If they believe teachers should have due process protections, then they should demonstrate it through their actions and not once again by simply standing in opposition.

This is not over. We intend to keep up this fight this year. Many new and returning legislators ran on their commitment to public school teachers and specifically to reverse what happened in 2014. We know they are not ready to give up and we stand together with our allies – The Working Kansas Alliance, Kansas Families for Education, AFT, KOSE, and other organizations to see that teachers in Kansas get the recognition the richly deserve.

You can do your part. Tell Clay Aurand that teachers deserve due process protections. You can leave him a phone message at 785-296-7637  or email him at clay.aurand@house.ks.gov.

WE KNOW YOU’RE ANGRY BUT PLEASE TEMPER YOUR ANGER IN ANY COMMUNICATIONS.  Remember, school board elections are just around the corner.  Electing board members who support public education fully, including its teachers, is vital.

 

 

 

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Due Process Hearing Tomorrow!

Feb 13, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • HB 2179 would re-enact the teacher due process or fair dismissal law that was in effect in Kansas prior to 2014.
  • Bill has 45 bipartisan co-sponsors.
  • This is an opportunity for the legislature to tell Kansas teachers that the war on teachers is over.
  • House Bill 2048, known as “Erin’s Law,” as introduced would have required training for teachers in the identification of signs of child sexual abuse.
  • Bill amended in committee, SBOE must implement statewide standards for training teachers annually.
  • Final action vote tomorrow.

Due Process Bill Gets Hearing Tomorrow

The House Education Committee will hold a hearing on HB 2179, the bill that restores due process protections to Kansas teachers.

HB 2179 would re-enact the teacher due process or fair dismissal law that was in effect in Kansas prior to 2014.

In the 2014 legislative session, the repeal of this statute was never proposed as a bill. The proposal was never subject to a public hearing. And the proposal did not have broad legislative support even in a legislature that would be considered far more conservative than now.

The repeal of the due process statute came as a Senate floor amendment to an education budget bill in the wee hours of an April morning. And by wee hours, we’re talking about past midnight just for clarification. Other policy provisions that had failed either in committee or on the floor as stand-alone bills were also dumped into the education budget bill. The conference committee negotiators who were among the minority of legislators who supported these ideas, refused to remove them. They wound up in the education budget conference committee report brought before the full House long after midnight of a second 22-hour day.

At that time, the education bill failed to get the needed 63 vote majority to pass. A call of the House was put on and the members remained locked in the chamber for several hours until the 63rd vote could be pressured into casting a vote against conscience.

This year HB 2179 would right the wrong done to teachers at that time. The bill has 45 bipartisan co-sponsors. We believe this is an opportunity for the legislature to tell Kansas teachers that the war on teachers is over. It is time to return to respect for the teaching profession and HB 2179 is the first step.


Amended Erin’s Law Advanced on House Floor

House Bill 2048, known as “Erin’s Law,” as introduced would have required training for teachers in identification of signs of child sexual abuse. As mandatory reporters, it is important that teachers know what to look for.

The bill was dramatically amended in committee and now simply calls upon the State Board of Education to “implement statewide standards that assure all public school teachers annually receive training and education on identifying likely warning signs indicating that a child may be a victim of sexual abuse.”

It additionally directs the SBOE to “review and consider statewide social and emotional standards for student education that inform students of the difference between appropriate and inappropriate conduct.”

The bill was advanced on a voice vote and will face a final action vote on the floor tomorrow.

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Due Process, Health Care and EDUCATION CUTS!

Feb 8, 2017 by

Hearing Set on Due Process Bill

Rep. Clay Aurand, Chair of the House Education Committee, has announced that a hearing has been scheduled for HB 2179 which would restore due process protections for Kansas teachers who have completed a probationary period. The bill re-enacts the law as it was prior to repeal in 2014.

Due process was repealed in 2014 without ever having been introduced as a bill and without any public announcement or hearing. The repeal was enacted after midnight as a floor amendment to a must-pass school funding bill. With it attached to the finance bill, the bill was unable to receive the needed 63 votes to pass until House leadership enacted a call of the House under which members are locked in the chamber indefinitely. Eventually – about 4:00 am as we recall – a 63rd vote was gained through pressure and exhaustion.

HB 2179 has 45 legislative co-sponsors from both parties. We look forward to a fair hearing and having a vote on the bill in committee next week.


LPA Study on Health Benefit Consolidation

The Division of Legislative Post Audit today released their study on the feasibility of consolidating school district health benefit plans into one mega-plan similar to the State Employee Health Plan (SEHP). The idea was raised as a possible cost saver in the Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study. They suggested a savings of about $80 million per year. Finding himself short of cash in setting a budget, Governor Brownback leapt on the idea and called for this to happen by January 1, 2018.

Unfortunately for the Governor, the LPA indicates that even if they decided to move forward, it could not be done so as to gain any savings in 2018.

Beyond that, the savings are lower in the LPA study. They suggest perhaps $38 million in efficiency savings and another $25 million by shifting costs onto employees. What they did was look at what happens if you put school employees in a plan modeled on the SEHP. Doing this would significantly reduce benefits for school employees by raising deductibles, increasing co-pays, and increasing the out-of-pocket maximum per year. The state would then “claw back” those savings leaving school districts with less budget authority. The savings garnered by reducing benefits would not go to the employees as pay raises but to the state general fund presumably to shore up Brownback’s reckless tax cut program.

Passage of a plan to make this consolidation happen is basically a cut to school employee compensation across Kansas by $25 million.

There will be a hearing on a bill to enact the consolidation on Monday. KNEA will be there to oppose the bill.

CLICK HERE to read the full LPA report.

CLICK HERE to read the healthcare report highlights.


Senate Voting Tomorrow to Cut Education, Pass Inadequate Tax plan

The full Senate will convene tomorrow to vote on two bills. Senate Bill 27 would cut education funding by $154 million – $128 million from K-12 and another $23 million from higher education.

Their tax bill, SB 147, would raise income tax rates for all Kansans, repeal the low-income tax exemption for those earning less than $12,000/year, and repeal the LLC loophole but does nothing to end the glide path to zero which is the root of future revenue declines. There is much debate about what it would raise – perhaps $280 million in 2018.

The problem with this bill is that it does not go nearly far enough in solving the revenue crisis facing Kansas. The budget holes Kansas now faces in 2017 and beyond are enormous. Most analysts believe the state will need to raise at least $580 million just to break even and not accounting for any pending decision in the Gannon school finance lawsuit.

Kansas NEA has released a statement along with USA/KS, KASB, KSSA, and others calling on the Senate to vote NO on SB 27 and to send SB 147 back to committee for more work.

CLICK HERE to email your Senator.

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