Bills, Bills, and More Bills!

Mar 15, 2018 by

Senate Ed Committee Considers “Education Inspector General”

In case you thought there were not enough folks supervising the K-12 education system, along comes SB 424. This bill would establish the position of “Education Inspector General” in the State Treasurer’s Office. The intent is to have someone conduct continuous audits of education spending.

The proponents – Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, Senator Ty Masterson, the owner of Freedom Bank in Johnson County, and KPI’s Dave Trabert. Masterson was quick to say that this had nothing to do with the kerfuffle over transportation funding that included a letter from Sen. Wagle and Rep. Ryckman to the State Board calling for Dale Dennis to be suspended and an investigation launched. Of course, the bill was introduced after the SBOE stood up for Dennis and the practice used for distributing transportation dollars.

And all this was put aside in Mr. Knudtson’s testimony in which he attacked both the Department and Dennis. Trabert also continued his attacks on the department and calls for millions of dollars to be pulled back from school districts.

Opposing the bill were KASB and State Board Member Jim McNiece.

No action was taken on the bill today.

More Bills Taken Up in Senate Ed

After the hearing was closed on SB 424, Chair Baumgardner turned her attention to HB 2541, a bill that adjusts tuition support for members of the Kansas National Guard. This bill passed the House on a 120-0 vote.

After the hearing, the bill was moved out of committee on a motion of Senator Hensley and placed on the Senate’s consent calendar where non-controversial bills are sent. After three days on the consent calendar, the bill will be passed, skipping the debate process.

Their next action was on HB 2542, another non-controversial bill requested by the Board of Regents that adjusts the fees that KBOR charges to private higher education institutions to cover the costs of regulation.

The bill was passed out of committee and will go to the full Senate.

Baumgardner then brought up Sub for HB 2602, the dyslexia task force bill. Baumgardner announced that she would craft an amendment to change the make-up of the committee to reduce the number of legislators and add teachers, particularly classroom teachers. As Baumgardner put it, “We need more boots on the ground representation on this task force.”

Other Senators had items they wanted to think about on this bill and Baumgardner said they would take it up next week, perhaps mid-week.

Full Senate Defeats So-Called “Campus Free Speech Act”

The Senate took a final action vote today on SB 340, a bill dubbed the “Campus Free Speech Act.” This bill would ban free speech zones on campuses and make all open areas available to anyone for rallies, literature distribution, and demonstrations. It is widely seen as a reaction to colleges that are trying to keep students safe in light of actions taking place congruent with some recent activities around the country.

The bill would allow any student to invite a speaker and the college would be required to allow the speaker. We see this as an opening for extremists on both sides to come to campus and perhaps incite potentially violent acts. One student could invite Richard Spencer, another could invite Louis Farrakhan and the university would not be able to restrict such events.

Many other issues were raised in the debate on the bill and today it was voted down on a 20-20 vote. KNEA opposed the bill.

House Tax Committee Looks at Tobacco Taxes

The House Tax Committee held a hearing today on HB 2231, a bill raising taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products. The Cigarette tax would increase by $1.50 per pack.

KNEA testified in favor of the bill. Passage would increase revenue to the state by about $90 million per year but more importantly, the higher cost of cigarettes and tobacco products would discourage youth smoking and tobacco use. Evidence shows that increases in cost also incent smoker to quit. As parents and caregivers make that decision, the health and well-being of their children improves.

Reduced smoking and tobacco usage also reduce overall health costs which impact the cost of health insurance for all Kansans.

 

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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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