Celebrate Freedom Week Day 1! Due Process Bill Moves!

Mar 14, 2016 by

Celebrate freedom week was instituted by the Kansas Legislature in 2013.  The purpose was to mandate that students be taught specific aspects of Kansas and United States history.  Setting aside the fact that some in the Kansas Legislature seem to have lost sight of the participatory democracy at the heart of free society, we encourage you to come and remind them that celebrating freedom means EXERCISING YOUR RIGHTS.

Many school districts are currently on spring break offering an excellent opportunity for teachers, parents, and families to come to the statehouse and engage their representatives.  Each morning this week, a KNEA staffer will be available at about 9:30 a.m. in the statehouse to help you connect with your representatives.  Take advantage of the time and plug-in.

Today marked the final leg of Game On for Public Schools’ walk to Topeka.  Started by a parent, Heather Ousley, from Merriam, Kansas four years ago, this advocacy event has grown massively.  This year, three groups of walkers from Kansas City, Manhattan, and Emporia spent the weekend walking to Topeka to highlight the plight of public schools in Kansas.  Walking the final mile to the statehouse were a group of public education advocates approaching and perhaps exceeding 1,000 parents, teachers, school administrators, board members, and most importantly kids.  This group seized an opportunity to stand up strong for public education.  Now is the time to follow-up their efforts and keep a visible and vocal presence in the statehouse this week.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 4.29.46 PMClick Here to view a photo essay from today’s public education rally at the statehouse.


Education in the A & M Report

The House Appropriations Committee this morning heard reports from Rep. Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa), chair of the Education Budget Committee and Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego), chair of the House Education Committee on the discussions held in their committees on the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Study.

There were three recommendations that were particularly controversial; two were in the Education Budget Committee.

The first proposal would have the state sweep unencumbered cash balances from school districts. A&M suggested that fund balances could be capped at 15% and have a minimum of 10%. The sweep in the recommendation would provide a one-time influx of cash. A&M also said that such an action should not be taken until the legislature introduced year-to-year stability in school funding.

Grosserode reported that the committee should not proceed with this recommendation without first gathering a lot more information and balances that were more up to date.

The other proposal deals with requiring school districts to make purchases via the Department of Administration’s procurement list. Grosserode reported that the committee has proposed legislation to require districts to use the procurement list unless there is an existing contract or the district is making the purchase via a service center or the district can source the item within 1% of the price on the procurement list.

Highland reported on the proposal to create a state-wide health insurance plan for school employees. Highland said the state should proceed very cautiously as there were so many complications to consider. As with the cash balance proposal, the committee suggested a lot more data was needed including how benefit plans interacted with salaries in teaching. The expected a lot of push-back from teachers and school districts should they move forward with this proposal at this time.

Chairman Highland also reported that they were recommending that the state go ahead with recommendation to establish a centralized grand writing function to capture more grant money for schools.

House Education Committee Deals with Anti-due Process Bill

The House Education Committee went ahead with plans to gut a Senate Bill (SB 136) and fill it with the contents of House Bill 2531, stripping community and technical college instructors of due process protections.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) successfully amended the bill by adding in a requirement that those colleges utilize the e-verify system to ensure that they were hiring only legal workers. After the amendment passed, a motion to reconsider was offered by Rep. Kevin Jones (R-Wellsville). The amendment was reconsidered and passed yet again.

Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) offered an amendment to move the effective date to July 1, 2018, two years from now. Winn argued that this would give the colleges and their employees time to negotiate their own due process provisions.  Many of the opponents said they would never deny due process protections so the Winn amendment would let them demonstrate such a commitment. The Winn amendment failed.

The bill, as amended, was then passed out of committee and will go to the full House for consideration.


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Movement on Worker Rights; KPERS Bonding; Local Elections

Mar 31, 2015 by

Senate Commerce Committee passes bill marginalizing public employees

The Senate Commerce Committee this morning held a hearing on and immediately passed HB 2391, a bill which converts state jobs from classified to unclassified status. State agencies would be allowed to change the status of positions whenever a new person is hired or someone is promoted or transfers. Essentially it sets up a system where the agency gradually eliminates classified positions which currently have due process protections. Unclassified employees have no due process protections.

The bill has been sought by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, two organizations that consistently work to undermine public workers.

Senator Holland brought the Committee’s attention to a letter from the United States Department of Labor that suggested passage of this bill along with some others under consideration would put Kansas at risk of losing millions of dollars in federal funding. Nevertheless, the Committee approved the bill with Senators Holland and Faust-Goudeau recorded as voting NO, and Senator Baumgardner recorded as passing.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration. It has already passed the House.

KPERS bonding bill comes out of conference

The KPERS Conference Committee has reached a deal on the bonding proposal.  House conferees agreed to the Senate’s $1 billion position and only considering changes in contribution rate for FY 2016 & 2017. They would then revert to current law.

The Senators agreed to the House offer but asked for House to run the report first. The conference committee report will be in SB 228.  Before the report can be considered they will need to run an “agree to disagree” first.  That happens when all six conferees do not sign the report. Approval of an “agree to disagree” allows the report to be considered with only four signatures.

Working after retirement has been deferred for the moment because they no longer have a bill in which to put an agreement. The Senate KPERS Committee is discussing working after retirement today.

We will continue to report on working after retirement and other KPERS issues as they happen.

Conference Committee agrees to move local elections

The House and Senate Elections Conference Committee today approved a report moving local elections (cities, counties, school boards) from the spring of odd numbered years to the fall of even numbered years. The report is in HB 2104.

If approved this change would put non-partisan municipal elections on the same ballot as partisan state and federal offices. It would require the local candidates to be at the top of the ballot.

The bill was opposed by school districts, counties, and cities. Proponents argued that it would increase voter turnout for local elections; opponents argued that local candidates and campaigns would be lost in the deluge of political advertising and mail related to state and federal elections. It also has the potential to open up new avenues to campaign funding and coordination by dark money groups.

KNEA joins KASB and other public education advocates in opposing this change.

Editorials and just plain good reporting

The papers have been weighing in on a few controversial legislative actions including action on the proposed repeal of in-state tuition for the children of undocumented aliens. The Salina Journal wondered if the same issue would come up if “they had blonde hair.” Click here to read their editorial which tells the Legislature, “We don’t have the luxury of indulging in institutional racism.”

In a side note, it was reported today that nine members of the House Education Committee have launched an official complaint against Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) for her remarks during the committee debate. In recent years, complaints have been filed against former Speaker Mike O’Neal and Rep. Jim Ward. Nothing came of those hearings.

The Topeka Capital Journal took on Senator Tom Arpke whose proposal to shift 84% of state scholarship money for post-secondary education over to private colleges in an editorial entitled Arpke’s Folly Must be Rejected. The paper takes the position that shifting 84% of state scholarship money to institutions that educate only 17% of Kansas students is just plain wrong. Our thanks to Senator Vicki Schmidt who unsuccessfully attempted to strip Arpke’s measure from the budget bill.

And in positive news, the Capital Journal also reported on the many parents who walked 60 miles from Johnson County to the Capitol to raise awareness of the need to provide adequate and equitable funding for our public schools. Three years ago, Heather Ousley of Game On for Kansas Schools did this walk alone. It has grown dramatically in the last two years. This year she was joined by her husband, State Representative Jarrod Ousley as well as Representative Nancy Lusk and Senator Laura Kelly. Click here to read the story.

Senior KNEA lobbyist schooled by freshman legislator

We were shocked to learn that KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti, now in his 17th legislative session in Kansas, has been found to have committed a grave error; an error that was pointed out to him by a freshman legislator in his first session.

Yesterday, Desetti told us to report that there were 39 bills up for debate in the House today. He was incorrect. He should have noticed “the line” – a physical line on the calendar with the words “the line” – that indicates the end of the debate calendar. That line came at the top of the list of bills. And so those 39 bills were not up for debate today.

Our thanks to Rep. Fred Patton who apparently reads what we write!

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