PNA (again), In-state Tuition, and Teacher Self-Censorship

Feb 24, 2015 by

More movement on PNA today

The Senate Education Committee worked the PNA bills that had hearings in the Committee. SB 136 is the bill crafted by the education community (KASB, KNEA, USA-KS, KSSA) while SB 176 is the bill that essentially ends collective bargaining.

Discussion started with a motion to pass SB 136. Sen. Fitzgerald amended the bill by making it a virtual match for Dave Trabert’s bill, HB 2034. A motion to pass the amended bill out of committee failed. Senator Caryn Tyson was asking for clarification on what the bill and amendments now did. She argued that she did not believe teachers should be taken out of the negotiations process.

The Committee recessed to allow members to more closely examine the bill. On a motion by Sen. Tyson, the committee voted to reconsider their action killing the bill. Sen. Hensley pointed out that as amended, the bill would create more conflict between boards and teachers as each side could block the other by refusing to agree to negotiate a topic.

A new vote was taken on moving the amended bill forward. This time the bill passed on a 6-5 vote with Hensley, Pettey, Schmidt, Kerschen, and Baumgardner voting NO.

There appears to remain some confusion among the Committee members about what actually passed and what its impact might be. We would suggest that the issue remains somewhat fluid and there may be attempts to further amend the bill.

As it sits now, the Committee essentially voted in favor of Dave Trabert’s so-called “minority report” bill. Adoption of this amended bill represents one more time that legislators – who called upon the education community to craft changes to the PNA – chose to ignore the entire education community in favor of a proposal from anti-education lobbyist Dave Trabert.


Repealing in-state tuition provisions

The House Education Committee held a hearing today on HB 2139, a bill sponsored by Rep. Rubin to repeal provisions in law allowing the children of undocumented workers to benefit from in-state tuition rates and Kansas post-secondary education institutions.

Rubin and Secretary of State Kris Kobach testified in favor of the bill saying that it is contrary to federal law and rewards illegal behavior. Several other proponents complained of unfair treatment for kids from other states or the Obama administrations immigration policy.

Opponents of the bill included the Kansas Board of Regents, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), KNEA, KASB, religious leaders and a number of students now attending colleges and using the in-state tuition rates.

The Kansas policy on in-state tuition for these students requires that they have lived in Kansas for at least three years, graduated from a Kansas high school and sign an affidavit indicating they will seek legal status as soon as they are eligible to do so. It has been in effective for 11 years and over 600 students now take advantage of the policy. There have been many attempts to repeal the law over the years but none have succeeded.

In testimony before the Committee, KNEA said, “We urge you to continue to reward these high achieving, hard-working students for a job well done. It’s not about how their parents came here; it’s about what those kids did once they got here.”

No action was taken on the bill today.


Senate advances bill that would censor teaching materials

The full Senate this afternoon advanced SB 56, a bill that removes the “affirmative defense” for K-12 teachers in Kansas.

This bill would permit teachers to be hauled before a grand jury if a parent complains that materials used in class are inappropriate. The teacher could not use as a defense that the material was part of the adopted curriculum and had educational merit. If this bill becomes law, schools and teachers would very likely self-censor their lessons and materials, blocking from use anything that some individual parent might find offensive. Art history teachers, for example, will think twice about displaying the Statue of David or other works of art that display nudity.

It’s not that the teacher would necessarily be convicted of a crime but simply that schools would have to deal with expensive legal procedures every time a parent had an objection to some material used in class.

The bill will be subject to a second vote on the Senate floor tomorrow. If passed, it will go the House for consideration.

read more

Going after employees, bargaining, elections, and justices

Feb 12, 2015 by

The War on Teachers, Police, Fire Fighters, Highway Workers, Nurses, Correctional Officers…etc., etc.

You might remember earlier this year when Kansas Speaker of the House Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell) proclaimed in the press that public employees are “non-producers” – folks who just take and take and contribute nothing to society.

Well, it seems that a lot of state legislators and Governor Brownback must agree.

Yesterday we reported on the introduction in the Senate of two bills (SB 176 and SB 179) designed to end collective bargaining of anything other than “minimum salaries.” Public employees would lose the right to mediation and fact finding; they would lose the right to file a grievance. The Public Employment Relations Board (management and labor working together) would be abolished and all power for decision making handed to the Secretary of Labor (appointed by the Governor).

At the same time, the Governor announced a sweeping change in hiring practices and rules for state employees. His plan would change jobs to classified status, making most state employees “at will” employees who can be let go at any time for any reason (or no reason). He plans to end seniority considerations in staff reductions. His plan would create civil servants rewarded more for loyalty to the administration than for service to the citizens.

We can’t understand why it is that public employees have become the enemy of the state. Frankly, we appreciate having public employees plow the snow from our street or help us after an accident. We love the men and women who keep criminals behind bars, who fill the potholes, who watch over our state parks, who provide services to foster families. And of course, we love our school employees who take care of children every day.

Does anyone still need to be reminded that public employees are NOT the reason we have no money in the state bank account. Governor Brownback and the Kansas Legislature consciously worked to bankrupt the state treasury through their income tax cuts that benefit only the wealthiest Kansans leave those who depend on quality state services with nothing.


Senate Education again to take up collective bargaining

You will remember that we reported on a hearing the Senate Education Committee on SB 136, the PNA modification bill crafted and supported by KASB, KNEA, USA/KS, and KSSA. The entire education community stood up in favor of a specific bill modifying PNA. No one appeared in the committee to oppose SB 136. Sounds like a pretty easy decision – all educators support it, no one opposes it.

But…next week the Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on SB 176, the bill we described above and in yesterday’s report. A bill the whole education community opposes; a bill which will send the teaching profession back to the turn of the century (and we’re talking about 1899-1900, not 1999-2000!

The hearing will be on Wednesday of next week. You can contact the members of the Senate Education Committee on this issue by clicking on their names below:

Sen. Steve Abrams

Sen. Tom Arpke

Sen. Anthony Hensley

Sen. Vickie Schmidt

Sen. Dan Kerschen

Sen. Pat Pettey

Sen. Molly Baumgardner

Sen. Dennis Pyle

Sen. Jeff Melcher

Sen. Caryn Tyson

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald


Other Big Issues: Elections and Courts

Most KNEA members will be as surprised as we were to learn that teachers hold total dominion over the election of local school board members. But that’s just why, according to Senator Mitch Holmes (R-St. John), that he had to introduce Senate Bill 171, a measure to move local elections from April of odd numbered years to November of even numbered years. We suppose that’s the same rationale for making those elections partisan – requiring party identification.

We are not surprised to find that city and county commissions and school boards across the state are passing resolutions opposing SB 171. They don’t want the elections closest to the people to become the partisan circus we see on the state and federal level where dark money groups on both sides spend small fortunes to vilify candidates. Our local elections do not need to become more focused on character assassination than on local issues of real concern.

At the same time we’ve been watching hearings on constitutional amendments that would abolish merit selection of justices and replace it with political whim.

Angry mostly about judicial decisions on school finance – from Montoy to Gannon – Brownback and his allies are trying to either secure for themselves the appointment of justices who will rule more in line with their ideology or, not achieving that, turn appointment to the supreme court into popular partisan elections.

Either way, the court would become beholden not to the rule of law but rather to the administration or campaign donors.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of a particular court ruling, everyone wants to know that should they need to seek justice from a court, they can count on a court that puts the rule of law and fairness above their appointment or re-election campaign.


Senate Education Still Working Homeschoolers in Sports Bill

The Senate Education continued working SB 60 today, the bill that would permit homeschool or private school children to participate in extracurricular or co-curricular programs in public schools.

A number of amendments offered by Sen. Vickie Schmidt (R-Topeka) were adopted this afternoon but she still has one more which will have to wait until Monday as the committee needed to adjourn and go to the floor.

Schmidt’s amendments would ensure that:

  • Non-public school students must pay the same participation fees as public school students,
  • Non-public school students are subject to KSHAA rules,
  • District liability insurance must cover non-public school students,
  • Non-public school students must attest to academic requirements,
  • There is no guarantee of a spot on the team; the coach/sponsor decides,
  • Non-public school students must submit proof of immunization.

That’s when the discussion ended, with Schmidt having one more amendment to go. So…More on Monday!

 

 

 

 

 

read more

Negotiation Bill gets hearing

Feb 5, 2015 by

House Ed Committee hears “Minority Report” bill on PNA

House Bill 2034 was introduced at the request of Dave Trabert, Mike O’Neal, Sam Williams, and Dennis DePew. It would ensure that professional negotiations would devolve into bitter arguments and anger.

Essentially, the bill mandates only the negotiation of salaries; all other issues could not be bargained unless both sides agreed. Either side could simply say no to stymie the other. This bill is opposed by the Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas School Superintendents Association, United School Administrators/Kansas, and the Kansas National Education Association. All four of those organizations appeared before the committee to ask that they reject HB 2034 and instead enact changes to the PNA that were agreed upon by the four education groups.

The only person to speak in favor of the bill was Dave Trabert, lobbyist for the Kansas Policy Institute. Trabert also recently testified in favor of Senate Bill 71 which would immediately cut $39 million out of public schools.

Trabert told the committee that the bill crafted by the four organizations represented a compromise and so should be rejected. Compromise is apparently bad in Trabert’s world. Yet compromise is the very essence of negotiation – whether that negotiation is about your working conditions or the price you’ll pay for your next car.

Trabert also asserted that school boards and superintendents were supportive of HB 2034 even though their organizations stood in opposition to the bill. He told the committee that he had spoken to superintendents and board members and they told him so. Asked who those persons were, Trabert said they were scared to be publicly named. They feel “intimidated” and in fear for their jobs. Interestingly, Trabert was supportive of the bill last year to strip teachers of all due process protections, leaving them the only ones really fearing for their jobs when advocating for children and schools.

The genesis of this whole discussion was a request made of the four organizations by legislators to get together and negotiate changes to the PNA that would be agreeable to all. Those discussions resulted in an agreement that would modify the PNA to make the process more efficient, effective, and focused. The education organizations’ agreement is in Senate Bill 136 (which will have a hearing in the Senate Education Committee next week) and has been introduced in the House but does not yet have a bill number.

The whole debate makes one wonder why, if the legislature asked the organizations to craft recommendations, they would then oppose those recommendations. Additionally, HB 2034 was opposed by the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission. The Commission rejected HB 2034 and instead encouraged the education organizations to complete their negotiations. The education community – teachers, superintendents, administrators, and board members – all support SB 136 and its House companion and oppose HB 2034.

We can only hope that the Committee will listen to those who actually work in our schools and participate in bargaining over Dave Trabert and his unidentified supporters.

read more

Rose Standards & PNA

Feb 3, 2015 by

Rose standards discussion in House Ed Committee

The House Education Committee held an informative meeting with incoming Commissioner of Education Randy Watson and Brad Neuenswander on the Rose Standards (often called the Rose Capacities). Much of the discussion centered on assessments in general and what might be ways in which one can determine that the schools are successful in instilling the Rose Standards in students. This discussion was held preliminary to a hearing tomorrow on a bill from the Efficiency Commission that would create a commission to determine how to measure the Rose Standards.

PNA bill introduced in Senate Ed Committee

A bill modifying the professional negotiations act in accordance to changes agreed upon by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA has been introduced in the Senate Education Committee at the request of the four organizations. Senators seemed genuinely pleased that the organizations had crafted a set of recommended changes that would make collective bargaining more efficient, more effective, and more focused.

Meanwhile in the House Education Committee, there is a hearing scheduled on HB 2034 on Wednesday. This is the bill from the Efficiency Commission’s minority report. The Commission as a whole opted to make no recommendations on collective bargaining pending the outcome of the talks among the four organizations. A minority of Commission members (Dave Trabert, Mike O’Neal, Sam Williams, and Dennis DePew) decided to press the issue in their report because they lacked confidence in the organizations. During the upcoming hearing, KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA will testify in opposition to HB 2034 and ask the committee to instead consider introducing the same bill that is now in the Senate committee. Pensions on working after retirement

read more