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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Sex, Equity, Bonding, and Procurement…Lots Going On Under the Dome!

Mar 16, 2016 by

House Passes Over Sex Ed Bill for Today

HB 2199, the bill requiring that human sexuality education be offered only on an “opt-in” basis, was up for debate today on the House floor. After debating three other bills, a motion was made to rise and report meaning that the bill was not debated today. It remains on the calendar and is available for debate later.

Under current law, local school boards can make a determination whether to offer human sexuality education on an opt-in or opt-out basis depending on their own community. This bill would disallow the opt-out option.

There is general agreement that opt-in programs have lower participation than opt-out. Many worry that without human sexuality education, some students will not get age appropriate education. As a result, it is possible that there could be an increase in sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies.

The bill went further in that it would prohibit a school district from exposing any child who had not opted in to the program to any program materials. This provision stemmed from a parent complaint in the Shawnee Mission School District. One child photographed a controversial poster in a classroom that was part of the adopted human sexuality program.

If passed as is, the district would have to ensure that no child who is not in the program cannot see any program materials. The district would have to ensure that, if a classroom is used for both human sexuality and another subject, no materials from the human sexuality program could be seen. Additionally, the district would have to find a way to keep students in the program from sharing anything from the program with others. This would be impossible to enforce.

KNEA opposes this bill and believes school districts and boards will make the appropriate decisions for their own communities.


Ways and Means Takes Up Masterson Equity Bill

The Senate Ways and Means Committee today held a hearing on SB 512, Senator Masterson’s (R-Andover) bill intended to address the equity ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court.

While the bill shares some similarities to the Ryckman bill (HB 2731) heard in the House yesterday, it differs in one pretty significant way. Both bills return to the equity formula provisions in place before passage of the block grant bill (SB 7) and both bills repeal the extraordinary needs fund in order to find some money for fix. But while the House Bill looks to spend an additional $23 million, the Senate Bill simply rearranges some existing school funding to bridge the gap between the $17 million from the extraordinary needs fund and the actual cost of restoring equity.

Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute expressed some support for the Senate Bill because it provides no additional funding to schools.

Problems with both bills are that 1) they eliminated the extraordinary needs fund which is the only place districts can go in the event of large changes in property values or student demographics/enrollment and 2) they create winners and losers, something that is especially problematic at a time when schools have been flat funded.

And while the block grant would allegedly let schools know what they would get in funding for its duration, they would actually cut funding to some districts. One also wonders what impact the elimination of the extraordinary needs fund would have on the adequacy case still pending in the Courts.

No action has been taken as of yet on either bill.


Bond & Interest Review Panel Bill in Senate

The bill creating the Bond and Interest Review Panel was taken up once again in the Senate Education Committee today. Senate Bill 356 as introduced was very similar to House Bill 2456, worked in the House Education Committee yesterday.

While the bill was up to be worked today in Committee, no action was yet taken. Senator Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) has proposed an amendment to the bill changing the review panel structure which has been floating in committee since the bill was first debated. And today, Senator Vickie Schmidt (R-Topeka) has offered to amend the bill to match the changes made yesterday to HB 2456 with the Trimmer and Bradford amendments.

The Senate Committee will need to return to the bill later to determine which way to go.


Education Budget Committee Considers Procurement Restrictions for Schools

The House Education Budget Committee today is discussing HB 2729, a bill crafted based on a recommendation from the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Study.

The first section of the bill would require school districts to make purchases through the Department of Administration’s Procurement List. This list is agreements for bulk purchasing that saves the state money.

The bill provides a few exceptions the requirement:

  • Such items or services may be procured locally in an amount within 1% of total procurement cost of the amount the department is able to procure the same items or services;
  • such items or services may be procured through an education service center;
  • (such board of education determines in writing that such items have a material quality difference that would negatively impact student performance or outcomes as long as the secretary agrees with such determination in writing; or
  • prior to July 1, 2018, a contract for the procurement of such items or services in existence on July 1, 2016, is still in existence.

There is concern in school districts with a provision in section 2 that would make the above apply to the purchase of any services over $20,000. There are services that a district might purchase that cost over $20,000 such as attorney representation that, under current law, would be exempt from the standard bid procedure. Current law requires bidding and the selection of the lowest bid for “construction, reconstruction or remodeling or for the purchase of materials, goods or wares…” It specifically exempts services.

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Senate to Consider Bill Ending Teacher Representation This Week

Mar 13, 2016 by

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TAKE ACTION NOW! END ATTACKS ON PUBLIC EDUCATION AND EDUCATION PROFESSIONALS

Last week, Senator Julia Lynn, demonstrating her anti-teacher zealotry, railroaded a bill through the Commerce Committee that, if enacted as it came out of committee, would essentially end the ability of teachers to have representation in collective bargaining.

Senate Bill 469 would require that a teachers association would have to be recertified as the representative every three years by gaining more than 50% or all persons eligible to vote in a representation election. The ballot would be required to have as candidates the current representative, any other organization that sought recognition, and an option of “no representation.”

Under the required vote standard, an organization that received even 100% of the votes cast, could lose the election if only 49% of those eligible to vote did so. If this standard were to be applied to Kansas Senate elections, no member of the current Senate Commerce Committee would have been elected – even the two who ran unopposed!

Another section of the bill says that if the Department of Labor was unable to get to a vote in a district, the local representative would automatically be decertified and could not stand for a new election for a period of 36 months, leaving teachers in that district without a contract or representative for a three full years! The Department of Labor does not employ enough staff to manage the nearly 300 elections called for in the bill.

This bill was opposed in the hearing by the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, the Kansas School Superintendents Association, and Kansas NEA. Those who stood for the bill were the Kansas Policy Institute’s Dave Trabert, the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, and the Association of American Educators which is funded in large part by right wing foundations.

Lynn, after hearing from the anti-union proponents and before opponents were given a chance to speak, announced publicly that the bill would be passed out of committee and rushed to the full Senate. Lynn apparently does not like to be bothered by anyone whose thoughts conflict with hers.

True to her word, the bill was railroaded out of committee but not before Lynn had to deny a Democratic Senator an opportunity to offer an amendment and then cutting off KNEA General Counsel David Schauner in the middle of a response to a question from a committee member.

There are a number of things that disturb us about the handling of this bill.

One is the obvious lack of respect for dissenting opinions and willingness to ignore fundamental democratic principles demonstrated by Senator Lynn in her management of the committee and the issue.

The other is the bill itself whose sole purpose is to deny teachers – and only teachers – any voice in their working conditions, salaries, and benefits.

To weigh in on this bill with Senators before the debate in the full Senate, click here.

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When Democracy Gets in the Way of Ideology, Just Ignore It

Mar 9, 2016 by

Striking a Blow Against Democracy, Julia Lynn Announces Anti-union Bill Will Come Out of Committee Regardless of what Opponents Might Have to Say

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Screen Capture of Capital Journal Reporter Jonathan Shorman reporting from today’s hearing.

We have apparently been all wrong about senators all these years. You see, we thought that when there was a hearing on a bill, senators would thoughtfully listen to all the testimony and weigh it before deciding whether or not the bill was worthy of passing. So imagine our surprise today when Senator Julia Lynn (R-Olathe), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, announced that while she would allow the opponents of SB 469 to speak tomorrow, the bill would be passed by the Committee and sent to the floor of the Senate as quickly as possible.

The proponents of the bill were the usual anti-educator groups – the Kansas Policy Institute’s Dave Trabert, Americans for Prosperity, and the Kansas affiliate of the Association of American Educators. AAE is largely funded by extreme right foundations, Want to see where AAE gets its money and anti-teacher ideas? Click here. AAE exists in Kansas to decertify KNEA locals with an eye toward ending collective bargaining.

Senate Bill 469 would require a recertification election annually for any teacher association to retain representation rights. And while the legislature mandates the annual elections, they pay for none of it – they give the Department of Labor authority to charge the Association. Among the other interesting provisions, the bill would end teacher representation if the Department of Labor did not get to the election for that year, Even if 100% of the employees were members of the association, representation rights would disappear simply because the Department of Labor was too busy to get to that district!

Opponents scheduled to speak tomorrow include the Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas School Superintendents Association, United School Administrators of Kansas, and the Kansas NEA.

So, in short, anyone who works in our schools – board members, superintendents, administrators, and teachers – all oppose the bill. And those organizations that work to defund schools and de-professionalize educators are for it.

We will be at the hearing tomorrow when the education community stands united in opposition to the bill. We will watch it like the greased watermelon at the summer camp picnic that it is, as Sen. Lynn shoots the bill out.

Voucher Bill Stopped But Not Dead Yet

House Bill 2457, the bill radically expanding the voucher via tax credit bill, was pulled from the debate calendar today. There are two ways to ensure this bill dies. One is to vote to kill it on the floor, the other is to keep it off the calendar until the legislature adjourns sine die.

Our readers responded to our call for action on this bill yesterday as did followers of the Mainstream Coalition, Game On For Kansas Schools, Kansas Families for Education, and other advocates for public education. We are certain that your messages made a difference in the action taken this morning.

Let’s keep the heat on. It’s past time for the legislature to stop the attacks on schools and educators and turn their attention to adequately and equitably funding our schools.

The bill is not scheduled for debate tomorrow.

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School Finance Committee meets for public hearing

Dec 16, 2015 by

The K-12 Student Success Committee met for a public input day today and allowed a few members of the public to weigh in on school finance.

You might wonder if the committee has any biases. Well, at the last meeting, they invited Dave Trabert of KPI to debate school finance with Mark Tallman of KASB. This week, they lined up a number of conferees giving the first conferee – anti-public education gadfly Walt Chappell – a full 45 minutes and then giving all other conferees only 10 minutes. This was by design. The printed agenda detailed how much time each conferee would get!

Chappell used his time to trash Kansas public schools as failing children and went on to suggest ways to save money – get rid of MTSS because it is useless, don’t enroll non-English speaking students (every other country requires language proficiency before a kid gets to school), and eliminate all athletic programs (go to club sports paid for by parents like other countries do).

He was followed by Kansas Tea Party leader Chris Brown who blasted school districts for building facilities and called upon the legislature to grant approval to individual projects before they could proceed.

Four superintendents (Mischel Miller, Vermillion; Justin Henry, Goddard; Richard Proffitt, Chanute, Destry Brown, Pittsburg) laid out the challenges school districts face in the 21st century while Principals Kim McCune (Douglass) and Thomas Barry (Leavenworth) talked about the challenges their teachers face every day and the ways they work to overcome those challenges. Every administrator did an excellent job of putting school finance in perspective for the committee.

Education advocates Mary Sinclair (Kansas PTA) and Devin Wilson (Game On) provided the parent’s perspective in the desire not just for adequate schools but for excellent schools for all children.

Topeka Resident Phillis Setchell asked that the committee enact school vouchers and require that all reading instruction be done through intensive phonics. She asserted that phonics is what made Ben Carson the great man he is today.

The Pastor of the God I AM House Church in Topeka spoke to the sources that were brought by conferees and announced that his source was superior to all other sources. His source needed vouchers and tax payments for homeschooling parents.

Trabert and Tallman were then called upon to answer any questions that were left hanging after the last committee meeting.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) had 15 minutes on the agenda at his request. Trimmer announced that he simply had some issues that had not been addressed that he would like to have in the record and wanted the time to make his comments. When he was finished, there was a brief pause after which Chairman Highland asked Dave Trabert if he would like to rebut Trimmer.

This was unprecedented! When Committee members make comments, lobbyists are NEVER asked if they would like to rebut! Lobbyists are granted time for their testimony and questioned but once the hearing is over, that’s it. Trabert proceeded in this case to not just rebut but to enter into a lengthy debate with Trimmer. This was a debate that other committee Chairmen would have ended, calling it out of order but for some reason it was allowed to continue.

Once the debate ended, Chairman Highland announced that committee members were to email their suggestions and ideas to either him or Vice-Chairman Abrams. Highland and Abrams will then draft a report which will be reviewed and discussed at a meeting on January 5, 2016.

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