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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So Close, Yet So Far Away

Jun 3, 2015 by

Once again, the Senate took up HB 2109, their tax bill. They’ve been at it for several days now, each night abandoning the debate as it became apparent things were not going well.

Yesterday, Senator King (R-Independence) offered an amendment that would include:

  • The tax amnesty plan,
  • The Christmas tree farm amendment previously offered by Senator Holmes,
  • The Social Security amendment previously offered by Senator Tyson fixed to address the military problem brought up by Senator Kelly,
  • The Department of Revenue tax letter amendment previously offered by Senator Baumgardner,
  • The repeal of the alumni association tax exemption previously offered by Senator Pilcher-Cook,
  • The “double dipping” on charitable contributions amendment previously offered by Senator Smith.

The effect of the King amendment is to bring the bill back to a much earlier form but include some amendments that had been adopted previously and send it off to conference.

King argued that the big floor debate has been held and now it’s time to let the conference committee cobble together an agreement to bring forth for a vote by both chambers.

Senator Hensley who had argued strongly that such a debate was needed and necessary indicated that he would support this amendment provided that the Senate conferees would also carry other Senate positions that had been approved on the floor, particularly the sales tax positions.

The King amendment would keep the sales tax at 6.15% for all purchases.

Far right conservatives continued their opposition to sending such a bill to conference. They want assurance that there will be no report coming forward that would reinstate income taxes on the 330,000 businesses now exempt. Senator Melcher likened this bill to the Trabant – the notoriously unreliable East German automobile.

It became clear the no promises were being made at this time on any of those points which caused Hensley to rethink his support of the amendment.

The amendment was ultimately adopted on a roll call vote of 21-17, the bare majority.

Senator Francisco (D-Lawrence) then offered an amendment to lower the food sales tax rate to 5.7% beginning on January 1. This would be consistent with amendments adopted by the Senate in earlier debates. Hensley pointed out that the last Senate position on sales taxes was 5.7% on food and 5.95% on everything else.

The Francisco amendment was adopted on a vote of 24 to 11.

At this point, King noted that adoption of the Francisco amendment set up a technical conflict elsewhere in the bill that would require an additional amendment. Since it would take several hours to have the technical fix drawn up as an amendment, the Senate chose to rise and report progress, adjourning until today at 10:00.

If adopted today, this tax bill would produce about $30 million in additional revenue – only $370 million more until the budget is balanced!

An earlier amendment by Senator LaTurner (R-Pittsburg) that was adopted on a vote of 30 to 8 would prohibit increases in property tax collections to exceed inflation without a vote of the people is also in the bill as it stands now. Coupled with state cuts, this could have a devastating effect on local units of government.

Budget bills down to two

Yesterday we reported that the budget conference committee was planning to put out three bills – one, the budget as it has already been proposed (needing $400 million), another just like it but with a 2% cut to a few agencies (not education), and a third with a 6% cut across the board (including education).

The committee got back together in the afternoon and Senator Masterson (R-Andover) withdrew the proposal with the 2% cut meaning that there are now two budget bills up for consideration.

SB 112, which goes to the House, is the budget as it was originally proposed that needs $400 million in additional revenue to balance, and

HB 2135, which goes to the Senate, which has a 5.7% across the board cut that will balance the budget but provide for no ending balance.

A 5.7% cut to education would be about $181 million. KASB calculates this to be an average cut of $369/pupil.

PNA bill to the Governor

The conference committee report on HB 2353 was adopted by the House yesterday. This action sends it to the Governor for his signature.

The bill makes some technical clean-ups to SB 7, the block grant bill, and enacts changes to the Professional Negotiations Act that are in line with the KNEA, KASB, KSSA, USA/KS consensus agreement.

The changes move the notice and impasse dates to later in the year, maintain the current list of negotiable items, mandate that salaries and hours are negotiated every year and that each side may choose up to three items from the list that must be negotiated. All other items may be negotiated by mutual agreement.

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It’s Alchemy! Boldra amendment turns bad bill into good bill!

Feb 25, 2015 by

House guts HB 2326! Moves educators’ PNA bill!

The House of Representatives today had HB 2326 on the debate calendar. This is the collective bargaining bill adopted by the House Commerce Committee that would have ended collective bargaining as we know it and replaced it with negotiations conducted with teachers in groups or as individuals. The bill would have created chaos in the HR departments of school districts. It was opposed by KASB, KNEA, USA/KS, and KSSA.

When the bill came up for debate today, Rep. Sue Boldra (R-Hays) moved an amendment that gutted the contents of HB 2326 and replaced it with the contents of HB 2257, the bill that contains the consensus agreement by the education groups on changes to the Professional Negotiations Act.

After a long debate on the Boldra amendment, it was adopted on a vote of 67 to 52. This means that HB 2326 – a bill we opposed – is now a bill we support!

The debate revealed strong bipartisan support for educators as both Republicans and Democrats came to the well to support the consensus agreement. Speaking up for the education community in addition to Boldra were Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield), Diana Dierks (R-Salina), Annie Tietze (D-Topeka), John Doll (R-Garden City), Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City), Chuck Smith (R-Pittsburg), Louis Ruiz (D-Kansas City), and Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway).

The bill has one more hurdle to pass. It will face a final action vote tomorrow. We imagine that those who don’t want the consensus bill to pass will be twisting arms tonight in the hope of changing the outcome tomorrow.


TAKE ACTION!

It is critically important that tonight, supporters of public schools and public school educators contact their Representatives, thank them for adopting the Boldra amendment and urging them to vote YES on HB 2326 as amended on final action.

Click here to send a message NOW!

 


Senate passes bill that would censor teaching materials

The full Senate this afternoon passed SB 56, a bill that removes the “affirmative defense” for K-12 teachers in Kansas, on final action. The vote was 26 – 14.

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.

KNEA opposed the bill. Voting NO were Senators Bowers (R-Concordia), Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita), Francisco (D-Lawrence), Haley (D-Kansas City), Hawk (D-Manhattan), Hensley (D-Topeka), Holland (D-Baldwin City), Longbine (R-Emporia), McGinn (R-Sedgwick), O’Donnell (R-Wichita), Pettey (D-Kansas City), Schmidt (R-Topeka), and Wolf (R-Prairie Village).

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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