Time to Act- Attacks Ratchet Up

Mar 8, 2016 by

Rep. Bradford & Sen Melcher leading attacks.

Rep. Bradford & Sen Melcher leading attacks.

First Bill on House Floor Tomorrow is Expansion of Vouchers

Representative Kasha Kelley (R-Arkansas City) will be carrying HB 2457 on the House floor tomorrow.

This bill is a radical expansion of a program that will do damage to our public schools, the state budget, and the education of low-income students.

Current law limits these tuition tax credits to at-risk children in Title I Priority or Focus schools. This bill opens the door to all students without regard to how they are performing in school or if the school is a highly successful one. It opens the door to students who are not now in public schools. It opens the door to half the families in Kansas by setting the only requirement as a family at or below 185% of the federal poverty rate.

The changes contained in HB 2457 would do the following:

-Remove any requirement that the program serve children with learning needs,

-Encouraging “cherry picking” of high achieving students,

-Remove $10 million from potential state revenue that could be used to better fund existing public schools and establish a ratcheting effect such that the loss to the state would increase by 25% annually.

-Allow state dollars to be used to send children to unaccredited, unaccountable private and home schools.

What legislators fail to consider is the return on investment of this plan? They question whether or not our schools are producing results worthy of investment. What is relationship between spending and learning outcomes? Yet in this bill the legislature is willing to give away millions in taxpayer money on schools that won’t report results to anyone.

This bill is not about helping children. It is all about the privatization of education in Kansas.

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We said it would happen.

They start out slow and then all of a sudden, it’s an all-out assault on our public schools, our profession, and our teachers.

This week in rapid succession, the legislature will try to divert millions of tax dollars to private schools, dismantle teachers professional associations, take school finance away from the State Department of Education, and limit bond and interest state aid for property poor school districts.

We told you this day would come and here it is. We will be asking you to take action now and over the days to come. Stay alert, stay engaged, and hold your legislators accountable for their votes and actions!

It starts NOW!

Melcher Continues on His Anti-Union Crusade

Well, at least when it comes to one union – the Kansas National Education Association. Senator Jeff Melcher (R-Leawood) has spent a significant amount of his time in the Senate trying to destroy teacher unions and public sector unions in general.

This time, he has Senate Bill 469 which would require a recertification election annually for any teacher association to retain representation rights. The bill will get a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. KNEA will join with the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators, and the Kansas School Superintendents Association in united opposition to the bill.

Here are a few of most anti-teacher sections (emphasis ours):

If the professional employees’ organization fails to receive votes from a majority of all professional employees in the represented unit, or if no election is held within the time period required under subsection (b), the professional employees’ organization shall no longer be recognized and the professional employees shall be unrepresented.

If a professional employees’ organization is no longer recognized after an election held pursuant to this section, the terms of any agreement between the professional employees and the board of education shall continue and remain in effect for the remaining term of such agreement, except for any provisions involving, in any manner, the professional employees’ organization, including, but not limited to, organization security, dues and fees and grievance and arbitration.

A new professional employees’ organization may be recognized in accordance with K.S.A. 72-5416, and amendments thereto, provided the professional employees’ organization is not substantially similar to or affiliated with any professional employees’ organization that lost its recognition as the exclusive representative within the immediately preceding 12 months.

The secretary may establish by rules and regulations a fee schedule for the purpose of paying the expenses of conducting elections held pursuant to this section. Such fees shall be collected from professional employees’ organizations participating in such elections.

House Ed Begins Debate on Bond Review Committee

The House Education Committee met today to work HB 2486, a bill creating the bond review process under which districts that receive state aid for bond and interest.

The intent of the proponents is to get more control over the amount of money spent on school construction bonds year by year. The bill has a number of components that seem intended to rein in costs such as limiting state aid to areas used for direct instruction of students and disallowing aid for athletic facilities including school gyms.

A very complex amendment was offered by chairman Highland. Highland, wanting to give committee members time to digest the amendment, announced that neither the bill nor the amendment would be voted on today. The matter will be taken up on Friday.

Issues debated today included whether or not this bill would make equity in the formula worse and even if the bill actually did control costs.

Most interesting part of the discussion was when Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) used as an example the Lansing School District. He asserted that there was a rumor that state aid would decline so a bond issue was rushed through and a brand new state of the art high school was built. Additional funds are being used to refurbish the old high school into a new middle school. Bradford said it was inappropriate for taxpayers around the state to help Lansing build the new facility when they already had a “perfectly good high school.” It’s rare when a legislator speaks against the interests of his own constituents.

Undermining Department of Ed and Local Control

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Merit Pay; K-12 Funding Report

Jan 19, 2016 by

Merit Pay Hearing

The House Education Committee held an informational hearing on the issue of teacher merit pay this afternoon. Note that there is not a bill to create such a plan; the intent of today’s hearing was to see what people think.

It is clear that some legislators want merit pay imposed on teachers and school districts and the Governor has called for such a system to be part of any new school finance system.

Earlier in the session, the issue was brought up by Senator Melcher (R-Leawood) when Commissioner Watson and members of the State Board of Education were speaking to the Senate Education Committee. Watson and Board Member James McNiece both dismissed the idea as bad for morale and harmful to the collaborative nature of teaching.

In today’s hearing the only vocal support (outside of Rep. Jerry Lunn, R-Overland Park) came from the Kansas Policy Institute and the Governor’s office. But even both of them tempered their remarks. KPI said they supported the idea “in concept” and Brandon Smith of the Governor’s office said it should be left to the local board and teachers.

Opposing the imposition of a system from the state were KASB, KNEA, Kansas Families for Education, and the Manhattan-Ogden School Board. There was additional testimony submitted in writing, all but one (the Heritage Foundation) opposed merit pay. You can read all the testimony by clicking here.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this issue throughout the session.

K-12 Student Success Committee Report Adopted

The K-12 Student Success Committee met this morning to take up the report they tabled at their last meeting. Substituted for the original report written by Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego) was a new version drafted by Legislative Research staff.

Senator Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) offered a number of amendments regarding equity, assessments, the mandatory use of the ACT and bond aid payments. Most were voted down on mostly party line votes. Two were adopted:

A new school funding mechanism should:

Focus on each student understand that students have different needs and will require varying levels of support to achieve success;

Be equitable so that school districts have reasonably equal access to substantially similar educational opportunity through similar tax effort.

Some thoughts by Senator Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) were appended to the end of the report while Senator Hensley submitted a minority report.

You can find the documents by clicking here.


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First Up is Merit Pay!

Jan 14, 2016 by

And they’re off! It started before the session when Governor Brownback said he wanted teacher merit pay in any new school finance system. It was ratcheted up a notch when House Education Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego) went on television to say merit pay for teachers is easy to figure out. Well, what he actually said is “I can walk in any school and talk to the janitor and I can tell you who the best teacher is in every school; they all know.”

The legislature is wasting no time in pushing the issue. Yesterday during a presentation to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees by Commissioner Randy Watkins and SBOE Member Jim McNiece, Senator Jeff Melcher (R-Leawood) pressed the issue. McNiece responded, telling Melcher that Kansas needs to address the overall compensation levels in the profession. He warned that raising the pay of some teachers without addressing overall compensation first would create morale problems. “What you’re going to do is make it worse,” he said. “It’s going to be throwing gasoline on the fire.”

Watson and McNiece both told the Committees that the perception among teachers that they aren’t valued is a significant problem. McNiece went on to say that Kansans need to “change the conversation about teachers and what they do, and recognize how hard they work and applaud them first.”

The evidence is clear that merit pay doesn’t work. And it doesn’t work in the private sector either. There is plenty of research demonstrating that for professional jobs requiring cognitive skills, creativity, and problem solving, merit pay or pay for performance schemes actually harm productivity.

Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, explores research done by economists for the Federal Reserve and the London School of Economics that clearly shows the harm done by pay for performance plans. Pink explores this in a TED Talk that you can view by clicking here.

Now, in fast tracking the idea, Chairman Highland this morning announced an informational hearing on the issue to be held when the legislature reconvenes on Tuesday. KNEA will be there to testify.

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Committees & Discussion But Little Action Today

May 14, 2015 by

Very little action Under the Dome Today. Two committees in which we have interest did meet. After reviewing a variety of items within the Kansas Legislative Staff’s omnibus memo reports, the Senate Ways and Means committee chaired by Senator Ty Masterson had only a few moments of note.  Thirty million dollars in House appropriations for districts to make up for lower property appraisals was rejected after a motion by Senator Denning was passed by the committee.  Further consideration on those appropriations now moves to a conference committee.  Senator Fitzgerald questioned the availability of excess state resources and inquired if they could be used to help close a budget gap.

The Senate Assessment and Tax Committee met to develop a tax bill and send it to the floor of the Senate. The original bill included 13 points of revenue which included increasing the sales tax, liquor tax, dropping the Homestead Exemption, increasing the fuel tax among other taxes. The committee began amending the bill by taking out the increase in liquor taxes which passed. Senator Melcher then proposed amending SB 302 into the senate tax bill which would increase property tax for farmers and ranchers. That amendment failed. Another failed amendment by Senator Melcher would have instituted a sales tax on the sale of farm equipment. Time was running out for the committee because the Senate was due on the floor and the bill was still being debated in committee. Lastly, Senator Holland proposed an amendment to take out the increase in sales tax. That amendment passed. At this point Chairman Donovan said that “he could see where this bill was going.” He adjourned the committee meeting with no bill passing out. 

In the House of Representatives, there were no general orders today and no action was taken on their tax bill SB 270.

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Senate reverses on PNA; sides with KPI, KCC instead of Educators

Mar 24, 2015 by

Melcher leads attack on teachers

Senator Jeff Melcher led the attack on teachers in the Senate today, convincing 19 others to abandon the bill the Senate earlier approved 40 to 0 and reflected the agreement among KNEA, KASB, KSSA, and USA/KS on improvements to the Professional Negotiations Act.

Melcher, who has focused his time in the Senate on stripping public employees of any rights they might enjoy in law, offered an amendment on a PNA bill today that does four things:

  • It ends fact-finding in the bargaining process,
  • It sunsets all current contract provisions on their next expiration date,
  • It bans the negotiation of salary provisions beyond “minimum salaries,” and
  • It prohibits districts and unions from negotiating due process provisions in their contracts.

In his summation on the Senate floor, Melcher told the body that teachers would appreciate this bill because it would free school districts to increase their salaries and set Kansas on the path to terminating 7 to 10% of all teachers. Melcher maintains that firing these teachers will put Kansas top in the world in education.

Voting with Melcher to gut collective bargaining for teachers were:

Abrams, Arpke, Baumgardner, Bruce, Denning, Donovan, Fitzgerald, Holmes, King, Knox, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Pyle, Smith and Wilborn.

Voting to respect the education community’s agreement on professional negotiations were:

Bowers, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, Kerschen, LaTurner, Longbine, McGinn, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pettey, Schmidt, Tyson, and Wolf.

Present but not voting were:

Love and O’Donnell

Coming to the floor this bill had the support of KNEA, KASB, KSSA, and USA/KS. With the Melcher amendment, all four organizations oppose the bill.

The bill will be subject to a final action vote sometime tomorrow.

It is critical that you contact your Senator TONIGHT by phone and email. Tell them that these attacks on teachers must stop. Vote NO on HB 2326.

Click here to access a Senate roster with office phone numbers and emails.

Debate on payroll deduction and PEERA bill halted

HB 2096 was taken up by the Senate today but after a vote on one amendment, the bill was pulled from debate and set aside on the calendar. It could come up later so keep watching.

As the bill was being debated, an amendment was offered by Sen. Garrett Love that would have stripped out the Baumgardner amendment. That amendment banned payroll deduction for any voluntary contributions – union dues, United Way, car payments to credit unions, etc. Baumgardner had argued if the state needed to get out of the business of helping others collect money, then it should be applied fairly and not only to unions.

The Love amendment failed on a vote of 13 to 19 with 7 Senators present and passing and one absent.

When the amendment failed, the bill was passed over. It could come back tomorrow.

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