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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Common Core and Collective Bargaining

Feb 23, 2015 by

A bill to ban common core and just about everything else

The House Education Committee held a hearing today on HB 2292, a bill brought forth by opponents of the common core state standards (known in Kansas as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards) that they hope will repeal the current standards and replace them with standards developed in 2003.

The bill goes much farther than common core. This bill ends anything done by a board or consortium outside of Kansas. It would end use of the SAT, the PSAT, and the AP Tests from the College Board. It goes on to specifically call out the AP tests and the International Baccalaureate Programs, requiring that those programs be rewritten to align with the 2003 Kansas curriculum standards.

In testimony on the bill KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti pointed out that, if passed, the bill would end National Merit Scholarships in Kansas, eliminate the potential for college credits for Kansas high school students through the AP program, and severely limit the chances of Kansas high school students for scholarships or entry into selective post-secondary programs.

Desetti also noted that the Legislature in adopted the Kansas Reading Initiative had specifically chosen the Lexia Reading program. But since Lexia aligns their program with the Common Core State Standards, the bill would prohibit school districts from using it.

The Common Core State Standards are supported by the United States Military to ensure that the children of military families can be certain of a basic set of educational standards no matter where the family is posted. Kansas, as a state with a strong military presence, would not be well-served by repealing the standards.

There were many conferees in the hearing today on both sides of the bill. No questions were permitted of the conferees and no action was taken on the bill.

Five Collective Bargaining Bills – Where They Stand

SB 136/HB 2257 – This is the consensus bill crafted by the education community (KASB, KNEA, USA/KS, KSSA). This bill would change the dates for notice and impasse to a more reasonable timeline; allow each side in the negotiation to notice no more than five items for negotiation thus limiting the number of items on the table in any given year; require salary to be negotiated every year; and provide training for bargaining teams. HB 2257 has not been given a hearing and sits in the House Education Committee. SB 136 had a hearing the Senate Education Committee but has not been acted upon. KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, KSSA all support these bills.

HB 2034 – This is the so-called “minority report” bill. It was crafted by Dave Trabert, Mike O’Neal, Dennis DePew, and Sam Williams. The bill limits negotiations to only salary and hours. If both sides agree, other topics could be negotiated but either side could refuse to negotiate on those items. HB 2034 had a hearing in the House Education Committee and was voted out. It now sits on the House calendar pending action by the full House. KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, KSSA all oppose this bill.

HB 2236 – This is a 2013 bill resurrected by the House Commerce Committee. This bill radically restricts collective bargaining and ends the exclusive representative provisions of the PNA. The Association could still be a negotiating representative but the contract would apply to members only. Any individual teacher could request that the board bargain an individual contract. The board would have no obligation to enter into individual negotiations and could simply make a “take it or leave it” offer. HB 2236 had a hearing in the House Commerce Committee and was voted out. It now sits on the House calendar pending action by the full House. KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, KSSA all oppose this bill.

SB 176 – This bill was introduced by Senator Melcher. It would end negotiations on anything except minimum salaries. Nothing else would be negotiable even if both sides wished to negotiate. This bill also ends provisions in the PNA for mediation and fact finding and allows the local school board to issue a unilateral contract as soon as impasse is declared. This bill had a hearing in the Senate Education Committee but no action has yet been taken. KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, KSSA all oppose this bill.

Today’s hearing on collective bargaining for teachers

Let’s repeat, the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, the Kansas School Superintendents Association, and the Kansas National Education Association spent the last 18 months crafted a consensus bill to make changes to the professional negotiations act which all four groups could support and would make bargaining more efficient, effective, and focused. That bill is SB 136 in the Senate and HB 2257 in the House.

But there must be some people who just can’t stomach the idea of the entire education community rallying together in support of one bill. We keep seeing bills tossed out to essentially end collective bargaining for teachers.

First there was HB 2034, the so-called “minority report” bill, supported by Dave Trabert of KPI. In a hearing on this bill in the House Education Committee, the four education groups testified against it while Dave Trabert supported it. Naturally the committee ignored the educators and sided with the Kansas Policy Institute. HB 2034 now sits on the House floor.

And despite having HB 2257 in Committee, Chairman Ron Highland has declined to hold a hearing on the education community’s bill.

Up in the House Commerce Committee, a hearing was held on HB 2326. This bill ends the exclusive representative provision in the PNA that allows employees to choose an organization to represent all the employees in bargaining. Under this bill a school board could still negotiate with the local association but the contract would only be for members of the association. Non-members could ask the board to negotiate with them individually but the board could simply make a take it or leave it offer.

Again, the whole education community testified against the bill which was supported by KPI, Walt Chappell, Steve Roberts, and Ken Willard. This Committee too chose to ignore educators and approve the anti-PNA bill. HB 2326 now sits on the House floor with HB 2034.

Over in the Senate, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on SB 136, the educators’ bill, but took no action on it.

Today, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on SB 176, a bill the limits negotiations to “minimum salaries” and ends all provisions for mediation and fact finding. Walt Chappell, Steve Roberts and KPI all testified in favor of the bill while KASB Executive Director John Heim testified against it on behalf of the four education groups.

Walt Chappell told the Committee that collective bargaining has allowed teachers to work only 2/3 of the day, the other third being spent in homeroom, planning periods, and other non-teacher activities. Chappell asserted that “You can hear a pin drop in schools 15 minutes after the last bell” because teachers all leave for the day.

Trabert told the Committee that he had spoken with superintendents and the superintendents were in favor of the bill (despite the fact that the Kansas School Superintendents Association opposes the bill). When asked who these superintendents are and why they don’t come to testify in support, Trabert said they were too intimidated to come forward and that he would protect their anonymity. Sen. Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) challenged this saying that she found it absurd that the leaders in school districts, the ones making the most money at the apex of authority, could somehow be too scared to come to a public hearing and make their position known.

The committee took no action on the bill today.

A little light reading!

If you’re a faithful reader of Under the Dome, you’ve probably had occasion to roll your eyes and wonder to yourself, “What are they thinking?!” Frankly, so do we. Today we came across this editorial in the Salina Journal and found it a particularly good summary of how crazy things can get up here.

Don’t think, just vote Republican, shut up (The Salina Journal, 2/22/15)



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Legislators ignore educators! TAKE ACTION NOW!

Feb 20, 2015 by

Another House Committee ignores educators on education

Yesterday the House Commerce Committee held a hearing on HB 2326, a bill resurrected from 2013 that end the right of teachers to choose an exclusive bargaining agent and would radically limit what teachers and school boards would be allowed to negotiate.

This bill is not only a direct attack on teacher rights, it grants an individual teacher the right to negotiate his/her own contract but allows a school board to refuse to negotiate. It limits what school boards may discuss in bargaining, and taken the direction that Reps. Marvin Kleeb and Erin Davis argued, would create a labor nightmare for school administrators who would have to either negotiate with every teacher or refuse to negotiate with anyone (that would help morale!).

The bill was opposed by the Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas NEA, the Kansas School Superintendents Association, and United School Administrators of Kansas.

Supporting the bill was KSBOE Member Steve Roberts who argued that this would ensure that high school STEM teachers were paid more than “kindergarten teachers specializing in finger painting.”

The history of this bill is interesting in that it first emerged in 2013 in the Commerce Committee then chaired by Rep. Marvin Kleeb. After several weeks of contentious hearings, Kleeb called the four education groups and directed them to negotiate changes to the bargaining law that would be acceptable to all four.

That is exactly what the groups did. The met for 18 months during which they gauged the needs and priorities of their members, exchanged ideas, brought in a negotiations facilitator, and negotiated in good faith seeking to secure the very agreement Kleeb requested.

In January the groups came to agreement and had a bill drafted reflecting that agreement (SB 136 and HB 2257). The groups first unveiled the agreement in a meeting with Rep. Kleeb believing that he would be excited that we had done he had requested.

Instead, in working the bill today, Kleeb joined Rep. Erin Davis in urging the committee to essentially ignore the education community and adopt a bill we all oppose.

HB 2326 was passed out of committee and now goes to the full House for consideration along with HB 2034 a bill that limits negotiations to salary only requested by anti-public education lobbyist Dave Trabert. HB 2034 was adopted by the House Education Committee.

This action puts two bills intended to essentially end collective bargaining for teachers on the House floor at the same time.

In the meantime the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on the education organizations’ bill, SB 136, and on Monday will hold a hearing on SB 176, a bill to limit negotiations to minimum salaries and end mediation and fact finding. Neither bill has yet been adopted by the Senate Committee.



Click here to access the KNEA legislative alert portal.

Once there click on the “Issues and Legislation” tab. Scroll to the bottom of the “Current Action Alerts” box and click on the “Kansas – Listen to educators! link. You will be sent to an email message for legislators that you can use as is or edit and send.


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Continued attacks on collective bargaining; Sex Ed bill out; Budget news

Feb 19, 2015 by

House Commerce hears bill to dismantle collective bargaining

Yet another bill in the House to diminish collective bargaining for teachers (HB 2326) had a hearing today, this time in the House Commerce Committee.

The Education Community – KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA – testified jointly in opposition to the bill asking legislators once again to adopt the bill that all four groups worked collaboratively to create. (HB 2257)

Here’s one of the most interesting things to think about in this discussion. At the end of 2013 legislative session, the House Commerce Committee asked the four organizations to get together and determine the best changes to make to the PNA. The four organizations took up the challenge and spent 18 months working with their members and then negotiating changes that satisfied each group. They had a bill drawn up and introduced in both the House and the Senate. The four groups all oppose any other legislation changing PNA. And yet the one bill that can’t get a hearing in the House is the one supported by educators.

Instead, the House Education Committee passed out Dave Trabert’s bill to essentially end collective bargaining for anything other than salaries. Now the House Commerce Committee appears enthusiastic about a bill that ends bargaining units, severely restricts what can be negotiated, and would require school districts to negotiate with any individual teacher or group of teachers that wanted their own deal. Supporting this bill was Ken Willard, chair of the Governor’s Efficiency Task Force of several years ago. Imagine if you will how efficient it would be for school districts to be required to individually negotiate with any individual or any group who asked!

State Board member Steve Roberts pitched the bill as a way to get more money to STEM teachers. Asked if it would increase salaries for all teachers, Roberts said he didn’t know “the effect on Kindergarten teachers who specialize in finger painting,” but it would certainly help the high school STEM teachers.

Mark Tallman of KASB, testifying for the educators, pointed out that the bill would create a very inefficient system and severely restrict local control for school districts. Asked if this wouldn’t help to raise teacher salaries, Tallman told the Committee that it would not in that districts had a defined amount of funding. If salaries for some teacher were increased, it would come at the expense of other teachers.

We would remind the Legislature that they asked the education community to craft changes to PNA, the education community fulfilled that request, and perhaps it is time to listen to the educators and set aside proposals by anti-public education lobbyists like Dave Trabert.

The good bill crafted the education Community has had a hearing in the Senate Education Committee (SB 136) but has not been passed out of committee. Instead that Committee will hold a hearing on a bill that ends collective bargaining on everything except minimum salaries (SB 176) on Monday.

House Ed passes bill mandating sex ed programs be opt-in

We reported on the hearing on HB 2199. Because one school in one school district used materials from the adopted sex ed curriculum that a parent found offensive, all school districts would be mandated to secure written permission for a student to participate in the sex education program.

The Committee debated the bill hotly today and passed it out with comments including, “Do you want your children told it’s okay to be gay!”

The bill now goes to the House floor for consideration.

House Ed Budget adopts a K-12 budget

The House Education Budget Committee met today to craft their recommendations on K-12 funding for presentation to the full House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Barbara Bollier suggested that they approve the Governor’s budget amounts but use the current formula to distribute the funds since there has been no block grant bill brought forward.

The Committee, assured by Chair Amanda Grosserode that the block grant bill would be coming soon, rejected Bollier’s idea and decided to wait for the block grant bill.

Rep. Peck brought forth a list of Department of Education positions and salaries and suggested that the Committee look at reducing salary expenditures at the Department. There was much back and forth over this with the Chair saying she was not comfortable doing this without a hearing that would allow the Department to talk about the various positions and responsibilities.

Eventually Rep. Jerry Henry suggested that it was not a good use of time to be making budgeting decisions that would likely have to be undone once the block grant bill surfaced. He suggested the Committee simply adopt the Governor’s money recommendations and then reconsider the whole budget in light of the block grant bill.

The Committee approved that suggestion and adjourned. They will meet on call of the Chair next week.

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PNA hearing moved; three bills heard in House Ed

Feb 18, 2015 by

Senate Hearing on PNA Cancelled; Moved to Monday

The Senate Education Committee was cancelled today and the hearing on SB 176, the bill that restricts bargaining to minimum salaries and ends mediation and fact-finding. This bill is opposed by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS and KSSA.

The four education organizations representing teachers, administrators, school boards, and superintendents have introduced their own bill that would amend the Professional Negotiations Act to make collective bargaining more effective, more efficient, and more focused. That bill, SB 136, had a hearing in the Senate Education Committee but has not been debated or voted on.

The hearing on the bad bill, SB 176, has been rescheduled for Monday afternoon, Feb. 23.

Please take the time to contact members of the Senate Education Committee and urge them to reject SB 176 and instead pass SB 136, that bill that everyone in the education community would like to see adopted.

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. Vicki Schmidt

Sen. Dan Kerschen

Sen. Pat Pettey

Sen. Molly Baumgardner

Sen. Dennis Pyle

Sen. Jeff Melcher

Sen. Caryn Tyson

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald


House Committee Considers Three Bills

The House Education Committee today held hearings on three bills today.

First up was HB 2234 which would prohibit post-secondary employees (tech colleges, community colleges, and four-year universities) from using their titles when writing columns in newspapers. Two representatives testified in favor of the bill while KNEA testified in opposition.

The legislators did not like the fact that professors were writing columns critical of legislators and the legislature. The bill would stop professors from using titles when writing opinion pieces that are about candidates, legislators, or issues before the legislature. Speculation under the dome is that the bill is targeted to a group of professors writing as a group under the name “Insight Kansas.”

KNEA argued that the bill was a “slippery slope.” It might start with professors but would there be a desire later to prohibit superintendents from writing editorials critical of the impact of the Governor’s K-12 allotments? What about legislators writing opinion piece in support of his/her position on a tax bill?

Further, the Board of Regents already has a policy in place to protect their integrity and it is up to the Board and the individual institutions to enforce it.

Also up today was HB 2174 which makes technical amendments to the tuition tax credit bill and HB 2203 which encourages school districts to consolidate administrative services. There are many concerns about how HB 2203 would work and whether or not in might ultimately force some administrative consolidation.

No action was taken on any of the bills today.

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