Supreme Court Takeover – TAKE ACTION!

Feb 2, 2016 by

Big Day on the House Floor Tomorrow! Governor Brownback Wants Control of the Supreme Court!

House Concurrent Resolution 5005 will be debated on the House floor tomorrow. This resolution has been demanded for several years by Governor Brownback and legislators opposed to the school finance decisions handed down by the Kansas Supreme Court

Under the Kansas Constitution, a Supreme Court Nominating Commission first reviews the qualifications of persons who wish to be appointed. That commission, made up of representatives of the legal profession, chooses the three most qualified applicants to the Governor who selects one of the three to sit on the Supreme Court. This is known as the “merit selection system.” It is in the constitution to ensure that selection of justices is not a political decision and that justices are not subject to the prevailing political winds and instead focus on the law itself.

HCR 5005 would give the Governor full power to select justices on his/her own subject only to a confirmation vote by the Kansas Senate. As has become all too common in the federal system which HCR 5005 mimics, the selection of justices would become highly politicized in an attempt to ensure that the courts will uphold the political ideology of the Governor regardless of the rule of law.

KNEA opposes HCR 5005. Since it is a constitutional amendment, it would have to be placed on the ballot for a vote of the people. To get on the ballot the resolution must get a supermajority in the legislature – 84 votes in the House.

Let your Representative know that HCR 5005 is bad policy. Keep our courts objective and focused on the law, not politics. Click here for a House roster with links to emails.


House Ed Committee Hears Tax Credit/Voucher Bill

On day two of Bradford week in the House Education Committee, a hearing was held on HB 2457. This bill takes the current corporate tax credits for private school vouchers law and expands it exponentially.

HB 2457 would:

  • make the tax credits available to corporations and individuals,
  • eliminate the requirement that an eligible student is an at-risk student,
  • eliminate the requirement that an eligible student is in a public school now,
  • eliminate the requirement that an eligible student is currently in a Title 1 Priority or Focus school,
  • set income eligibility as 250% of the federal poverty level which is more than $60,000,
  • change the tax credit from 70% to 100%,
  • increase the tax loss to the state treasury to $12.5 million.

The proponents of the bill were Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing), the Kansas Policy Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Success for Kansas Students (represented by former public school superintendent Bart Goering), Bishop Wade Moore of Wichita (founder of Urban Preparatory Academy), and the Kansas Catholic Conference.

Opponents were parent groups Game on for Kansas Schools, Kansas Families for Education, the Kansas PTA, Mainstream Coalition, and the Goddard Education Foundation; public school groups KNEA, KASB, Northwest Kansas Educational Service Center, USD 501 Topeka, and USD 204 Bonner Springs; individual opposing were David Hand of Kanopolis and Marvin Miller of Wichita.

We will continue to watch this bill in the event that the committee chooses to work the bill.

Want to weigh in with the Committee members? Click here for Committee roster with links to their emails.

Tomorrow the Committee will have a hearing on HB 2504, Bradford’s massive school consolidation bill.

What do you think about expansion of tax credit vouchers for private schools?  Take our survey now.

 


House Commerce Committee Considers Bargaining Transparency

A bill requiring public collective bargaining meetings to be held in open meetings, HB 2325, had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee today. KNEA testified as neutral on the bill since its provisions already apply to the Professional Negotiations Act under which teachers and community college/tech college instructors negotiate.

Appearing in support of the bill were AFT/Kansas and the Kansas Organization of State Employees. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce submitted written testimony in support. Negotiations under the Public Employer Employee Relations Act (PEERA) are not currently open. Our fellow public employee unions felt opening the meetings would be beneficial to the process.

Opposition came from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Kansas State Troopers Association.

No action was taken on the bill today.


House Judiciary Committee Hears Bill Criminalizing Teaching Materials

Senate Bill 56 rose from last year’s dustbin to get a hearing the House Judiciary Committee today. This bill was thought to be bottled up in Committee and is evidence that no bad idea ever really dies under the dome.

This is the bill that removes the “affirmative defense” from teachers.

Let’s say a parent files a complaint that you taught pornography by having your students read The Scarlet Letter in your literature class or you showed a photo of Michelangelo’s David in your art history class. Under current law you can use the affirmative defense of the literary, artistic, or educational value of the materials. This bill essentially says the complainer is right.

While we doubt that there would be many teachers dragged before grand juries, the bill would cause school districts and teachers to self-censor materials. If one has a student in class whose parent is likely to disapprove of a book, one will no longer teach that book.

This is a terrible policy that jeopardizes the quality of education in every building. It would apply to public and private school teachers in Kansas.

KNEA strongly opposes this bill. We urge you to ask the members of the committee to reject this censorship bill and protect the integrity of instructional programs. Click here to access a roster of committee members with links to their legislative email addresses.

Click here to read the bill. Note that it removes the defense from K-12 teachers but retains it for post-secondary instructors.

 

 

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Criminalizing teaching! Capital Improvement! Active Shooter Protection!

Feb 1, 2016 by

Hearing Tomorrow on Bill to Criminalize Teaching of “Controversial” Materials

Senate Bill 56 which was passed by the Senate last year has been resurrected in the House Judiciary Committee. It will have a hearing tomorrow at 3:30.

This is the bill that removes the “affirmative defense” from teachers.

Let’s say a parent files a complaint that you taught pornography by having your students read The Scarlet Letter in your literature class or you showed a photo of Michelangelo’s David in your art history class. Under current law you can use the affirmative defense of the literary, artistic, or educational value of the materials. This bill essentially says the complainer is right.

While we doubt that there would be many teachers dragged before grand juries, the bill would cause school districts and teachers to self-censor materials. If one has a student in class whose parent is likely to disapprove of a book, one will no longer teach that book.

This is a terrible policy that jeopardizes the quality of education in every building. It would apply to public and private school teachers in Kansas.

KNEA strongly opposes this bill. We urge you to ask the members of the committee to reject this censorship bill and protect the integrity of instructional programs. Click here to access a roster of committee members with links to their legislative email addresses.

Click here to read the bill. Note that it removes the defense from K-12 teachers but retains it for post-secondary instructors.


House Ed Hears Bill Establish Review Panel for Capital Improvement State Aid

The House Education Committee held the first of three hearings on the so-call “Bradford Bills.” The first was HB 2486 which establishes a review board for determining if a district’s building project will be eligible for state aid, a key component of the equity provisions in school finance.

The proponents of the bill were Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and Walt Chappell. Chappell was the most outrageous, asserting that the quality of facilities has no impact on student learning. In fact, the opposite has been shown repeatedly in research.

While KASB appeared as neutral on the bill, KNEA, Kansas Families for Education, Galena Superintendent Brian Smith, Topeka Superintendent Julie Ford, USD 497 School Board VP Marcel Harmon, Bonner Springs school board member Bonnie Welicky, and Kansas PTA President Denise Sultz all provided testimony against the bill.

KNEA argued that facilities do have an impact on student achievement as well as teacher recruitment and retention. While we have an appreciation for the Legislature’s frustration with the unpredictability of the dollars necessary to fund capital improvement state aid, it would be better to makes changes as part of the new school finance system to be written later.

Tomorrow they will hear HB 2457, the radical expansion of the tuition tax credit program and Wednesday will be HB 2504, the mandatory consolidation bill.


Senate Ed Committee Learns About Product for Protecting Students from Shooters

The Senate Education Committee listened to a presentation by the Overland Park based SafeDefend company.  According to SafeDefend’s promotional literature, “SafeDefend enhances your current school safety plan and any system or process currently in place. With the swipe of a finger [and about $500 per box].”  According to the founder and his staff, meetings with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies indicate that current response plans for dealing with a crisis such as an active shooter are not effective.  SafeDefend is a locked ‘safe box’ which could be placed in a classroom or other school room and is activated by a finger print scanner.

The SafeDefend box is interconnected and upon activation by authorized personnel, the box notifies a number of agencies but also sets off a variety of visual and audible alerts that an emergency is ongoing on campus.  Presenters noted that their research indicates that a majority of active shooter situations come from students who are carrying firearms to school rather than from outside the building.  Thus, school lockdown protocols are ineffective in these situations according to SafeDefend.  Additionally, SafeDefend indicated that communities can’t expect timely response by ambulances or law enforcement in order to mitigate active shooter emergencies or the resulting physical trauma inflicted.  According to SafeDefend, the box contains tools and supplies to break windows for escape and to “stop the bleeding” until emergency responders arrive.

SafeDefend is being used in some schools and other municipal buildings which are noted on the SafeDefend website.  SafeDefend representatives report that their product is an effective insurance policy and gives faculty, staff and parents peace of mind.  Following their presentation, Chairman Abrams stated that their presentation before the committee was not to be interpreted as an endorsement of their product.  The meeting adjourned with no other discussion or action.

 

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It’s Turnaround! What’s gone? What’s Where?

Mar 2, 2015 by

KNEA has been following, testifying on, and reporting here on a number of bills in the first half of the session. While generally speaking, if a bill has not passed its chamber of origin by Turnaround, it is considered dead for the year. There are some exceptions to this however.

Bills that were introduced in or referred to the House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means, Senate Assessment and Taxation, House committees on Calendar and Printing, Appropriations, or Taxation are exempt from timelines. A common practice at Turnaround is “blessing” a bill. A bill that is in a non-exempt committee and has not been acted upon can be referred to an exempt committee and so kept alive into the second half of the session.

Here then is the status of a number of bills we have been tracking.

House Bills:

HB 2139, repealing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented aliens. KNEA opposes this bill. It still awaits action in the House.

HB 2034, Dave Trabert’s “minority report” bill changing collective bargaining. KNEA opposes this bill. It has been killed.

HB 2199, mandating opt-in for human sexuality education. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2292, repealing the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, ending use of AP and International Baccalaureate programs. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2257, the education community consensus collective bargaining bill. KNEA supports this bill. It was amended into HB 2326.

HB 2236, the bill ending exclusive bargaining rights. KNEA opposed this bill as introduced. It now contains the education community’s consensus collective bargaining bill. It passed the full House and now goes to the Senate. KNEA now supports the bill.

HB 2220, restoring teacher due process. KNEA supports this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2031, school district plans addressing child sexual abuse. KNEA supports this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2232, personal financial literacy course as a graduation requirement. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2234, prohibiting post-secondary institution employees from using their titles when writing in the newspaper. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

HB 2028, creating a legislative committee to write education standards. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the House.

Senate Bills:

SB 2, authorizing school districts to offer multi-year contracts to teachers. KNEA is neutral on this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

SB 60, participation by homeschool and private school students in KSHSAA activities. KNEA opposed this bill as introduced. It was significantly amended and has been passed by the Senate. The bill is now in the House. KNEA is neutral on the bill as amended.

SB 70, background checks and fingerprinting of teachers every five years. KNEA opposes this bill. It has passed the Senate and is now in the House.

SB 71, changing the LOB calculation creating a cut in supplemental general state aid in the current year. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

SB 56, Removing the affirmative defense from K-12 public, private, or parochial school teachers. KNEA opposes this bill. It has passed the Senate and is now in the House.

SB 67, Common Core repeal (see HB 2292). KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

SB 212, prohibiting the use of payroll deduction for dues collection. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

SB 179, modifying the Public Employer Employee Relations Act (PEERA) limiting negotiations and eliminating the Public Employees Relations Board. KNEA opposes this bill. It awaits action in the Senate.

For information on other bills we’ve been tracking this session, click on the “Bill Quick Look” link to the right.

For information on the status of collective bargaining, see our post below.

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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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