TOO MUCH TO WRITE, SO LET’S GO TO THE VIDEO…

Apr 5, 2018 by

Mark Desetti, Director of Government Relations with Marcus Baltzell, Director of Communications.

 

CLICK HERE to contact your Senator.

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Guns for Teachers, Security for Schools, & School Finance

Mar 27, 2018 by

A packed committee room greeted the House Insurance Committee early this morning as they took up HB 2798, a bill essentially forcing school districts to arm teachers as the legislative response repeated mass shootings in schools, the Parkland Student Movement and the March for Our Lives held this past weekend.

The bill popped up unexpectedly late last week and Friday afternoon was scheduled for a hearing this morning.

Proponents of the bill started their testimony first. Bill sponsor, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby) went first followed by Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover). You’ll remember Masterson put an amendment on another firearms bill that would allow the carrying sharpened throwing stars in our schools. Those are currently prohibited but Masterson’s nephew was suspended for bringing one to school. His amendment would allow them in school unless you intended to use it to harm someone. So I guess you could ask as kids come in…

Anyway, because, as the proponents were fond of saying today, “There’s nothing we can do stop mass shootings in our schools,” they want to arm teachers. Let the teacher get her kids safe and quiet, then just pull out a gun and go in search of the shooter is apparently the solution to gun violence in schools.

Other proponents were the Kansas Rifle Association (our state NRA), a high school teacher and Iraq war veteran from Wichita, and a gun range owner/former security officer.

Opponents started with KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti followed by Shawnee Mission Interim Superintendent Rick Atha, David Smith from KCK Public Schools, Olathe Public Education Network, The Mainstream Coalition, Moms Demand Action, Kansas Interfaith Action, a mother who spent time in lockdown at school with her kindergartener during a false alarm, a mom and attorney from KCK (pointing out many legal flaws in the proponents arguements), two parents from Education First Shawnee Mission, a parent from Blue Valley Schools, a school secretary from Lawrence, and a woman whose daughter was a victim of gun violence and is now raising her grandchildren. You can view a segment of today’s testimony as posted by Loud Light- facebook https://www.facebook.com/BeALoudLight/ –  (including that by KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti beginning at 09:01 below).

Written opposition testimony.

In addition, there were more than 300 pages of written testimony in opposition to the bill.

It is clear that there is overwhelming opposition to this bill. We will continue to watch this bill to see if Chairman Vickrey intends to work the bill and attempt to send it to the full House. If you have not yet weighed in on this bill with the members of the House Insurance Committee and your own legislator, we would urge you to do so now.

More on School Safety

Later, in the full House, debate was taken up on HB 2773, the safe and secure schools act.

This bill does some good. It sets standards for school security, it sets standards for school safety plans, it requires school districts to create school safety plans and it provides $5 million in matching grants for school security upgrades. It also allows school districts to offer students firearm safety training so they know what to do should they encounter a weapon.

While KNEA supported this bill in a hearing, we were clear to state that it does very little to address the problem of violence in our society and shootings in our schools. It is a mere band-aid on a wound from an assault rifle. But it is a step in the right direction.

A number of amendments were offered on the bill on the House floor today that were supported by KNEA but did not pass. One was an amendment by Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) who tried to strip out reference to the NRA and the Eddie Eagle program relying instead on Kansans to make decisions for Kansans. The amendment failed on a vote of 49 to 75.

An amendment by Rep. Henry Helgerson (R-Wichita) would have provided for ongoing funding or school security improvements through fees on firearms and ammunition – $1.00 per gun purchase and 1 cent per bullet purchase. As the bill is, funding is $5 million total and ends after one year. The Helgerson amendment failed on a vote of 35 to 88.

Rep. Brett Parker offered an amendment to provide $100,000 to survey school employees about what they would like to have to address the issue and to repeal the law that currently allows school districts to let teachers carry firearms in classrooms. (No districts do.) The amendment was divided into two parts. A vote on the funding for the survey failed on a vote of 50 to 72.

Most interesting to us was the debate on the second part, repealing the ability of school boards to allow concealed carry on school campuses. Proponents of guns in classrooms like Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita) or Blake Carpenter (R-Derby) argued in favor of the sanctity of “local control.” Of course, whenever there is a vote on granting institutions of higher education or municipalities local control over gun issues, they argue the critical importance of state mandates. So, if local control results in more guns – YES. If local control resulted in fewer guns – NO. This is the very definition of hypocrisy. This amendment failed on a vote of 44 to 79.

The bill was advanced to a final action vote which will come tomorrow.

Over in the Senate

The full Senate debated three bills and advanced all three to final action.

The first bill was Sub for HB 2602 establishing the dyslexia task force. This bill, strongly supported by KNEA was advanced on a voice vote with little discussion.

Next (although much later) was SB 352, a bill dealing with transportation funding. This bill moves the funding of school transportation from the highway department to the state general fund and then establishes a new “curve of best fit” (codifying what the state department of education has been doing for years). This bill also generated little discussion and was advanced on a voice vote.

The third bill was SB 422 which deals with equity issues in the Supreme Court’s Gannon ruling.

SB 422 would repeal two provisions of SB 19 – the 10% at-risk floor and the expansion of capital outlay expenditures as called for in the Court ruling.

Additionally, it would use the current year to determine LOB state aid while requiring districts to notify the state of an intent to raise LOB by March 15. It would also allow the protest petition process for any increases in LOB over 30% and repeal any high LOB that had not been subject to an election (none that we know of).

There was an attempt by Sen. Pat Pettey (D-Kansas City) to repeal the notice requirement since it comes before the Legislature sets budgets for the coming year, but that effort failed.

Senator Hensley (D-Topeka) then offered an amendment to deal with adequacy by proposing a $200 million increase in funding each year for three years as called for by the State Board of Education. The amendment failed on a vote of 10 to 28 with all nine Democrats and Independent John Doll (I-Garden City) voting YES.

A subsequent Hensley amendment would raise funding by $151 million in 2018-19, and $150 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21 for a total of $451 million (the “maintain the status quo” figure in the new cost study). That amendment failed on a vote of 10-26 again with Independent John Doll joining the Democrats in support.

The bill was then advanced to final action.

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Schools Can Make Use of More Funding Effectively & Teachers Can Use Due Process

Feb 12, 2018 by

 

Due Process Restoration is Adopted in House Education Committee

It was a contentious debate but by the end of the House Education Committee meeting today, statutory due process for Kansas teachers was adopted. It will now go to the full House for consideration.

While working HB 2578 dealing with bullying policies, Rep. Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) moved to amend the contents of HB 2179 into the bill. This was not a “gut and go;” it was an addition. HB 2179 had a hearing last year but Committee Chair Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) adjourned the committee without working the bill. It later passed the full House as an amendment to another bill but was not taken up by the Senate.
Aurand was taken by surprise by the Winn amendment which was seconded by Rep. Mary Martha Good (R-El Dorado). A lot of discussion ensued with opponents of due process trying to stop the amendment through parliamentary maneuvers, none of which worked.

Rep. Steven Crum (D-Haysville) asked Chairman Aurand if he would consider taking up HB 2179 on its own later this week and then holding a vote immediately after on HB 2578. Without saying yes or no, Aurand went on to take a vote on the Winn Amendment. It was adopted on a vote of 9 to 7.

Rep. Willie Dove then offered an amendment to the underlying bullying bill that would further enumerate what district bullying policies should address. The Dove amendment was adopted.

Rep. Jene Vickrey tried offering a motion to pass the original bill (HB 2578) without amendments but was ruled out of order.

HB 2578, bullying policies and teacher due process, was then passed out of committee favorably for passage on a motion by Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway). It must now be considered by the full House of Representatives.

K-12 Budget Committee Hears from Superintendents – Lots of Uses for Additional Funds

Superintendents from Olathe, El Dorado, and Garden City appeared before the K-12 Budget Committee to fill in the members on how they would use an additional (perhaps) $200 million per year.

Their responses were almost identical despite their geographic differences. First and foremost – money would be used for personnel. All expressed the urgent need to raise teaching salaries but also salaries of licensed support personnel and hourly employees including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians. The point is they just can’t compete. Personnel costs would also include efforts to hire more counselors, social workers, psychologists, and classroom teachers to reduce class sizes.

Also brought up was the cost of health insurance with one superintendent saying that a beginning teacher would be left with only $2000 per month after paying for her share of the family health insurance premium. Superintendent John Allison of Olathe indicated that the KPERS retirement system for new teachers was a deterrent to recruiting teachers from other states but that the fact that his teachers have due process protections in their contract is a draw.

In summary, all the superintendents knew exactly how to put additional funds to work to improve schools, teaching, and learning.

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End of Regular Session (More to Come)

Mar 25, 2016 by

KSCapRegular Session Ends with Adoption of School Equity Bill

The 2016 regular session came to an end at about 4:30 p.m. today with the House adoption of Senate Sub for HB 2655, the school finance equity “fix” drafted in response to the Supreme Court ruling in the Gannon case.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee had taken their finance bill, SB 555, made a few amendments mostly telling the Court why this was a good bill (something of a preamble “statement of intent”) and then on a gut and go motion inserted the contents into HB 2655.

The gut and go was a way around having hearings in the House with the possibility of House amendments that would put the bill in conference and slow the whole process down. They wanted out for the Easter weekend and if the House would just concur in regards to the changes to HB 2655, they could all go home.

Earlier in the morning, the Senate on final action passed the bill 32-5. All Republicans voted for the bill, five Democrats opposed it, and three Democrats did not vote.

The bill was in the House for the afternoon session. It was debated there for a couple of hours but since it was simply a matter of either concurring with the changes to the bill or sending it to conference, no amendments were permitted. The bill was passed on final action in the House on a vote of 93 – 31. Slightly less partisan, the bill got 91 Republicans and two Democrats voting yes, 26 Democrats and five Republicans voted no. Representative Rubin was absent.

Check the House Roll call by clicking here.

Up for debate now is whether or not the court will accept this as addressing equity constitutionally. If they do, then schools will be open in August. If not, then the legislature will have another opportunity to come up with another bill during the veto session which starts on April 27. Whether or not this bill will be acceptable is purely a matter of speculation. The Supreme Court will have the final say.


SB 469 Not Taken Up in the House

Senate Bill 469, the “Melcher bill” intended to end representation for teachers at the bargaining table and passed by the Senate last night by a slim margin was not taken up today in the House. The bill is no longer available for a hearing and debate or amendment in the House. But don’t think things are over yet. We will continue to be watching this issue and working to point out the chaos it would cause in local communities for school boards, administrators, and teachers.

The bill is opposed by the Kansas Association of School Boards, The Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, United School Administrators of Kansas, and the KNEA. The only proponents (other than Senators Melcher, Lynn, and Smith) are the ALEC/Koch-aligned anti-education groups the Kansas Policy Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. And, of course, Mr. Anonymous who wrote a letter to Senator Lynn excoriating the teachers’ unions and those who are members, which she read aloud with great vigor during debate.


They’re Going Home!

All 165 Kansas legislators will be home for the next month.  This gives supporters of public education in Kansas lots of time and opportunities to meet with them, talk with them, ask them questions, and advocate for public schools.

Don’t miss this opportunity to be an education lobbyist!  Head for those forums, breakfasts, and meet-and-greets wearing your school colors and ready to ask the tough questions.  If you see your representative in the community, approach them and respectfully request a few minutes to chat.  Remember, although some may have forgotten, they were elected to represent all interests, even yours.  Don’t let this opportunity to engage your representatives pass without doing so.

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Distractions you say?

Jan 29, 2016 by

Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, chairs the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee

Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, chairs the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee

Senator Mitch Holmes (R-St. John) thrust himself into the news cycle recently over his apparent belief that working in the legislature can be very distracting.  In addressing these distractions, Senator Holmes issued dress rules for women saying, “We’re really looking for you to be addressing the issue rather than trying to distract or bring eyes to yourself.”  Senator Holmes has since apologized for singling out female conferees.  Still, ongoing efforts to distract seem to be prevalent among many in the Kansas Legislature.

Consider that last year’s legislative session, the longest in state history, began very much like this year’s session where social and special interest policy were the early priority.  Looking back at the 2015 session, it was clear that the legislature was less focused on its constitutional obligation to fund state services and more focused on personal and special interest agendas.  Concurrently, there seemed to be an effort to distract the public each time the state revenue reports came in reflecting an increasingly desperate fiscal reality.  Was this coincidence?

Senior Fellow Duane Goossen from the Kansas Center for Economic Growth writes the following in a January 28, 2016 blog post:

The 2012-2013 tax changes so damaged the state revenue stream that Kansas does not have enough income to meet even a conservative or “efficient” set of expenses. – See more at: http://realprosperityks.com/the-efficiency-review-small-ripples-in-a-big-pond-of-troubles/#sthash.FVqCR6wB.dpuf

Given the state of the state’s finances, it would seem that the entire focus of the 2016 Kansas Legislature should be upon providing vital state services through a reasonable and adequate budget.  Instead, we’re seeing the typical flurry of unpopular, special-interest policy bills attacking educators and public schools while the “elephant in the room” (the state budget) continues to grow into an actual “mammoth in the room.”

We encourage you to stay engaged with your representatives.  Don’t be distracted and expect your representatives to steer clear of distractions themselves.  Keeping engaged and connected is simple.

  1. Register for our advocacy messaging platform at www.joinusks.org
  2. Track bills and take action when called upon at www.underthedomeks.org
  3. Educate yourself on the issues by subscribing and listening to Kansas EdTalk at www.ksedtalk.org
  4. Share your knowledge, opinions and perspectives on social media and in your neighborhoods.  Invite your friends, family and neighbors to “plug-in” using these resources.
  5. If you believe in the promise of strong public education and support efforts to advocate for Kansas students, consider joining KPAC with a small donation of $5, $10, or $25.  You can join KPAC here:  http://www.jotform.us/kneacomm/KPACDonations

 

Don’t be distracted!  Get in the game!

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