93% Oppose vouchers, so naturally…

Feb 8, 2016 by

House Education Committee Effectively Endorses Lower Standards for Private Schools

Do you support sending more tax dollars to private schools?  We asked Kansans that question last week and overwhelmingly you responded NO!  The House Education Committee today advanced an amended HB 2457 on an 11-6 vote. This bill expands existing tax credits for corporations and individuals to sponsor students to attend private schools, even unaccredited private schools.   Representatives Winn, Lusk, Trimmer, Ousley, Bruchman, and Boldra were the super six who stood strong in opposition of the bill.  We encourage you to contact these members of the committee (see full list below) and commend them for opposing expansion of tax credits for what amounts to private school vouchers.

Representative Sue Boldra offered an amendment essentially neutering the bill in an effort highlight the fact that unaccredited schools with unlicensed teachers could benefit from these tax credits.  Sadly, Chairman Highland’s committee voted to advance the bill, effectively endorsing lower standards for private schools serving Kansas students. Representative Boldra’s amendment failed.

Next this bill moves on to the House of Representatives where Speaker of the House Ray Merrick will decide when and if it moves on to the floor for a vote.

House Education Committee Members:

 Senate Education Committee Considers Online Privacy

Continuing from a previous hearing on SB 342, the Senate Education Committee again heard from conferees on the merits of the bill.  One parent who identified herself as being from Blue Valley School District, offered testimony in opposition to the bill.  The parent gave a lengthy piece of verbal testimony focusing on the inherent risk of allowing technology companies to buy and sell student data.  Furthermore, she opined that schools were over-reliant upon technology with teachers frequently receiving free products from vendors hoping to secure contracts.  She asserted that schools offer no requirement that parents “opt-in” their children to technology-based or online services.

During questioning Senator Petty suggested that increased use of technology in schools was- in fact- a response to the reality of technology use in everyday life.  Further, Senators Petty and Schmidt pointed to feedback from educators and parents who both welcome and expect their students to engage in technology based learning activities.

Neutral testimony was provided by KASB.  KASB representatives asked for the addition of an amendment intended to ensure that school districts could not be interpreted as “operators” under the bill.  Thus, the bill’s definition of “operators” would only include the third-party vendors providing schools with technology services.  The hearing was adjourned with no further action.

Under Attack- Due Process for Community and Technical College Educators

Tomorrow, the House Education Committee will conduct a hearing on HB 2531.  This bill eliminates all existing statutes which provide due process rights for community and technical college educators.   KNEA stands firm with these professionals in opposition to this bill.  We expect several faculty from institutions throughout Kansas to stand and speak in opposition.  Educators know that due process rights protect their ability to advocate for their students regardless of level.

We’ve come to understand that some administrators within the state community college system will support this bill. The president of one institution suggested that faculty should simply trust existing contract language designed to offer them protection similar to due process.  Furthermore, he suggested that his institution has no intention of acting on new powers to terminate employees under this bill.  One faculty member raised the question, “If you don’t need the power to fire at will, then why support the bill?”  As was the case in 2013 when due process rights were stripped from K-12 educators, that question goes unanswered.


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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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Time for the Annual Midnight Assault on Public Education

Jun 6, 2015 by

Just like in 2014, when legislators waited until past the midnight hour on the last nights of the session, when they added the repeal of due process rights for teachers and the first step in vouchers – corporate tuition tax credits – last night they decided to launch yet another attack on public schools, inserting an expansion of the corporate tax credit program into a new tax bill.

This was done about 7:00 pm in a conference committee by tax chairs Les Donovan (R-Wichita) and Marvin Kleeb (R-Lenexa). Donovan said this was very important to help the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. Yes, there he was, arguing the importance of using tax dollars to fund religious education.

It has been reported that this came about due to demands from extreme right Republicans. They apparently refuse to support a tax bill unless it harms public education.

The new tax bill, HB 2109, went on the floor of the Senate about 12:20 am last night. Much of the initial debate centered on the voucher program which Donovan had a difficult time explaining. Democrats Oletha Faust-Goudeau (Wichita) and Pat Pettey (Kansas City) peppered him with questions.

The debate went on for about an hour when the chair recognized Majority Leader Terry Bruce (R-Hutchinson) who told the Senate that there were some problems with the bill and that they would need to pause the debate, adjourn, and return in the morning. First, he told them, there would be a tax conference committee about 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning. The Senate then adjourned until 10:30.

All of this kept folks wondering if there were drafting errors or if it had been determined there were not enough votes to pass the bill. 

Whatever the reason, the session convenes for the 107th day today.

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