Collective Bargaining Comparison

Mar 2, 2015 by

Click the “Read More” link below to view a comparison of the two collective bargaining bills working their way through the legislature right now.


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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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A Busy Week Ahead and the De-evolution of Kansas

Feb 13, 2015 by

Slow Friday, Busy Week Ahead

It was deathly quiet under the dome today, but there is a full schedule coming up next week with bill hearings and possible action on a number of bills in committees.

As we reported yesterday, Senate Education still needs to finish up work on SB 60, the bill allowing homeschoolers and private school students to participate in public school sports and activities. Senator Vickie Schmidt still has one amendment to go.

On Wednesday, Senate Education will hold a hearing on SB 176, the bill to strip collective bargaining for teachers of mediation and fact finding and to limit negotiations to minimum salaries and supplemental contract pay.

The House Education Committee has a packed schedule including taking action on HB 2232, personal financial literacy as a graduation requirement; HB 2078, requiring school districts to adopt school safety and security plans; SB 2262, providing a compliance deadline and penalties for non-compliance with the student data privacy act; SB 2174, tax credits for low income students scholarship act amendments; and HB 2199, opt-in to sex ed programs.

They will have hearings early in the week on most of the bills above and will also be holding hearings on HB 2234, prohibiting college employees from using their titles when writing in the newspaper, and HB 2207, promoting ethnic studies.

There will be continuing discussions on KPERS issues but no bills are listed for debate as of today. The House Education Budget Committee will be making their recommendations of the Department of Education. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee will be hearing a bill that would prohibit policies that prohibit public employees from carrying concealed weapons at work providing they have a permit. The last time this came up, insurance companies announced that they would not provide liability insurance to school districts that allowed employees to carry guns.

Are we devolving?

Those among us lucky enough to have been youthful in the 1970’s will remember that the decade was kicked off with the shooting of 13 students by the National Guard on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. Four students who observed the tragedy of that day formed a band called DEVO.

Devo was shorthand for “De-evolution.” The band members suggested that the campus shootings they had witnessed, were indicative of the de-evolution of society. They may have spoken 45 years too soon.

We have now spent 239 years allowing representative democracy to evolve but it seems that evolution is now turning. Are we really seeing in the Kansas legislature the de-evolution of democracy?

The last few years of “legislating” have been interesting in the way the process has devolved from the respectful sharing of ideas and seeking of compromise to better serve all the citizens of the state to a radical consolidation of power and the adoption of a “dissent is treason” attitude.

This year, anti-public school lobbyist Dave Trabert publicly opposed a bill because it was the result of a compromise. Compromise – to Trabert and his followers – is bad; tantamount to treason.

At one time we thought this had reached is apex when the Governor conned moderate Republican senators into supporting his reckless tax cuts and then actively campaigned to throw those same Republicans out of the Senate in the next election.

We were wrong.

Then last April, we thought the apex was the adoption of HB 2506. At that time the legislature in the wee hours of the morning cobbled together as much anti-education legislation as they could and crafted a jam-packed school finance bill that would begin to privatize public education and strip teachers of the right to a fair hearing on the grounds for a dismissal. These ideas had either failed to be adopted by the appropriate legislative committee (corporate tax credits) or had never been introduced as a bill or subject to a public hearing at all (the elimination of teacher due process).

We were wrong again.

Which leaves us wondering if this year will be the apex of the de-evolution of democracy in Kansas.

What have we seen so far this year?

  • The introduction of a bill to give heterosexual, non-smoking, teetotalling, non-working, church-going married couples preferential treatment if they wish to be foster parents.
  • A bill to turn non-partisan local elections into partisan, dark money political circuses. At the hearing on this bill, local opponents of the bill had driven hours to testify but the committee chairman (and bill sponsor) let the committee time be taken up by the proponents and suggested the opponents who could not stay over another night could just try to find a committee member in the hall.
  • Four education organizations representing school boards, superintendents, administrators, and teachers crafted a bill amending the Professional Negotiations Act at the urging of the legislature only to have their bill rejected by the House Education Committee in favor of radical changes proposed by a lobbyist with no experience as a teacher, administrator or school board member.
  • Hearings on marriage conducted by a committee chairman concerned about “the degeneration of the culture” featured invited speakers who agreed with the chairman and wound up with harsh words for single-parent families.
  • The reversal of policies that prohibit the termination of a LGBT state employees; protections that had been in place for seven years.
  • Hearings on constitutional amendments to end merit selection of Supreme Court justices, either turning them into political appointees or subjecting them to popular partisan elections.
  • A bill (which gets a hearing next week) that would prohibit college professors from using their titles when writing in a newspaper. There have been some college professors who have written columns critical of the Governor, the Legislature, and the income tax cuts.
  • A bill to criminalize K-12 teachers for the use of materials a parent might find objection with even when those materials are part of the district’s approved curriculum.

Okay, NOW this is starting to sound like an apex!





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Just when you thought it was safe to go back under the dome…

Feb 11, 2015 by

Events under the dome have just got to make one wonder…

A lot of folks are wondering how it can get much crazier up here. We read the same press coverage as everyone else and then we get our daily bill packet from the statehouse and even we have to admit that on occasion the jaw drops!

Take, for example, a bill that has just lit up social media the past few days, Senate Bill 158. This bill creates a new tier of foster family to be known as a CARE family. (We aren’t quite sure what CARE means but it is always capitalized.) These CARE families must meet nine criteria:

  1. A husband and wife team married for at least seven years, in a faithful, loving and caring relationship and with no sexual relations outside of the marriage;
  2. submit to a background check on the husband and wife;
  3. no current use of tobacco by anyone in the family’s home;
  4. no history of unlawful drug use by anyone in the family’s home;
  5. no alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverages in the family’s home;
  6. both the husband and wife have attained at least a high school diploma or equivalent;
  7. either the husband or wife, or both, does not work outside the home;
  8. the family is involved in a social group larger than the family that meets regularly, preferably at least weekly; and
  9. provide the secretary at least three references from people that personally know the family well.

The bill has a significant fiscal note as well. It states that “the secretary shall pay each CARE family at a rate substantially higher than that of other foster care homes.” Beyond that, the bill grants CARE families an amount of money equal to the statewide average state aid per pupil should the CARE family decide to send this child to a private school.

This, of course is proposed at the same time Governor Brownback has announced millions of dollars in cuts to public education funding and the Senate is considering legislation to not fully fund the LOB equity dollars required by last year’s school finance bill.

This week marriage is a big topic or more accurately, divorce is a big topic. There is a bill to put hurdles in front of couples seeking a divorce; hurdles intended to make is much more difficult to end a marriage.

Add to that Governor Brownback’s decision to rescind policies that prohibit state agencies from discriminating against gay and lesbian public employees. These policies were put in place eight years ago. Now they are gone.

If you are anything like us, you’re probably shaking your head and asking why our legislature is so concerned about a beer-drinking foster parent or a couple seeking to end a failed marriage or whether or not some state employee might be gay and not appearing to be particularly concerned about a tax policy that is bankrupting the state and forcing important states service like schools, highways, and the social service safety net to be slashed.

And then it hit us. Maybe this Governor and his allies, in crashing the state budget, are doing exactly what they wanted to do. To paraphrase Grover Norquist, perhaps our Governor and his allies really do want to “shrink government to a size that can be drowned in the bathtub.”

Doing that is more difficult than they anticipated because the cuts hurt real people and real families every day. These cuts are making people mad. The Governor’s education cuts have given him nothing but bad press for some time.

Maybe the goal of all this other stuff is simply to bump the economic failures of this administration off the front page, replacing them with things that will distract their natural opponents and inspire their natural political base.

Like the great magicians they are, they wave LGBT rights to distract us from the major damage they are doing to the services we all depend on and value.

Our advice to you? Don’t let them.


Senate proposes wholesale elimination of public employee rights

As if the attack on teacher bargaining rights was not enough, two bills were introduced in the Senate today that will destroy collective bargaining rights for all public employees.

Senate Bill 176 addresses the Professional Negotiations Act which applies to teachers and faculty at community and tech colleges; SB 179 does the same thing to all other public employees – police, firefighters, correctional officers, and all other state and municipal employees.

You will be told by legislators that they still have collective bargaining rights but here are a few details:

  • Negotiations for teachers are limited to “the minimum amount of salaries and wages, including pay for duties under supplemental contracts.” For municipal and state employees negotiations are limited to “the minimum amount of salaries and wages.”
  • Both bills eliminate mediation and fact finding; the bill applying to state and municipal employees also eliminates arbitration and grievances.
  • Under current law employees under the Public Employee Employer Relations Act (PEERA) requires the board or council to vote to allow bargaining but the bill would require that vote to occur and then require a vote of the public.
  • Also eliminated is the Public Employee Relations Board, currently a labor/management group that addresses conflicts. Under SB 179, all power would be given to the Secretary of Labor.

While Dave Trabert’s anti-teacher collective bargaining bill only applies to K-12 teachers, SB 176 would apply to K-12, community colleges, and technical colleges.


Senate Education Committee working bills

The Senate Education committee met today to discuss SB 32 requiring districts to complete efficiency compliance audits and SB 60 allowing home school students to participate in KSHSAA activities regardless of attendance in school.

Senator Arpke who added a balloon amendment to SB 32 to stipulate that 6 districts would pilot the audits and that these districts would be chosen by the School Efficiency Task Force. Senator Hensley asked if a requirement that a diverse sampling of districts participate in the pilot would be included, but Chairman Abrams replied that they would not.

Senator Melcher then offered an amendment to SB 32 requiring participating districts to pay for 50% of the cost of the audit stating that it would “require them to have skin in the game,” motivate them to keep costs down and participate responsibly.  After a motion to vote on SB 32 was offered by Melcher and Seconded by Arpke, Senator Pettey asked to back up and allow her to offer her amendments.  Chairman Abrams asked Melcher if he would recall his motion.  Melcher was not willing to recall his motion and Pettey’s amendments died on the spot without any hearing.  SB 32 and both Arpke and Melcher amendments passed 5-4 vote as reported by the chairman.

SB 60 discussion began with a review of the bill and amendments offered by Senator Pettey.  Her amendments included a requirement for home school students to show some commitment in order to participate in KSHSAA activities.  That commitment was defined as “participation in at least one credit course” in the school where the activity takes place, but that the course participation could include online or distance courses.

Additionally, Pettey offered amendments to require a specific age cap on participants at 19 and that homeschool participants would be required to pay all applicable participation fees.  Senator Melcher asked Pettey what problem she was trying to solve with her amendments.  Discussion became bogged down when concerns over FTE and credit weighting came into question.  Dale Dennis expertly navigated the committee through those questions.

A motion was made to table the bill and amendments for further discussion later.  More discussion occurred however, after which Chairman Abrams summarily ended the committee hearing.  Senator Schmidt objected noting that she had nine amendments of her own to be introduced.  Chairman Abrams then responded, “We’re going to meet tomorrow.”


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House Ed Dismisses Educators; Sides with Lobbyist Dave Trabert

Feb 10, 2015 by

PNA bills moving

The House Education Committee today ignored the whole education community and the Legislature’s School Efficiency Task Force and instead sided with the Kansas Policy Institute in their latest attack in the war upon Kansas educators.

Here’s the whole timeline of PNA discussions in the legislature.

At the end of the 2013 legislature, after contentious hearings on a number of bills changing the professional negotiations act – bills ranging from eliminating it entirely to more modest attempts to simply deny teachers a voice in certain aspects of their professional lives – Representative Marvin Kleeb called upon the four major education organizations asking them to come together and find mutually agreeable changes to the PNA.

The four organizations (KNEA, KASB, USA/KS and KSSA) spent 18 months in negotiation, reaching an agreement on January 21 of this year.

In the meantime, Governor Brownback appointed a school efficiency task force composed of CPAs to find ways to make schools more efficient with the state money given to them. Despite having no testimony on collective bargaining, their report carried the recommendation that collective bargaining be limited.

Later, the K-12 School Efficiency Commission decided to debate the same issue. The four education organizations came before the Commission and asked them to do nothing while the negotiations were ongoing. Despite urging from KPI’s Dave Trabert who wanted the Commission to go after teachers, the Commission voted to put only encouragement to the four groups to finish their work in the report.

Trabert, Mike O’Neal, Sam Williams, and Dennis DePew then wrote a “minority report” and Williams presented it to the House Education Committee. The Committee leapt at the chance to introduce legislation at the request of the Koch-funded Kansas Policy Institute.

The House Committee held a hearing on the KPI/Trabert collective bargaining bill. United School Administrators Executive Director Cheryl Semmel spoke on behalf of the four education organizations. Representatives of the other education organizations were on hand to answer questions. The only person appearing before the committee to support the minorlty report bill was Dave Trabert.

In the meantime, a bill representing the negotiated agreement among the educators was introduced in both the House and Senate (HB 2257 and SB 136).

This brings us to today.

At 1:30, the Senate Education Committee convened to hold a hearing on SB 136 (the Educators’ bill) and the House Education Committee convened to debate HB 2034 (Trabert’s bill).

Cheryl Semmel again representedg the four organizations in the Senate where she was supported by John Heim, KASB Executive Director, John Rasmussen, KASB Legal Counsel, and Mark Desetti, KNEA lobbyist. Patrick Woods, Topeka 501 School Board member, also spoke eloquently in favor of the bill. No one came before the Committee in opposition.

Over in the House, Representative Sue Boldra (R-Hays) offered an amendment to replace the Trabert language with the educators’ agreement. After vigorous debate, there were only 8 votes for the amendment (it takes 10 to pass an amendment or bill in the committee). Shortly after that, a motion to adopt the Trabert bill was passed with 11 votes.

The House Committee took this anti-educator vote while the Kansas Teacher of the Year Team sat in the front row of the committee room observing.

It makes one wonder, doesn’t it? What is the state of representative government when the Legislature calls upon a group with expertise in the field to address issues and bring recommendations and then rejects those recommendations for an alternative crafted by a lobbyist who has never worked in the field and does not represent people who do?

Because the vote is not a recorded vote, we cannot tell you precisely how the Committee members voted. We can, however tell you that Representatives Macheers, Barker, Dove, Rhoades, and Lunn all spoke in favor of the Trabert bill while representatives Boldra, Smith, Ewy, Dierks, Winn, Trimmer, and Bridges all spoke strongly in favor of the Boldra amendment to support the education organizations.

Take Action!

Now is the time to turn your attention to the full House of Representatives as this bill must now be subject to a vote by the full body.

Talking points:

  • HB 2034 was rejected by the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission, it was pulled from a minority report.
  • HB 2034 is opposed by the Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas Superintendents Association, United School Administrators/Kansas, and the Kansas NEA. The Education organizations have a bill amending the Professional Negotiations Act, HB 2257, that they all support. HB 2257 will make negotiations more efficient, more effective, and more focused.
  • No one in the education community has expressed support for HB 2034.
  • If HB 2034 comes to a vote on the House floor, I urge you to vote NO. Instead, support HB 2257 or a motion to replace HB 2034 with the contents of HB 2257.

Click here to access the KNEA Contact Your Legislator Portal.

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