Attacking Employee Rights

Mar 18, 2019 by

This morning the Senate Commerce Committee, held a hearing on SB 175, which requires members of public employee unions to be notified by their employer annually of their right to drop their union membership. Some might wonder why this bill is even necessary, given that Kansas is a “right to work” er… right to work for less state. Union membership is not compulsory and is solely the personal choice of those who choose to exercise their constitutional right to assemble freely.

The impetus behind this bill comes from the main proponent in today’s hearing, the ultra-conservative-policy-pushers known as the Kansas Policy Institute (KPI). During the hearing, the anti-labor faction threatened future lawsuits and brought in anti-union celebrity Mark Janus. Ironically, while KPI has consistently kept its funding and donor lists hidden from the public, it somehow expects that public to believe that its interest is in protecting workers from themselves.

KPI believes that this bill will encourage fewer working people to join a union. That will mean lower wages and reduced benefits and with that comes the ability to cut more taxes and reduce funding to state services. In fact, KPI was up in the House K-12 Budget Committee today arguing that, when it comes to teaching our children, money doesn’t matter.

KNEA believes that all employees have the right to organize and advocate for the best interest of their profession and for their own well-being. KNEA opposes SB 175 while recognizing that this is nothing more than another well-funded attack on working professionals and on our right to choose to organize and to advocate. We will continue to track and report on this bill in the coming days.

K-12 Budget Committee Fast-tracking Williams’ School Finance Bill

Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) introduced her first school finance bill on March 12 (12 days after the date by which Attorney General Derek Schmidt had asked for the legislature to complete its work on school finance). The 81 page bill was then scheduled for a hearing on March 14. Since testimony on a bill must be turned in 24 hours before a hearing, that meant that anyone wishing to speak had one night to read and digest the bill, analyze it, and have testimony written and submitted.

KNEA, KASB, USA, and Equality Kansas all testified in opposition to the bill on March 14. Williams continued the hearing today when the Mainstream Coalition testified in opposition. A few folks testified in favor including Walt Chappell who asserted that the state already spends too much on education and Chuck Knapp who testified as an “individual citizen” but is, in reality, the CEO of JAG-K, an organization named in the bill as a special program on which at-risk funds may be spent.

Mike O’Neal who works at least part time for KPI essentially urged the committee to ignore the courts who, in his view, have no right to meddle in issues that create funding problems for the state. O’Neal suggested that funding might be better as a grant program under which districts would say what the money would be used for and promise the results they would get with the money.

Others testified in favor of only specific sections of the bill – for example, Cerner Corporation wants the sections calling for a review of graduation requirements and the establishment of an IT Commission.

The hearing closed today with no action taken on the bill. Williams has now announced that the committee will hold hearing tomorrow on SB 142, the SBOE/Kelly/Senate plan passed by the Senate last week.

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Time to Act- Attacks Ratchet Up

Mar 8, 2016 by

Rep. Bradford & Sen Melcher leading attacks.

Rep. Bradford & Sen Melcher leading attacks.

First Bill on House Floor Tomorrow is Expansion of Vouchers

Representative Kasha Kelley (R-Arkansas City) will be carrying HB 2457 on the House floor tomorrow.

This bill is a radical expansion of a program that will do damage to our public schools, the state budget, and the education of low-income students.

Current law limits these tuition tax credits to at-risk children in Title I Priority or Focus schools. This bill opens the door to all students without regard to how they are performing in school or if the school is a highly successful one. It opens the door to students who are not now in public schools. It opens the door to half the families in Kansas by setting the only requirement as a family at or below 185% of the federal poverty rate.

The changes contained in HB 2457 would do the following:

-Remove any requirement that the program serve children with learning needs,

-Encouraging “cherry picking” of high achieving students,

-Remove $10 million from potential state revenue that could be used to better fund existing public schools and establish a ratcheting effect such that the loss to the state would increase by 25% annually.

-Allow state dollars to be used to send children to unaccredited, unaccountable private and home schools.

What legislators fail to consider is the return on investment of this plan? They question whether or not our schools are producing results worthy of investment. What is relationship between spending and learning outcomes? Yet in this bill the legislature is willing to give away millions in taxpayer money on schools that won’t report results to anyone.

This bill is not about helping children. It is all about the privatization of education in Kansas.

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We said it would happen.

They start out slow and then all of a sudden, it’s an all-out assault on our public schools, our profession, and our teachers.

This week in rapid succession, the legislature will try to divert millions of tax dollars to private schools, dismantle teachers professional associations, take school finance away from the State Department of Education, and limit bond and interest state aid for property poor school districts.

We told you this day would come and here it is. We will be asking you to take action now and over the days to come. Stay alert, stay engaged, and hold your legislators accountable for their votes and actions!

It starts NOW!


Melcher Continues on His Anti-Union Crusade

Well, at least when it comes to one union – the Kansas National Education Association. Senator Jeff Melcher (R-Leawood) has spent a significant amount of his time in the Senate trying to destroy teacher unions and public sector unions in general.

This time, he has Senate Bill 469 which would require a recertification election annually for any teacher association to retain representation rights. The bill will get a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. KNEA will join with the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators, and the Kansas School Superintendents Association in united opposition to the bill.

Here are a few of most anti-teacher sections (emphasis ours):

If the professional employees’ organization fails to receive votes from a majority of all professional employees in the represented unit, or if no election is held within the time period required under subsection (b), the professional employees’ organization shall no longer be recognized and the professional employees shall be unrepresented.

If a professional employees’ organization is no longer recognized after an election held pursuant to this section, the terms of any agreement between the professional employees and the board of education shall continue and remain in effect for the remaining term of such agreement, except for any provisions involving, in any manner, the professional employees’ organization, including, but not limited to, organization security, dues and fees and grievance and arbitration.

A new professional employees’ organization may be recognized in accordance with K.S.A. 72-5416, and amendments thereto, provided the professional employees’ organization is not substantially similar to or affiliated with any professional employees’ organization that lost its recognition as the exclusive representative within the immediately preceding 12 months.

The secretary may establish by rules and regulations a fee schedule for the purpose of paying the expenses of conducting elections held pursuant to this section. Such fees shall be collected from professional employees’ organizations participating in such elections.

House Ed Begins Debate on Bond Review Committee

The House Education Committee met today to work HB 2486, a bill creating the bond review process under which districts that receive state aid for bond and interest.

The intent of the proponents is to get more control over the amount of money spent on school construction bonds year by year. The bill has a number of components that seem intended to rein in costs such as limiting state aid to areas used for direct instruction of students and disallowing aid for athletic facilities including school gyms.

A very complex amendment was offered by chairman Highland. Highland, wanting to give committee members time to digest the amendment, announced that neither the bill nor the amendment would be voted on today. The matter will be taken up on Friday.

Issues debated today included whether or not this bill would make equity in the formula worse and even if the bill actually did control costs.

Most interesting part of the discussion was when Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) used as an example the Lansing School District. He asserted that there was a rumor that state aid would decline so a bond issue was rushed through and a brand new state of the art high school was built. Additional funds are being used to refurbish the old high school into a new middle school. Bradford said it was inappropriate for taxpayers around the state to help Lansing build the new facility when they already had a “perfectly good high school.” It’s rare when a legislator speaks against the interests of his own constituents.

Undermining Department of Ed and Local Control

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