Time to Act- Attacks Ratchet Up

Mar 8, 2016 by

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 da read more

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No Bad Stuff Today…But STAY VIGILANT!

Feb 22, 2016 by

House Debates Bills

The House debated a number of bills today, two of which have an impact on public schools.

House Bill 2532 adds financial literacy to the Rose Standards. KNEA supported the bill in committee. It was amended on the floor on a motion of Rep. Sue Boldra (R-Hays) to put specific mentions of mathematics and science in the Rose standards. The Boldra amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Rep. John Alcala (D-Topeka) moved to amend the bill by adding in his ethnic studies bill but not in the same form it came out of committee. The Committee had changed the bill so that it could not teach social justice remedies. The Alcala amendment allows this. The amendment was adopted on a division vote of 70 to 51. But when the bill came up on final action, it was defeated on a vote of 43 to 81.

The second education related bill was HB 2578 which allows chiropractors to clear a sports team member to play following a head injury. Much of the debate on the bill focused on chiropractors versus physicians. Some from Western Kansas had argued that it was often very difficult to find a physician to examine the player and make a decision. The bill was passed on a vote of 73 to 51.

The House was finished shortly after 2:00 today and will reconvene tomorrow at 9:00 am when they will debate 17 bills.

No education bills are on the debate agenda for tomorrow.

The bills that we are following most closely have not yet passed but the session is far from over.

Bills on tuition tax credits – the voucher bills – HB 2174 and HB 2457 are not scheduled for debate nor is the common core bill, Sub for HB 2292. The bill repealing due process for community and technical college instructors will not be debated tomorrow but has been referred to a time-exempt committee and so could be brought up for a vote any time after the break. We will know more about the status of these and other bills at the end of the session mid-point tomorrow.

Senate Going Long; 35 Bills Today!

The Senate put 35 bills up for debate today and they are still going on as we write today’s edition. Of interest to educators is SB 342, a bill tightening up online privacy requirements for software companies that provide resources to schools.

Assuming the Senate completes all of this today, they will still have 10 bills to debate tomorrow, none of which are education bills.

Half Way Point – What About the Bad Stuff?

Upon adjournment tomorrow, we will be half way through the 2016 session. The second half will be hard. School finance is not finished and so far there are no responses to the Supreme Court’s decision on equity in Gannon. Many negative education bills are still around.

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it is that no bad ideas ever go away. We must never forget April of 2014 when anti-education legislators brought forth all the terrible ideas that had not passed a committee and made them floor amendments to the budget. Those legislators waging a war on public service and public education are determined. Those of us who value public education must be just as determined.

All of us must stay vigilant through the session and into the election cycle. Your job back home is to use every opportunity to meet with legislators – at forums, in your communities, in the supermarket – and make your voice heard.

Your other job is to continue to work with parents, civic organizations, and all of your colleagues to get them engaged in this effort.

Read and share Under the Domewww.underthedomeks.org.

Follow KNEA on twitter – @MLBOIG, @desettiks, @Kneanews, @Kansasedtalk

Send your friends and neighbors to www.Joinusks.org to sign up for alerts and information.

Tune in to www.ksEdTalk.org and listen to our monthly education podcast featuring teachers, parents, school board members, and legislators.

Be vigilant…be vocal…be determined.

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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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Opinions of the People

Feb 5, 2016 by

As activity wraps up for the week under the dome, next week promises to turn up the figurative volume yet again.  Monday will arrive soon enough.  In the meantime, we thought it may be good to review some insight we’ve gained into the opinions some Kansans have shared with us regarding legislative activity thus far.

Let us start by looking back a few months.  As reflected in the October 2015 “Kansas Speaks” statewide public opinion survey prepared by The Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University, Governor Brownback’s 18% satisfaction rating was historically low.  The report offered some additional insight into some of the contentious issues we’re facing today.  As printed in the Lawrence Journal World (October 25, 2015), 61% of Kansans favored expanding Medicaid, 84% opposed requiring colleges and universities to allow firearms on campus and 82% were skeptical that voter fraud is a problem in Kansas.  Strikingly, 61% of Kansans believe the Governor’s tax policies have been either a “failure” or a “tremendous failure.”  The “Kansas Speaks” survey is considered a statistically valid survey, but how accurate was it as a predictor of public opinion moving into the 2016 legislative session?  Apparently, a very strong predictor indeed.

Recently KNEA conducted two statewide opinion polls.  While these polls were not scientific, they clearly reflected opinions on two topics.  The first asked respondents to weigh in on school consolidation.  The second polled Kansans about their opinions on expanding corporate and individual tax credits (VOUCHERS) to private schools (even unaccredited ones). Respondent duplicates were filtered from both polls eliminating any responses that appeared to be inflating the results. The polls were distributed on a wide variety of public channels.  The following Google generated “heat map” reflects response rates statewide during a 12 hour period:



Google Analytics map of poll respondents across Kansas coded by numbers of respondents within a 12 hour period.

The results of our school consolidation poll netted nearly 5,000 unique submissions across Kansas.  Overall, the poll indicated that almost 93% of respondents oppose school consolidation.  This aligns with a quick analysis of proponent vs. opponent testimony on the school consolidation bill where opponents outnumbered proponents by a wide margin (see this report from the Topeka Capital Journal).

Expanding tax credits for corporations and individuals to send students to private schools was no more popular with the citizens of Kansas who responded to the poll.  The following results reflect submissions received within the first 12 hours of polling.

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Certainly, everybody has strong opinions about the ongoing policy attacks on public education in Kansas.  Some support these efforts, but increasingly it is clear that most oppose them.  We encourage you to remain engaged and watch for new polling next week.  Two recent editorials published in the Kansas City Star confirm that Kansans have had enough of mean-spirited, special-interest policy attacks on public education.  We know that many legislators who represent the majority in the statehouse seem to simply ignore the public.  The question many are asking is, will you forget next fall when the opportunity to change the direction of the Kansas Legislature will be upon us once again?

KCSTAR Editorials:

Merit Pay: Click Here

Four Terrible Bill that have Schools Playing Defense: Click Here

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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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