School funding fix? Not important. Attack Teachers? By any means necessary.

Feb 15, 2018 by

Clay Aurand

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand seems content to ignore school funding and allow schools to close, choosing instead to spend his time ensuring teachers are expendable chattel.  

If you’re House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand, you are feeling quite exhausted today.  You’ve spent the last three days trying to slam the door shut on any bill brought before your committee to restore due process for K-12 teachers.

If you’re Aurand, you willfully ignore the ticking clock that will ultimately signal an end to Supreme Court patience and the closing of public schools leaving students to pay the price.

If you’re Aurand you’ve taken no concrete steps to deal with the funding crisis in the K-12 budget committee where you are a member. You haven’t introduced a bill to solve the problem, you haven’t spoken of solutions. Instead, you’ve spent all of your time and energy to ensure that teachers continue to be treated with insult and injury in the House Education Committee where you are the Chair.  You ignore the fact that the full House took a position last year in support of restoring due process when it passed a bill to do just that.  But in your committee, you are judge and jury and when the majority doesn’t bend to your personal will you make it clear that you will not allow any vote contrary to your ideology; you will not permit your committee to show Kansas teachers appreciation and respect. You will not tolerate a bill that protects teachers from arbitrary and capricious terminations even if the majority of members of the House vote for just such a bill.

And then you couch your actions in worry about bullying when you are the biggest bully of them all.

And to be clear on the bullying issue, that bill has already been passed out of the education committee on a unanimous vote. It has been read in on the floor of the House and is ready at any time to be voted on. There is absolutely no need to pass the bill out of committee again today.

If you’re  school board member and Representative Clay Aurand, it’s more important to focus your energy on ensuring teachers have no ability to advocate for students than to make sure schools will open for those students in the next school year.

How did we get here?  Remember that last year, when a bill to restore due process came before his committee Chairman Aurand would not allow the bill to be worked, regardless of the fact that a majority of his own members wanted to debate and vote on the bill.  When it became clear that the committee was ready and willing to overrule him, he simply ended the committee meeting and refused to allow the bill to be worked.  Restoring due process instead came before the full House as a floor amendment and passed last year.  But Clay Aurand is clearly not one to be satisfied with a result passed by a majority of House members when that result defies his own personal will.

This year, Aurand again proclaimed that he would not entertain a bill restoring due process to all Kansas teachers in his committee.  On Monday, Representative Valdenia Winn offered an amendment to a bullying policy bill which would restore due process.  Her motion to amend was seconded by Rep. Good (R-El Dorado) and after trying unsuccessfully for nearly an hour to find some procedural maneuver to kill the amendment, it was adopted on a vote of 9 to 7.   Several Republicans joined Democrats in a bi-partisan show of support for Kansas teachers.  Finally, Aurand could turn his focus to other committee matters and look towards a school funding solution; but instead, he spent the intervening hours conspiring to subvert the democratic majority vote in his own committee.

What did he try to do?  In committee yesterday, Aurand with help from Rep. Willie Dove (who also voted against restoring due process) hatched a scheme to gut another committee bill, insert the bullying policy bill leaving the due process amendment out entirely.  That’s right, the one that was passed by a majority of his own committee.  We can’t help but wonder why Aurand is expending so much energy to continue the insult against teachers while ignoring his responsibilities to work towards a school funding fix.  The answer is that for Aurand keeping schools open must take a back seat to ensuring that teachers can be fired for no reason at all.  And Aurand is trying to do this using the “gut and go” maneuver that is a standard practice of the most secretive legislature in the nation – a practice that has come to be seen as part and parcel of a Legislative desire to hide their actions from the public.

How did he fail (for now)? In their rush to trash the democratic process, Aurand and Dove tried to gut a bill that never had a hearing.  Rules of procedure do not allow a committee to take action on a bill that has never had a hearing.  Aurand and Dove either didn’t know that rule, didn’t care or most likely were too focused on succeeding with their sneak-attack to realize they were running afoul of the rules.  But, Clay Aurand is clearly not one to let small things like democracy or fully funded schools get in his way.  We fully expect that Aurand, Dove, and others are conspiring right now to manufacture a way to end the possibility that K-12 teachers may have due process restored.  What we know- based on their actions- is that they are almost assuredly NOT working on a school funding fix as they should be.

What can you do right now?  Use the contact information below to call AND email committee members and Chairman Aurand.  Let them know that you expect them to be working on a SCHOOL FUNDING FIX and to stop wasting valuable time and energy scheming ways to subvert democracy in an effort to stop the will of the majority who have voted to restore due process for K-12 teachers.  *The vote was a division vote (not recorded, but by raised hands) those who voted aye (yes) are noted by the asterisk.

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Gun Scare Under the Dome!

Jan 26, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Packed house for hearing on SB 53 allowing colleges to keep guns off campus.
  • Hearing coincided with statehouse buzz over Rep. Willie Dove having left his loaded .380 pistol in 5th-floor conference room for anyone to access (including the dozens of children who visit the statehouse daily).
  • More than 50 proponents testified in favor of SB 53 with a handful of opponents testifying against the bill including former Senator Forrest Knox.
  • House Ed Committee hears bill allowing districts to strip homestead exemption in order to gain revenue for special needs students.
  • Bill characterized by its main proponent Committee Chairman, Clay Aurand as a “bad bill” but allows legislators to avoid having to vote for a tax increase (passing on that responsibility to the local community instead).
  • KNEA advocates for a comprehensive and sensible tax policy instead of trickery to solve Brownback’s legacy of failure.

Read media coverage here.

Keeping Guns Off of College Campuses

Rep. Willie Dove provides tangible evidence of need for responsible gun laws

KNEA testified in favor of SB 53, a bill that would allow college campuses to ban firearms. Our testimony focused on the fact that college campuses are occupied by young people under an enormous amount of stress – the stress of being away from home for the first time, the stress of adjusting to roommates, the stress of grades and adjusting to new kinds of teaching and learning schedules, the stress of new romantic relationships. We’ve had plenty of examples of what can happen when a highly stressed, anxious individual can do when carrying a weapon on campus.

Those who favor allowing anyone and everyone to carry a gun on campus somehow believe that these tragic events will be less tragic if more people pull out weapons and try to quickly “take down” an attacker. The sad fact is that adding more guns to the situation including guns in the hands of untrained individuals simply increases the possibility that more people will be shot. Additionally, it puts law enforcement responders who must react quickly and decisively in the position of trying to sort out the “good guys with guns” from the “bad guy.”

This week also had a special “gun show” under the dome! During a House Education Committee meeting in which the Kansas Teacher of the Year team was making a presentation, Representative Willie Dove (R-Bonner Springs) left the committee room appearing to be in anger. And he left behind his own loaded handgun! We can only assume that Rep. Dove needs to carry heat in the capitol to protect him from angry constituents.

The capitol hosts hundreds of school children every day. Teachers take those children through committee rooms. When the committee rooms are empty, children pose at the tables where Senators and Representatives debate bills. Imagine what happens when a curious 9-year-old finds a loaded pistol just sitting there.

Will SB 53 stop an individual intent on doing harm from acting? No. Will it decrease the likelihood that a tragic situation will escalate into something more deadly? Certainly. And will SB 53 stop law-abiding citizens from making a Willie Dove mistake? Absolutely. If the capitol was a firearms free building, we assume a law-abiding citizen like Rep. Dove would have left his weapon in his car. No weapon would have been inadvertently left loaded and ready where anyone could pick it up.

House Education Committee Considers Letting School Boards Waive Homestead Exemption

Kansas homeowners get a break on property taxes with something called the Homestead Exemption. This allows the first $20,000 of assessed valuation to be exempt from property taxes.

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) introduced HB 2078 which would allow school boards to waive part or all of the Homestead exemption by passing a resolution. Such a resolution would be subject to a protest petition. The impact would be to allow school districts raise additional money through property taxes.

Aurand held a hearing for HB 2078 yesterday during which he emphatically called this a “bad bill” before reversing course saying, “maybe that’s a stretch.”

Most of the questions on the bill dealt with how it would impact equity issues in school finance. The state has already lost the issue of equity at the Supreme Court level. The legislature responded with legislation to restore equity. The Supreme Court ruled then that the equity issue was appropriately addressed.

Aurand believes that the exemption is constitutionally questionable and further noted that passage of this bill would allow districts to get more money while legislators would not have to vote for any tax increase. This has become a common trend in the Kansas legislature – they love to pass the hard decisions on taxation and revenue collection on to local units of government. Legislators can then boast that they did not raise taxes even as their constituents complain about their taxes going up.

Legislative policy under the leadership of Governor Sam Brownback has been to cut revenue to the point where services suffer and then count on cities, counties, and school districts to use whatever authority they have to make up the difference.

It’s time for legislators to abandon trickery and face up to the task at hand. The legislature needs to reverse course on the disastrous and irresponsible tax policies they have put in place since 2012 and pass a new tax plan that provides for the needs of our citizens.



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