House Ed to Consider Bill Attacking CC/TC Instructors Tomorrow

Take action tonight!

The House Education Committee plans to work House Bill 2531, repealing due process for instructors at Community and Technical Colleges, tomorrow.

A few of the Community College presidents – most notably Herbert Swender of Garden City Community College – support the bill which would enable them to fire instructors for any reason or no reason whatsoever. This bill is an extension of the bill passed in 2014 stripping K-12 teachers of due process and another in 2015 eliminating due process for most state employees. It appears that extreme elements in the Kansas legislature and the Governor won’t be happy until all public employees are low-wage at-will employees.

While the bill was also supported by the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees, some have publicly opposed the measure. The Kansas City, Kansas Community College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to oppose HB 2531 and Lee Cross, a member of the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees has publicly announced his opposition to the bill.

Kansas NEA opposes the bill and several Community College faculty members from JCCC and Hutchinson Community College appeared before the Committee last week to oppose the bill. The bill was also opposed by Kansas Families for Education, a parent school advocacy group from Johnson County.

Committee Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego) has scheduled the bill for possible action tomorrow at 1:30. Now is the time for everyone who believes in academic freedom and wants teachers and professors that are willing to stand up for education and students to contact members of the House Education Committee and let them know that HB 2531 is bad public policy and should be rejected.

Below is a list of Committee members with their office phone numbers and hyperlinks to their email.

House Ed Hears from Anti-Common Core Zealot; Votes to Ban Anything Aligned with Common Core

Duke Pesta, and English professor from the University of Wisconsin at Osh Kosh, was the invited guest of the House Education Committee for their meeting today.

Pesta is revered in Tea Party circles for his vitriolic attacks on the common core standards. He is the Academic Director of Freedom Project Education, an on-line high school providing a “K – 12 classical education with a Biblical foundation and Americanist perspective.”

Members of the Committee, most notably John Bradford (R-Lansing), Tony Barton (R-Leavenworth), and Marc Rhoades (R-Newton), have been working tirelessly for several years to ban the common core standards and the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards. The latest bill, HB 2676, is a resuscitated bill that has gone nowhere in the past that would almost ban education entirely.

HB 2676 would prohibit Kansas from using anything aligned to the common core standards and to stop using anything created with a consortium. The result would be a prohibition on AP classes and materials, the International Baccalaureate Program, use of the SAT or ACT, and even a ban on the Lexia reading program that Rhoades personally got designated at the state’s reading recovery program in a budget bill.

Pesta has toured the country talking to Tea Party groups and attacking education standards. Just google “Duke Pesta Tea Party” for a sampling.

Pesta is best described as an old school evangelical fire and brimstone preacher – think Elmer Gantry. He shouted his presentation, wandering around in front of the Committee, waving his arms, and noting the applause of the audience most of whom were part of today’s Tea Party Religious Freedom Day Rally in the capitol.

When Pesta was done, Chairman Highland pulled up a bill from last year, HB 2292. This was the anti-common core bill from the 2015 session that had a hearing on Feb. 23 last year. Rep. Tony Barton (R-Leavenworth) moved to gut HB 2292 and insert the contents of HB 2676, this year’s more expansive anti common core bill that has not had a hearing.

The move was done so that Highland could avoid having a hearing on the bill and thus stop any opponents from appearing. When he was challenged on this basis, he responded that the bill had a hearing last year. While HB 2292 did have a hearing, HB 2676 which now replaces it has many more provisions in it and that bill has never had a hearing. But this is par for the course for Republican leadership that revels in passing legislation that is broadly opposed by the public but supported by their benefactors.

Today was essentially a pre-emptive re-opening of a hearing that had been closed, inviting only proponents to the hearing and notifying the public about the hearing by titling it a “Presentation on the History of Education.” Had the Chairman actually posted what they were doing, opponents would have been at the hearing.

Do you remember April of 2014 when Speaker Merrick, President Wagle and their leadership teams brought amendments that had never had public hearings to the floor and attached them to a budget bill, ramming it all through with no public input at three in the morning? Today’s meeting utilized the same tactics. Secret agreements behind closed doors suddenly executed with no ability for the public to speak. We suppose we should have expected this from this legislature.

Only the Democrats (Valdenia Winn, Ed Trimmer, Nancy Lusk, and John Alcala) and one Republican (Sue Boldra) opposed this anti-education bill. Republicans John Barker and Chuck Smith had mysteriously been replaced for the day by Speaker Merrick. Taking their seats and voting for the bill were Peggy Mast (R-Emporia) and Jene Vickrey (R-Louisburg).

It will now go to the full House where it will likely be debated on Monday or Tuesday of next week.