First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller.

Piece by piece, some members of the Kansas legislature are working hard to marginalize and silence the men and women who pursue careers in public service.

In 2014, they came for the K-12 teachers, stripping them of due process protections.

In 2015, they came for state employees, reclassifying them so they would lose due process protections.

And now in 2016, they are coming for community college and technical college instructors. House Bill 2531, which appeared in print yesterday, would strip those professionals of their due process rights.

If 2531 is adopted, then all public employees – state employees, K-12 employees, and community and technical college employees – would have no administrative process to challenge a termination or non-renewal as an arbitrary or capricious act. They could all be terminated for any reason or no reason at all.

Whistle-blowers? Terminated.

Advocate for better services for your students? Terminated.

Challenge laws about guns on campus? Terminated.

Think we exaggerate? Just the other day a 15-year employee of the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board (CURB), an attorney, was fired because she spoke about a bill in the legislature. The bill, introduced by Representatives Jim Ward (D-Wichita) and Annie Kuether (D-Topeka) would have directed CURB to continue representing small consumers in state rate cases. The CURB members (all Brownback appointees) had made a decision to shift their focus to fighting federal air quality rules that are increasing the costs of coal generation. Read about it by clicking here.

The legislature and Governor Brownback are obsessed with silencing all dissent. First, they went for the K-12 teachers: then they went for the state employees. Now they are coming for the community college and technical college instructors. Let’s all be ready to speak out.

Big Bills Next Week

We reported the other day about three bills getting hearings next week in the House Education Committee. KNEA strongly opposes all three bills and will be offering testimony.

On Monday, it will be HB 2486 creating the school district bond project review board under which districts that receive bond and interest state aid will have to come before a panel before issuing bonds. That panel may deny state aid for those bonds. This is part of the equity issue in school finance.

On Tuesday, we will have HB 2457, a radical expansion of the tuition tax credit bill that will allow cherry picking of high achieving students by private schools accredited or not. It takes $12.5 million out of state coffers; money that could be used to fund critical state services.

On Wednesday, HB 2504, the mandatory consolidation of school districts bill that would create mostly county-wide school districts and change the boundaries of most other districts. It calls for redoing district lines every ten years!

We have already posted more detailed summaries of the bills (see Under the Dome, January 26).

If you would like to weigh in on any of these bills with the members of the House Education Committee, you can find a link to their emails by clicking here.

Keeping watching Under the Dome for more information as these bills move through the process.

Senate Ed Committee Hears “Winter Celebration” Bill

Senate Bill 324 might be considered a reaction to the so-called “war on Christmas.” It allows the teaching of traditional winter celebrations in the history curriculum, gives permission for teachers and students to use “traditional greetings” associated with those celebrations, and requires that any displays include a secular element and an element from another religion.

KNEA testified in opposition to the bill because it would most likely restrict what teachers could do rather than giving permission to do more. In testimony, KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti told the Committee:

We oppose this bill for the simple reason that we believe it restricts instruction on the history of traditional winter celebrations.

As written, the bill says that such instruction, if it is to be available, shall be a part of the history curriculum.

Today, such lessons are taught in other areas of the curriculum. For example, a comparative religions class is not part of the history curriculum. Music teachers who provide such instruction when preparing for winter performances are not part of the history curriculum. Elementary teachers often utilize literature related to traditional winter celebrations as part of their language arts instruction.

Would passage of this bill – which specifically places such instruction within the history curriculum – preclude instruction outside of the history curriculum?

We believe passage of this bill would create more confusion and be interpreted as a significant restriction on how teachers might integrate instruction on traditional winter celebrations in their classrooms.

There was only one proponent for the bill – Mark Ellis, a parent from Shawnee Mission. Ellis is the father of the girl who photographed a sex ed curriculum poster last year which created a legislative backlash. This year, she told her father that the school was having a “secret snowflake” activity rather than “secret Santa” because the district had prohibited the use on any references to Christmas at all.

No action was taken on the bill.