Archive for Sunday, March 17, 2013

Collective bargaining issues expose open rift among education lobby groups

March 17, 2013, 12:00 a.m. Updated March 17, 2013, 7:09 p.m.


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In years past at the Kansas Statehouse, it was common to see lobbyists for various education interests sitting together and talking cordially with one another — sometimes even eating lunch together — to compare notes about how they would testify about various bills in committee hearings.

But that was then. That was when the big education issues at the Statehouse were things that united both labor and management in public schools: support for increased education funding and opposition to voucher programs or legislative mandates about school curriculum.

This year, those issues are still on the table, but they almost pale in comparison with another overriding issue that has created a wide, bitter and very public split among the groups: collective bargaining rights for teachers.

Specifically, there are two major pieces of legislation working their way through the process that teachers view as a direct assault on collective bargaining rights.

One, which is currently contained in House Bill 2027, would narrow the scope of the Professional Negotiations Act, which defines what issues in teacher contract negotiations are subject to collective bargaining and give individual teachers the right to negotiate their own contracts, or be represented by another professional organization.

That bill is currently pending in the House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development.

The other, currently contained in Senate Substitute for House Bill 2022, would prohibit any public employee unions from funding a political action committee with money collected through payroll deductions. In other words, employees who want to contribute to their union's PAC would be required to write personal checks or set up automatic withdrawals through their banks.

Both the House and Senate have passed different versions of that bill and are now expected to name a conference committee to negotiate final language.

The Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, has passionately opposed both bills. But lobby groups representing school boards, superintendents and school administrators have endorsed at least part of the collective bargaining bill and remained silent on the bill dealing with PAC contributions.

That lack of support from the management side has riled KNEA, creating an open rift so serious that some believe it could spill over into contract negotiations at the local level, making negotiations in Lawrence and other school districts more contentious than ever before.

"What worries me about Lawrence," said Deena Burnett, president of the Lawrence Education Association, which represents teachers in the Lawrence school district, "is even though the (school) board chose to support their teachers' rights in collective bargaining, at this point I do not know that our administration does because I have heard nothing to the contrary at this point. That worries me."

Public battling

The most visible sign of how serious the rift has become appeared last week when KNEA president Karen Godfrey released what was titled an "Open Letter to Our Education Community," which was distributed by email statewide, in which she called those bills a "vicious attack" on its right to collect dues through payroll deductions and a "brutal assault" on collective bargaining rights.

She then warned the Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas chapter of United School Administrators and the Kansas School Superintendents Association that their support, or tacit acceptance of those bills, could have consequences at the local level.

"Considering the lack of interest in collaboration at the state level, it is hardly surprising that our teachers don't trust that collaboration will be valued at the local level," Godfrey wrote. "Expecting teachers to accept their reassurance that we can trust their good intentions isn't reasonable under the circumstances."

Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the school boards group, said he understood KNEA's frustration, but defended his group's position.

"We have simply been trying to follow, as much as we could, the positions that our members have taken and tried to look for a way to address that," Tallman said. "We have said all along, and continue to say, that on this particular issue of collective bargaining, we would like to find some common ground. I still hope that is a possibility."

Regarding payroll deductions and PAC contributions, Tallman said that was a union issue in which the school boards had no interest one way or another.

"It's not our fight," he said.

Source of the controversies

Tallman said the school boards openly support one provision of the collective bargaining bill that would remove teacher evaluations from the list of items that are subject to negotiations. And he said much of that can be traced directly to the Barack Obama administration and its push to require that evaluations be tied to student growth and achievement.

That was a requirement for Kansas receiving a waiver last year from the federal No Child Left Behind law. The Kansas Department of Education is now developing a model evaluation system called the Kansas Educator Evaluation Protocol, or KEEP, to comply with that provision of the waiver.

"We're willing to agree to a stronger state protocol that everyone should have to follow," Tallman said. "Partly, we think that's the right thing to do; partly, because it helps us comply with the No Child Left Behind waiver, and our members have expressed a lot of support for that."

But the political issue this year goes far beyond the federal waiver and appears to be part of a general effort by business groups and conservative activists to diminish the power of labor unions, especially in the area of education.

Eric Stafford, a lobbyist for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, testified before one committee in favor of the bill limiting PAC donations, saying, “I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions.”

And Dave Trabert, president of the conservative think tank Kansas Policy Institute, said he believes teachers unions are responsible for what he has described as poor performance of public schools in Kansas.

"You talk to superintendents, they say they need more flexibility to make decisions that they believe are in the kids' best interests, not what might be in the adults' best interests," Trabert said. "I think these (bills) are very directly related to that. These are student-focused moves that are being made."

Lawrence school board sides with teachers

The rift also became visible last month at the Lawrence school board when the board voted unanimously to endorse a letter to Gov. Sam Brownback and members of the Legislature staunchly opposing the bill limiting collective bargaining rights.

That vote came despite the fact that Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll serves on the board of directors of the Kansas School Superintendents Association, one of the groups that has endorsed limiting teachers' collective bargaining rights.

Burnett, the local union president, said that was an important message for the board to send.

"For our board to unanimously choose to send a letter in opposition to the collective bargaining piece, as it stood at that point, was critical to future negotiations in Lawrence," she said.

The Lawrence district is currently preparing for the next round of contract negotiations with local teachers. Burnett said the union was prepared to schedule the first face-to-face meeting in mid-February, but she believes the district is waiting to see what happens in the Legislature before making a commitment.

Currently, she said, the first face-to-face meeting is set for March 26, a date requested by the administration. That is also one day before the deadline in the Legislature for bills to pass out of the second chamber so they can either be sent to the governor or assigned to a conference committee.


Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

The problem, dear Dave T, is not the teachers. We have an obsolete system that is changing too slowly and a crumbling social fabric with more and more dysfunctional families. We are running schools which, for the most part, still are designed for the 19th/20th century. Many schools are trying hard and perform big and small miracles every day against huge odds.

But it is not enough to keep up with a rapidly changing world. And, your minions' effort to defund the schools and privatise America's crown jewel is clearly not helping. Simple phrases do not reform complex systems. Please stop the teacher-bashing by proxy. Most boards and most superintendents value and respect their teaching staffs. Are there duds? Yes. There are duds on Wall Street too. REFORM, but do not destroy.

question4u 5 years, 2 months ago

"And Dave Trabert, president of the conservative think tank Kansas Policy Institute, said he believes teachers unions are responsible for what he describes as "poor performance" of public schools in Kansas."

Good point. So, now we fix things by attracting highly qualified, talented, and innovative people to the teaching profession by paying competitive salaries, providing job security, and ensuring adequate retirement benefits. That makes sense, because investment in quality teachers is an investment in the future of....

Wait...What Dave? We fix things by cutting salaries, eliminating job security, and reducing benefits? And what else? Disparaging teachers as responsible for "poor performance" of Kansas schools?

Wow! Who would have thought that you could improve education by making the teaching profession as unattractive as possible and driving away anyone with talent and ambition. Who would have thought that students would benefit most from demoralized teachers driven to the verge of quitting the profession? It goes against all common sense and experience, but that's why it's great that we have corporate-funded think tanks to do our thinking for us.

So, all of you potential education majors, pay attention! If you're good at math or keen on science, don't just consider things like financial rewards, job satisfaction, and a secure future for your family. Consider a career in Kansas schools. Sure, it might be a nasty, brutish, and short but the upside is...Well...Dave will get back too you on that.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

He learned everything he knows about schools by running TV stations into the ground. That's a qualification, right?

KSManimal 5 years, 2 months ago

Granted, I have not yet consumed my second cup of coffee....but it appears that Mr. Doll did not comment for this article. Surely he was invited to, right? I wonder....why the silence?

No quote necessary, I guess. Silence speaks volumes.

Tallman of KASB says the political action bill isn't their fight....wrong. When legislation exists for no other purpose than to inhibit select groups of people from participating in their own government...that is EVERYONE'S fight.

Hey Tallman....remember that bill that would have prohibited SCHOOL BOARDS and other units of local government from participating in the political process? No? That's because KNEA and others worked their collective fannies off fighting it, and now it's dead.

"Divide and conquer" is the name of the game in Topeka, and there seem to be plenty of naive cowards playing right along. Do you KASB, USA, KSSA folks really believe that YOU won't be the targets next time around? Who will stand and fight at your side next year?

texburgh 5 years, 2 months ago

This rift is a dream come true for Brownback, Trabert, and the anti-education crown in the Kansas Legislature including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. And the truth is that KASB and KSSA have been co-opted by the extremists. Brownback and friends called them in for chats, got them to agree to help crush the union, and promised them what? Flat funding for schools? A veto of the no tax money for lobbying bill? KASB has even endorsed Brownback's tax bill that raises sales taxes and strips Kansans of their mortgage interest and property taxes paid deductions while adopting more tax cuts for the wealthiest in Kansas. KASB's endorsement of that plan puts the rest any idea that the Lawrence school bond is a "no increase" measure. Yes, KASB and KSSA are happy because they have a seat at the table. What they don't realize is that next year, they're on the menu.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Last point may be true. Muscular Sam doesn't want feedback from anyone. If he wins another term, look for destruction of NEA, the wimpy negotiations law, board's right to join KASB or any other group with a political position and eventually school boards themselves. The charter movement is the beginning of this, if they can get them to be independent of locally elected boards.

weeslicket 5 years, 2 months ago

the argument from the statehouse seems to be: 1) gut unions; 2) then districts/boards/superintendents will have the ability to slash teaching salaries, increase work demands, and eliminate health insurance coverage (to name a few formerly negotiable items); 3) and then, highly qualified teachers will simply flood into kansas.

of course, it's much more likely that the actual intent of these laws is: 1) then 2) then 3) finally! we have destroyed public education in the state of kansas!

weeslicket 5 years, 2 months ago

to the school board of lawrence public schools: YOU hold dr. doll's contract. if he is this far out of step with the community he is contracted to serve, then YOU have the ability to sever that contract and select a better fit.

Robert Greenwood 5 years, 2 months ago

And Dave Trabert, president of the conservative think tank Kansas Policy Institute, said he believes teachers unions are responsible for what he describes as "poor performance" of public schools in Kansas.

Does reducing funding for public schools improve performance Dave?

Come on Dave, tell us what your hidden agenda is. Tell us what the plan is. Is it to let public schools die on the vine and move to Charter schools before school vouchers solve the problem. Will getting some taxpayer money to those private schools solve the public school problem Dave.

You are well paid by the corporate interests Dave. CEOs are well paid. We are told a high salary attracts talent. Shouldn't teachers be well paid so more talented teachers are recruited and retained.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

Absolutely! Unfortunately, state law prevents effective teachers from being paid more. State laws should be changed so that teachers in high-demand subjects or those willing to work in more demanding situations can also be paid more.

See my comment below. Peter Hancock deliberately misrepresented my comment.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Boards already have legal authority to grant extra pay to certain teachers.

voevoda 5 years, 2 months ago

If your only goal is to reward particularly capable teachers more, Mr. Trabert, why not simply enhance already-extant provisions in collective bargaining for merit pay and hardship pay? You don't need to dismantle teachers' unions to accomplish this goal, and in fact attacking teachers' unions is counterproductive. The most effective teachers don't want to be subjected to the disrespectful attitude that you and your allies have voiced. They don't want to see their colleagues underpaid and overworked. They don't want overstuffed classrooms. They don't want to work in crumbling buildings. They don't want to have librarians, nurses, counselors, social workers, and police officers eliminated from schools on the spurious grounds that they don't contribute to "classroom instruction." They don't want the State Legislature enacting stupid instructional mandates (such as the recent "Freedom Week" bill and the prohibition on the Common Core).

Start by listening to teachers, Mr. Trabert. Not only the ones you cherrypicked to enunciate the views you want, but all teachers, speaking through their elected representatives--their union representatives.

KSManimal 5 years, 2 months ago

"Unfortunately, state law prevents effective teachers from being paid more. State laws should be changed so that teachers in high-demand subjects or those willing to work in more demanding situations can also be paid more."

Predictably, Dave, you're either ignorant or lying. State law DOES NOT prohibit paying "effective" teachers more, nor does it prohibit paying teachers more in "high-demand" subjects or situations. Any or all such pay systems could be in place right now if all parties involved actually believed those systems would help rather than hurt our educational system.

Furthermore, since salary is still manditorily negotiable under the proposed new law, the legislation you're touting here would not fix the imaginary problem you want people to believe exists. This is union-busting 101 and nothing more.

Here's an idea, Dave. Before you fuss about the press misrepresenting you, how about you take a long look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that misrepresentation is what YOU are paid to do.

weeslicket 5 years, 2 months ago

dave trabersty ! did you just "like" your own trotline??

Sue Grosdidier 5 years, 2 months ago

As an Educator, I am tired of being blamed for declining education. Sit in our shoes each day and see what we have to deal with. There are so many personal issues that must also be included and fixed in the day and now we are told what to teach so the kids can pass assessments. We must prepare each kid for college when we have kids that do not care about book learning. Then there is the parent component that no one seems to acknowledge, so many of them do not care. (This is NOT all parents) I have not "raised" these kids, yet, I am supposed to teach them morals and values. Was that not the parents responsibility at some point? Educators have become the dumping ground for all problems today according to our Legislators, no one even mentions PARENTS!

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

I did NOT tell Peter Hancock or anyone else that "...teachers unions are responsible for what he describes as "poor performance" of public schools in Kansas." I said nothing of the sort. That is nothing more than a deliberate effort on his part to enrage people.

He asked my why I thought certain pieces of legislation were being proposed and I told him that it was likely related to the fact that when people in general and legislators in particular begin to understand that student achievement is not as high as perceived, they want to know what can be done to improve achievement. Legislation that allows superintendents to make decisions they believe are in students' best interest is understandable in that regard.

He didn't seem to like the answer I gave him so he made one up.

Ironically, the interview preceded testimony I gave to the House Education Committee on student achievement, where it was made quite clear that many kids in Kansas get a good public education but some, especially low income students, are far behind. I never said Kansas schools have poor performance. That's not true. I said Kansas students perform a little above the national average on NAEP and ACT.

I also go out of my way to emphasize that any deficiencies in student achievement are no one's fault. Media and others know that Kansas Policy Institute blames no one for the fact that a lot of kids aren't performing to the levels that many parents believe they are, but that doesn't fit the story they want to tell so they unfortunately make things up.

We'll be registering a formal complaint with the Lawrence Journal-World over this deliberate misstatement of the truth.

The testimony I presented on student achievement is available at

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

At worst, he was just more honest in paraphrasing your position than you're capable of being.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Did you say this?

"You talk to superintendents, they say they need more flexibility to make decisions that they believe are in the kids' best interests, not what might be in the adults' best interests," Trabert said. "I think these (bills) are very directly related to that. These are student-focused moves that are being made."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

And in it, you're clearly blaming the teachers for getting in the way of superintendents doing what's in the "kids' best interests." In other words, pretty much the same basic message that's in the quote to which you object.

phsxtchr 5 years, 2 months ago

If giving superintendents and other administrators more flexibility to make decisions led to better student achievement then charter schools' achievement would be off the charts, right? But a large pool of research clearly shows that charter schools' achievement tends to be, at best, the same as public schools and often worse. Why doesn't the flexibility that charter schools have lead to better student achievement? Perhaps it is because education is a complex social endeavor that is quite unlike the black and white portrait that you like to paint of it. Education is a lot more than just teachers, unions, administrators, students, money and test scores.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Awww, did he not consult with Frank Luntz before writing up this article? Life is so hard as a propagandist.

phsxtchr 5 years, 2 months ago

You never said that Kansas schools have poor performance? Come on, Dave. Just last year you claimed that nearly half of all Kansas 11th graders were functionally illiterate! Of course your claim was based on a total lack of understanding of education assessment but you've never let that stop you from being an education authority.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

Again, not true. I said only 56% of 11th grade students can read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension according to state assessments. That is exactly what the KSDE report shows. They may not explain the results in those terms but we are only reporting the facts.

phsxtchr 5 years, 2 months ago

Yes, that is what the report shows. But what you are failing to fully comprehend is that, as explained by the Test Specifications for the State Reading test, the reading passages on the test include reading material 1.5 grade levels higher than the tested grade. For the 11th grade that means college level reading. Do you understand? "Grade-appropriate" material for the 11th grade includes college level text. So, saying that 56% of 11th graders can read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension does not, as you imply, mean that 56% are fully comprehending simply 11th grade level text. Rather, it means that 56% are fully comprehending not only 11th grade text but also 12th grade and college level text as well! Plus, is it any surprise that some 11th graders cannot fully comprehend 12th grade and college level reading passages? Your habit of failing to acknowledge such details seriously undermines your credibility.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

That is not what the State Reading Performance Descriptors say. They provide no qualifiers for 'grade-appropriate material.' We have been citing KSDE descriptors for several years and even asked Commissioner DeBacker and the State Board chair if our last publication of these facts contained anything factually inaccurate. They did not respond then and have never corrected our continuous reporting of achievement levels quoting their performance descriptors.

phsxtchr 5 years, 2 months ago

No qualifiers are given because education professionals understand that "grade appropriate material" contains some material above (and below) the tested grade level. Read the Test Specifications (p.7): They clearly show that there is a reading level range within the reading passages in the test. This range includes material both below and above the grade level being tested as indicated by the Lexile Readability Scale. This is basic education assessment practice.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Waaaaaa. You are a big boy working for the heavyweights. Don't whine, Bubba. State your case if you have have one. So far the ALEC/KOCH numbers do not add up, but most of us already know that. Keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. Your minions have the money. The people have the votes if they will use them. 31% Sam is counting on them to not vote next time either.

weeslicket 5 years, 2 months ago

dave trabersty #2. did you just again "like" your own response?? again.

all this 1 + 1 math is just wearing me out.

buffalo63 5 years, 2 months ago

Just checked your reference to the testimony you gave. It is all charts and what is not there is your comments about the charts. The last one is very telling. ...."under the current system". It seems these bills are trying to change the system, but to what end? Isn't there a better way to do that by including all educators? The year I was president of a local "union", the superintendent came and asked me if the teachers would wave the tenure procedure so he could fire a couple of teachers whom he thought weren't doing a "good job". The catch was HE wasn't doing a "good job" because there was a procedure already in place to "fire" poor teachers. By not following the procedure, he failed to do his job.

Curveball 5 years, 2 months ago

I think the most important issue for the KNEA is the payroll deduction. Any organization that has to depend on monthly dues for support has to have it to survive. This applies to other organizations besides labor unions. Except for the very rich, most people have an occasional bump in their budget where something unexpected comes up. As a result something else gets put on the back burner for awhile (like dues to some club, etc.). The union leadership is well aware of this and they know that members get behind on dues, fees and other payments. After a time, some members may choose to just "ride for free" and let the others finance the operation. Revenue, cash flow, dues or whatever you want to call it is the lifeblood of any business, union or civic organization. The Federal Government may be the exception. They seem to be able to operate forever on borrowed money.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

"They seem to be able to operate forever on borrowed money."

That's because it is what creates the currency that everyone uses. Which is why deficits are way down the list of the problems now confronting us.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

"It needs to be designed like the discipline of 19th/20th centuries."

Meaningless gobbledyguk

phsxtchr 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm flattered that you believe that we teachers have so much power and influence that we have single-handedly caused the "crumbling social fabric". However, the reality is that students spend only 16% of a year's time inside of a classroom. Don't you imagine that the activities, interactions and relationships students engage in during the 84% of a year that they are not in a classroom play a very significant part in their development?

phsxtchr 5 years, 2 months ago

Wow, judging someone whom you've never met and never seen teach as being an irresponsible teacher! Is this an example of those fine 19th/20th century values you hold so dear? Here are some even older values: "Judge not, that you be not judged. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

I keep poking people in the eye on this topic because of what I consider the hypocrisy evident in the teacher’s union position.

There are very few professionals in the US who have a union with bargaining power available to them. Teachers consider themselves (and I consider them) professionals. Why should they alone among professional have a union with bargaining power over salary and evaluations??

They can still join a union if they wish. They can still express themselves politically if they wish. PACs will still be there although they may have to contribute directly as most other professions do.

You really cannot have it both ways. Either you are a professional with the respect and responsibilities of a professional or you are a laborer represented by a union with bargaining power – a set in decline.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

Written by someone who perceives him/her self superior to all others who do not agree with him/her. You are a perfect example of the very philosophy that reflects the gut response of the "mob" in undermining our basic freedoms when they conflict with your ideology

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Yet you perceive yourself superior to all in the teaching profession simply because they have the temerity to organize into a union.

voevoda 5 years, 2 months ago

The police and firefighters will be stunned to hear that you don't consider them to be professionals, Moderate.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

How stupid a statement. Because i consider teachers professionals does not mean I do not consider police and fire professionals. Go back to logic 101.

I do however, find it awkward for professions upon which we are desperately dependent are allowed to organize and strike against the public interest. Of course most may not strike and bargaining power is limited..

voevoda 5 years, 2 months ago

Logic 101: either...or. That means the first and the second are mutually exclusive. Your said "either you are a professional .... or you are a laborer represented by a union." Therefore, persons represented by a union are not professionals. Police and firefighters are represented by a union. Therefore, you do not consider them to be professionals.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Teachers cannot strike in Kansas. One was tried back in the 1970's and some got fired. Next?

KSManimal 5 years, 2 months ago

Moderate, you make no sense. Teachers have unions because they choose to, that's why. If other professionals choose not to, that's their choice. You don't have to like it either way, and that's your choice. It's called "freedom".

Perhaps other professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.,) don't feel the need to organize for better working conditions because they are paid professional salaries to begin with......and when they do more work, they bill for it.

Finally, to say responsible professionals have no need for unions is like saying law-abiding citizens have no need for rights to due process and protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Ready to give those up, Moderate? You can't have it both ways, can you?

texburgh 5 years, 2 months ago

Your statements show your ignorance of unions. Police officers and firefighters are unionized. The Aviation industry engineers are unionized. Nurses are unionized. All of your professional athletes are unionized. Chefs are unionized. Of course, so are "laborers" like plumbers and pipe fitters or auto workers. A union has nothing to do with one's status as a "professional" or a "laborer." A union is a group of individuals practicing a trade who join together to improve their working lives. University faculty are unionized and in some cases even physicians are unionized. And yes, even you could improve your life by organizing and joining a union.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

Not really - you would not let me.

You are mixing all sorts of thoughts in your comment.

  1. Some unions have the ability to enforce their demands with job actions - mostly blue collar unions in this country

  2. Some unions have the ability to negotiate for their members but can not resort to job actions if they do not achieve their goals (police and fire come to mind)

  3. Some unions are unions in name onlyy with very limited ability to do anything.

Nobody is taking your union away. One proposal is limited to moving the government from collecting union dues. One proposal would reduce the number of subjects where teacher unions in Kansas would be able to negotiate about. Like most public employees there have always been such limits.

I am a strong supporter of unions in the private sector to allow the workers a mechanism to compensate for the power of their employers.

I do not support public sector unions with thepower to strike because in the end they are protected by the citizens who are their ultimate employers through the legislature and other elected officials.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

"Nobody is taking your union away."

No, they're just creating conditions in which the only thing they'll be able to do is organize bake sales for the PTO.

Nunyer 5 years, 2 months ago

"I do not support public sector unions with thepower to strike because in the end they are protected by the citizens who are their ultimate employers through the legislature and other elected officials."

Shorter: Public employees shouldn't have the freedom to choose how to spend their paychecks.

texburgh 5 years, 2 months ago

Not only would I let you, I would encourage you. It is your employer who does not let you unionize because if you did it might mean the employer would have to improve your compensation, hours, and working conditions.

And I see you oppose public sector unions "with the power to strike." The comment once again shows your ignorance of Kansas law. Public sector unions in Kansas a prohibited from striking.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

That is what I thought I said. I hope that the reading skills demonstrated here are not indicative of those who teach our children.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Part of these bills is an attempt to stop unions from spending money, however it is collected, on political activity.

Seems like a rather obvious violation of constitutional rights to me.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

I do not think there is anything in the bills (they are not passed) that would limit unions having PACs paid with money collected from their members.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Then you haven't read the bills.

They've been posted several times on here, and they clearly include provisions that stop unions from political activity, regardless of how money is collected.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

To that extent they pass that way I agree with you. I have trouble with exactly what will pass and what is actively being considered.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

I see no reason that they won't pass as currently written, given our current legislature and governor.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

It's really not nice to poke people in the eye.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Planned ignoring is very effective in attention-seeking adults as it is with children. Grown ups say the darndest things!

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

Attention herein seems to fall to negative comments about individuals or misinformation about actual harm to teachers.

Katara 5 years, 2 months ago

To some it matters not the kind of attention but that there is attention given.

weeslicket 5 years, 2 months ago

from moderate: There are very few professionals in the US who have a union with bargaining power available to them. Teachers consider themselves (and I consider them) professionals. Why should they alone among professional have a union with bargaining power over salary and evaluations?? They can still join a union if they wish. They can still express themselves politically if they wish. PACs will still be there although they may have to contribute directly as most other professions do. You really cannot have it both ways. Either you are a professional with the respect and responsibilities of a professional or you are a laborer represented by a union with bargaining power

you ask a serious question, and i'm willing to make a stab at an answer.

  1. with the beginning of the new law, i really will be decied my voice in this state. i can join a union, and write a check to a union. BUT, that voice will no longer be allowed to speak on "public issues". read the bill, please.

  2. as to the question in your last statement: odddly, we teachers (and perhaps others) are treated as "neither". we are not "knowledgeable, capable, and valuable professionals"; and treated such-like. nor are we "mere employees"; what with such-like workmanlike respect.

  3. how shall i seek to be treated in a moderate way?

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

Well I don't really know how to respond as you have taken my comments and played them back IMHO inconsistent with my actual usage. Deliberate or Misled?

Doctors and Lawyers are private sector professionals and theoretically should be able to be in a union. Since engineers were denied one by the courts I can not be certain.

You are government employees and in a different category as I have noted. As far as I am concerned you have a right to organize. That said I remain stubborn as to how far you can go with it as posted above. I have never suggested you be denied the right to have a union.

Far from my lack of understanding I see a group of people that are trying to misrepresent the actual extent of the evil that might befall them. If all the legislature does in the end is limit your collectively bargaining alternatives I stand with them. If they actually deny you the right to form a PAC then I stand with you.

I went back through m,y comments and I do not believe that I actually commented on the bills as written. I have discussed intent and that in mostly a general way. My focus has been on union activity by government employees and I believe I have been clear as to where I stand. I can see that some of you could read into one of the bills the potential for limits on your collective political activity as teachers.. I believe that if the bill progresses that provision if that is the intent will not survive.

I am not tracking the bills as closely as you are so let us see what actually passes the legislature (if anything). Will it be something that limits the scope of collective bargaining or something that neuters teachers as a collective political force.

SnakeFist 5 years, 2 months ago

In my experience, school administrators don't want what the legislature is trying to give them.

For example, administrators don't want to negotiate hundreds of separate contracts - collective bargaining is much more efficient for everyone. In fact, I suspect that collective bargaining will continue as a practical matter regardless of what the legislature does, and, in any event, most instructors are not so accomplished that they will be able to get much more through individual negotiation.

Similarly, administrators don't want to deal with multiple employee organizations that may take conflicting positions - having a single organization is, again, much more efficient for everyone.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

But that would be their choice.

Their are remuneration schema that are in between the options you chose.

Districts negotiate with their employees as they are responsible through the school boards to the voters. I could imagine a situation where some teachers may choose to be represented by a new local union that costs them a lot less and may in the end be more effective then "big brother".

In the end the very power you are exercising here is the true power in determining your working environment. If the public supports you then you will win in the end.

Peter Hancock 5 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Trabert is correct in that I should not have put the words "poor performance" in quotation marks. Those were not his words. They were my way of collectively paraphrasing comments and statements he has made over a period of years, including comments in his testimony on March 11 and in my direct interview with him that day.

In his testimony on Thursday, March 11, Mr. Trabert presented slides stating that Kansas has "reduced performance standards" in order to avoid financial penalties under No Child Left Behind, and the result has been to create an impression that Kansas students (and schools) are performing better than they actually are.

In my interview with Mr. Trabert moments before that testimony, he stated: "Kansans believe that schools have very high performance. In fact, that's what they're told by school districts and media. And that's what we're going to be talking about here today. The truth is that achievement levels are actually lower than what a lot of people believe."

I then asked him to describe the link between those performance levels and collective bargaining rights for teachers. He responded with the quote that is included in the story.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

Thanks, Peter, for acknowledging that error. But I also have not said in the past that Kansas schools perform poorly. I have consistently provided the facts and explained them as you noted in your comment here...which is that performance is not as high as many Kansans believe. We have always maintained that Kansas' overall performance is a little above the national average; not poor or any similar characterization.

And please also admit that I did not say teachers unions are to blame. Again, I have never blamed anything on any group. In fact, when asked who's to blame, we say no one is to blame but everyone is responsible for trying to help kids improve.

And please also provide the ENTIRE quote I gave about the legislation. You asked why I thought this legislation was being proposed now and I told you that when people, including legislators, learn that student achievement isn't quite as high as they previously understood they want to know what can be done. So it's quite likely that student-focused legislation was being proposed as a result of legislators learning more facts about student achievement.

phsxtchr 5 years, 2 months ago

1) Kansas student achievement is above the national average but not "as high as...previously understood". For this, the legislature desperately wants to pass anti-union legislation? That makes absolutely no sense. 2) Your contention that achievement is not "as high as...previously understood" is based on KPI deliberately ignoring the details and procedures involved in educational assessment. Your contention is not true. 3) To point to test results while failing to discussing the details of how these tests are constructed and used is grossly manipulative. To do this in order to push for your own education policy agenda is despicable.

Peter Hancock 5 years, 2 months ago

"Removing the Barriers to Better Public Education: Analyzing the Facts about Student Achievement and School Spending"

By Dave Trabert and Todd Davidson

February 2012

"Part of the resistance to change is driven by a widely- held belief that Kansas’ public schools have very high achievement levels and are among the best in the nation. Unfortunately, the data shows actual achievement is much lower and that high national rankings are driven by demographics and the relatively poor performance of all states."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Now all we can do is wait until Dave gets the chance to tell us what the meaning of "is" is.

voevoda 5 years, 2 months ago

Sounds to me like your paraphrase was pretty accurate, Mr. Hancock.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

"Relative poor performance" (with the emphasis on relative) refers to state proficiency levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Parents are told that Kansas has high national ranks, such as the 10th highest level of Proficiency on 4th Grade Reading, but that ranking is not reflective of a high proficiency level. Only 36% of Kansas 4th grade students are Proficient compared to the national average of only 32%. So yes, on proficiency levels all states have relatively low performance. That paper also points out that Kansas' actual scores are a little above the national average.

No comment about my not saying that teachers unions are to blame? No comment about the ENTIRE quote explaining what I thought might have prompted certain legislation?

phsxtchr 5 years, 2 months ago

Dave, why don't you mention that the proficiency benchmarks of the NAEP that you reference have little scientific validity to back them up. In fact, the validity is so weak that every NEAP report has the following disclaimer: “NCES [National Center for Education Statistics] has determined that NAEP achievement levels should continue to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”. Further, Susan Loomis of the NEAP's National Assessment Governing Board says this: “[T]he proficient achievement level does not refer to “at grade” performance. Nor is performance at the Proficient level synonymous with ‘proficiency’ in the subject. That is, students who may be considered proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level.” Bottom line: To use NEAP results as a tool to influence Kansas public education policy without mentioning the above disclaimers is reckless and dishonest.

Catalano 5 years, 2 months ago

Sorry Dave made you get out and work on your day off, Peter. Hope you had a nice St. Patrick's day in the meantime. Now get back to that green beer and enjoy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

"they want to know what can be done."

But the only things we hear from you and this legislature are that teachers unions need to be hobbled to the point of irrelevancy, if not outright eliminated, and school funding should be slashed.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

Under attack are we?? I wonder why.?

Frankly I fail to see how a union or the lack of a union relates to the quality of schools. The voters want good schools. They will in the end pay what it costs. The issue is what is in those costs.

I have seen only conflicting data as to a correlation between teacher pay and student performance. Perhaps because longitudinal data on school systems with collectively higher teacher pay is not conclusive (if readily available) :Perhaps because the real tie must be between teacher performance and and ability to hire and fire.

For me the verdict is out. But I really do not see any correlation between the scope of union negotiation authority and student performance.

buffalo63 5 years, 2 months ago

If the aim of the Legislature is to improve student performance and you see no correlation between negotiation and performance, why then waste time ramming bills through that adresses negotiations and union dues? Figure out ways to improve student performance with all educators (adminstrators, boards, teachers) at the table!

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago


But - why not - if the elected legislature believes that the current powers available to unions are impediments to improving performance

I think they do..

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Sir. Not a bad idea. If they do that would you support using full quotes from all persons? Both sides use snippets out of context to support their case. President Reagan's comments are a great example. For example, here is the full text of his most famous line:

"True, he said in his 1981 Inaugural Address: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” His admirers quote that line to demonstrate his passion for cutting wasteful spending and excessive government power.

Most quotations of the line lop off the first four words, distorting its meaning. By “this present crisis,” he meant the unusual mix of high unemployment and inflation that was plaguing the nation in 1981. Reagan was not speaking of government in general but of specific policies that were worsening these problems.

And those who quote “government is the problem” usually omit what he said moments later: “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work — work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.”

Nunyer 5 years, 2 months ago

  1. Reporter asks why certain anti-union legislation is proposed.
  2. Trabert responds with the usual KPI view that Kansas' kids perform poorly on standardized tests.
  3. Reporter rightly links Trabert's answer with the question.

Possibilities: 1. Reporter didn't mention anti-union legislation in his question, despite the focus of the article; or, 2. Trabert doesn't think schools or students are performing poorly; or, 3. Trabert now regretting that KPI's anti-public education message is made loud and clear.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Whine, whine, whine. Your job has been to create FUD about Kansas schools, which perform relatively well, thank you very much, and cherry picking statistics to give a misleading impression of school performance and cost. Kansas outperforms the national average in NAEP scores for every category but 4th grade reading, and that score is back above average in 8th grade.

buffalo63 5 years, 2 months ago

Most likely student performance is not the real reason for these bills. There are ways already in practice that can raise student performance and it will take everyone doing their job properly. Funding, evaluation of teachers, administrators and students, along with highlighting successful programs, schools, equipment and procedures.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Might I add school boards? Like the Legislature, boards are elected and responsible for the ultimate outcome....helping create the next generation of citizens.

weeslicket 5 years, 2 months ago

Dave Trabert 11 hours, 40 minutes ago No, he made it up.


(should i go back and hit the "like" button on this one, or shall you?(

sci4all 5 years, 2 months ago

Dave's bosses at ALEC don't grade state school systems on student achievement.

Instead, they're graded on how well they follow the ALEC playbook of privatizing public schools.

For example, "Indiana's ALEC grade improved to a B from a C+ in 2010 even though its NAEP scores declined from 13th to 17th. Indiana did, however, pass several pieces of legislation in the last year that were influenced by ALEC model bills, including the creation of a statewide voucher school program, merit pay and restricted collective bargaining rights for teachers, and deep budget cuts."

Dave says he's all about increasing student achievement, but nowhere does that appear in his bio for the KPI. His bio focuses on his function as an ALEC task force member and on his work for a private education choice foundation.

It's almost like Dave's concern for student achievement is a smokescreen for what he and his ALEC bosses really value.

windex 5 years, 2 months ago

So if certain high-performing teachers are to be paid more and there will be additional monies available to secure great science and math teachers, where will this money come from? Paying other teachers less? Cutting positions? Don't we already hire the best teachers available? Isn't the three-year long probation period sufficient to determine whether a teacher is worth keeping?

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

You know some school systems try to encourage teachers to retire early - I wonder why?

voevoda 5 years, 2 months ago

For the same reason that many businesses encourage employees to retire early: so they can replace them with someone younger and cheaper, or eliminate the positions altogether without firing employees and sending shock waves through the workplace. You are wrong, Moderate, to insinuate that the reason schools sometimes encourage teachers to retire early is because they are incompetent. While that may be true in some (rare) cases, school systems do not need to depend upon early retirements to eliminate incompetent teachers. Even with unions and tenure, teachers who do not do their jobs properly can and are dismissed. Unions and tenure defend against arbitrary dismissal, and dismissal without due process.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

At full retirement with a loss of added revenue if you stay?? I am with you if we are actually forcing teacher retirements of effective and competent teachers at a loss to the teacher

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

What on earth does that mean?

KPERS benefits are nowhere near full salary - they work out to about 1/2 of it. And early retirement cuts them down from that. Some of that benefit comes from money that the employee paid into the system over time. So, the state will pay less than 1/2 their salary in retirement (and that money is supposed to have been collected and invested, ready to do that).

Then they hire somebody new and inexperienced for less than half of the experienced teacher's salary.

The state saves money, and the retiring teacher gets less than half of their salary while working. Of course, they don't have to work anymore, and don't have to fight the continuing battle of trying to convince the public that their hard work and dedication should be respected.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

JAFS, I am as I usually am talking broader than Kansas. My wife is in a set where the county, yes county, offered a retirement program at 55 that led to most teachers retiring at that point with what amounted to full service retirement income. To my knowledge that approach is not available in Kansas. It should be at least selectively available for teachers that have "burned out" in service to all of us.

John Sickels 5 years, 2 months ago

Still waiting for Dave Trabert's explanation on how cutting budgets for public schools will help developmentally disabled and autistic children like my son.

The Lawrence district does a good job with him, but many other districts would not have the resources to do so. Trabert and ALEC's agenda would make it even more difficult.

What is the free market solution for middle and lower class parents dealing with autism, Dave?

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps a more efficient use of resources. Perhaps we just can not afford to do what you want for your child. The money comes from others - many with no dog in that fight.

Harsh - yes - but - we just can not afford to do what every supplicant demands to address their particular issue. Some may have to be funded less. Some may have to be funded better. The constant demand for more resources based on a specific child is going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

It's not a matter of what is "demanded." That's already not done. He could demand all day, and I guarantee he won't get everything he'd want. It's a matter of what is best for that child to get them to be mainstreamed as much as possible. That's both the goal and the law. Schools used to just warehouse kids with special needs. Recommend that their parents institutionalize them. Send them home. Tell parents that they couldn't be taught. Is that what you'd prefer?

From a pragmatic standpoint, if you spend the money now on intervention and support services, you don't spend the money later, or at least not as much money later. That child will grow up to be an adult. That adult can either be a taxpayer with a job or a tax liability who lives forever on the state dime. Sure, not every kid will outgrow support services, but from an ethical standpoint, we can't write any of them off.

It's not a matter of what we can or can't afford in this case, either. As long as we can afford to give the Kochs no tax liability whatsoever, we can afford to give John Sickels' kid the in-school supports he needs to get an education. It's a matter of out-of-whack priorities. Disabled children vs billionaires (billionaires who won't hire a single extra worker because of that tax cut).

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

I love your argument sir. If all of the resources that have been justified for government investment during my adult life produced the"savings" that you suggests here and as were suggested when so many other programs were proposed, we would be running a massive surplus in our federal budget.

I stand with you on the Kochs. Unfortunately, the collective yelping of the left led to a very small federal haircut of the top 1%. Forgive me if I see the bill falling on the 50% (minus the top 2%) of us who pay the federal income taxes that pay this bill.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

We could easily afford these services with the subsidies we pay to oil companies. Those aren't long term investments by any definition.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

His solution would be to make you give up your IEP and FAPE rights and enroll him in a voucher-funded special ed school instead of having him attend public school. That's a hit or miss solution that evidence shows - in general - is not in the best interest of the child. They might be able to attend a great school like Horizon, or they may end up in a very bad school like the Judge Rotenberg center in Mass. Chances are that the voucher won't cover the true cost of education, anyway, so you'll end up having to pay out of pocket, and since you've signed away your IEP rights, who knows how well they'll handle things?

Special ed children almost always do worse in charter/voucher environments, yet they're being used as the excuse to invoke them into existence here.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

Not my answer - that is the Republican's answer. My answer is to limit your ability to tax the upper half of the middle class and leave to you where you spend the money. We spend a very large sum of money on special needs children. Cuts thta have been made are small in comparison.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Not all disabled children are born to upper middle class parents who can afford private services.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

To my "progressive" teacher "friends". Poking people in the eye certainly does generate a lot of information and clarification.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

Now for a more comprehensive comment.

I love aggravating that collective lot of frequent left of center commentators on here. If you have not noticed I have a pretty standard approach to my comments. I try within my capability to move the argument into the policy realm. In my discussion here I tried to contrast public and private sector unions and the powers available to each. I really was not trying to comment on the specific activity of our legislature

Now all too often the group of you assumes that anybody including me that disagree with you must agree with a Republican position that you assign to them. I find that representative of a poorly informed or disingenuous person. Even within the legislature there are all sorts of positions on various issues that come before the legislature. I find it hard to simply assume the worst and remain more fluid as to what they may actually do. Like you, I also am trying to influence them by my more general approach that may not fully agree with the more extreme positions that some of them might take.

I confess that you all are quite good at luring me off point (consciously or unconsciously). For example shifting to funding matters and away from union matters. Of course you could be seen as reinforcing arguments by some members of the Republican caucus that teacher unions are never ending advocates for more and more money for every conceivable aspect of education with little regard for the source of those funds or any attempt at priorities.

For the record I do not support any particular position on any specific bill currently before the legislature and in fact believe that the final product will vary from what is currently visible. So when you tell me I do not understand the bills as written you are partially right - because I consider them of low relevance and not worthy of many cycles.

What I do consider worthy of note is the policy issues those bills address IMHO. Now I do not think that the entire Republican caucus is out to limit your individual or even collective political clout – certainly some are. That said I would very much like to see some limits on your negotiating scope with focus on salaries, evaluations, hiring and firing and a few lesser issue. As a taxpayer I believe you all have become too powerful and too conservative on the matter.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

That's a dangerous assumption, with the current legislature in KS.

As is your belief that the current bill will not make it into law. With the ultra conservative R faction in power, our checks and balances on their philosophy have disappeared (along with a Governor who will gladly go along with them).

Limiting union political activity is unconstitutional, in my view.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

I guess we should hope I am right. Keep fighting.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

"I love aggravating that collective lot of frequent left of center commentators on here."

Your admission of being a troll is hardly news. But trolling doesn't require the ability to put forward logical or fact-based arguments, so it works well for you.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

I love you too Bozo. You seem at times to be an intelligent person. It is a shame you spend most of your cycles demeaning others that disagree with you. What is your solution and why?

windex 5 years, 2 months ago

Here's the reason the conversation gets shifted from policy matters to union matters, Moderate: teachers are told to accomplish ABCDEFG. Then they are given enough resources to accomplish ABC and D. So they request (or "beg" or "scream" for, as some put it) more resources, and the union is the most effective way of doing so.

George Lippencott 5 years, 2 months ago

I agree with that but that is a different argument. By the by it applies to almost alkl government employees.

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 2 months ago

You have to admire the GOP's tactics of divide and conquer. They'll be able to hobble public education because the education interests aren't standing together. It will be the kids and the public interest who will be the big losers. Sam Brownback and this legislature are evil and intent on destroying our state. They are harbingers of doom.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Sam,the rt wing repubs answer to ALEC who sponsor misinformation regarding public education in addition to starving our public school of operational funding. ALEC success depends on divide and conquer.

The problems with funding and bargaining rights begin here.

United States of ALEC – Bill Moyers

ALEC – The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in State Legislatures

ALEX EXPOSED – The Koch Connection

ALEC – Ghostwriting The Law for Corporate America


ALEC Private Schools - Corporate Education Reformers Plot Next Steps at Secretive Meeting

There is a group who sees the billions in school tax dollars eventually coming back into their bank accounts. They love the idea of guaranteed profits for their corporate private schools.

Unfortunately ALEC and a large majority of the republican party got married to the idea that working class blue and white collars make too much money. Talk about living in glass houses.

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