Archive for Sunday, April 6, 2014

House, Senate pass school finance bill; awaiting Brownback’s signature

April 6, 2014, 7:55 p.m. Updated April 6, 2014, 11:02 p.m.


Democratic Sens. Oletha Faust-Goudeaux of Wichita and Tom Holland of Baldwin City receive walk through a phalanx of teachers who were grateful for their votes against a school finance bill that would also repeal their tenure rights. The bill passed both chambers anyway and is now on its way to Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature.

Democratic Sens. Oletha Faust-Goudeaux of Wichita and Tom Holland of Baldwin City receive walk through a phalanx of teachers who were grateful for their votes against a school finance bill that would also repeal their tenure rights. The bill passed both chambers anyway and is now on its way to Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature.

Topeka — After a weekend of bitter debates, Republicans in the Kansas Legislature on Sunday approved a bill that provides additional funds to public schools, but would also repeal teacher tenure rights and provide indirect public financing for private and parochial schools.

The dramatic votes and round-the-clock meetings brought to the Statehouse hundreds of teachers whose plea to maintain job protections was rejected.

After the bill was approved, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, walked by a group of teachers who stood silently, but one man said to him, "You should be ashamed of yourself. That was a (expletive) way to make policy." Merrick replied, "I don't feel any shame." The man later told those around him, "Sorry, I shouldn't have said that."

The bill was approved 63-57 in the House after passing on a 22-16 vote in the Senate — just one more yes vote than the minimum number required in the Senate. Only Republicans supported it.

The measure now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, for consideration. Late Sunday, he issued a statement praising the bill. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and other top officials in the Brownback administration were on hand for the vote in the House and congratulated Republican leaders.

The vote concluded a weekend of long meetings, including a 3 a.m. conference committee that Democrats alleged violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act and a rancorous Senate debate which brought assertions of procedural abuses from Democrats and some Republicans.

The base bill, which provides additional state aid for the capital outlay and local option budgets of less wealthy districts, was intended to answer a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling in a school finance lawsuit.

It also provides additional state funding across the board for all school districts' local option budgets - additional money they're allowed to raise above and beyond their base state aid.

"I think we have hit all the points we need to hit," Merrick said.

But throughout the process, conservative Republicans insisted on attaching additional policy changes to the bill.

The most controversial of those would be to exempt K-12 teachers from a law that has been on the books since 1957 that says if they have been on the job three or more years, they are entitled to an administrative due process hearing before they can be fired or have their contract non-renewed for the following year - rights commonly known as "tenure."

Democrats strongly opposed repeal of those protections.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said, "I've been in the Legislature for over 12 years. I have had not one superintendent during my time in the Legislature say, 'Gee, you know, Tom, we've really got to cut back on that teacher due process.' I haven't heard one iota from a superintendent in my district talking about this being a problem."

Hundreds of teachers packed the Statehouse on Saturday and Sunday to protest the proposal, saying that due process regulations help provide teachers job protection against unjust dismissal and helps with the efficient operation of schools. They were praised by legislators on the right and left for being civil.

State Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, however, said the proposal will make it easier to get rid of incompetent teachers, which would help competent teachers. "It has been framed as anti-teacher but it is anything but," he said.

The bill also provides a 70 percent tax credit for corporations that contribute to scholarship funds enabling low-income students and students from the lowest-performing public schools to pay tuition at private or parochial schools.


Steve King 4 years, 1 month ago

I wonder if they realize they just lost the votes of those 34,700 teachers at the next election. Add in a factor of 10 for compassionate friends and family it's a serious chunk of the electorate. I bet they lose 500,000 votes.

Frank McGuinness 4 years, 1 month ago

"I wonder if they realize they just lost the votes of those 34,700 teachers at the next election." Hardly, I am willing to bet that some of those teachers voted for Brownback and also voted for these legislators. I'm surprised that by now more people haven't realized that Kansans will consistently vote against their own best interests. These legislators weren't barely elected into office. In many cases these people were brought in through an election where the democrat was even really a threat to their election. As for "compassionate friends", I will believe that when I see an election in Kansas where the majority party in all branches is the Democratic party but I have lived in this state long enough not to hold my breath waiting for that to occur.

Sam Crow 4 years, 1 month ago

I am willing to bet that about half of Kansas teachers are republicans, just like the rest of the population, despite the best efforts of the NEA.

And if King thinks that each teacher has 10 friends and family members that will vote based on teacher tenure, he is living a fantasy.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

Know who is in the NEA? Teachers. Not illuminati plots. Not propagandists. The membership is made up of teachers. The NEA has endorsed Republicans as well as Democrats, depending on who had the stronger record on supporting education. If Republicans want more endorsements, all they have to do is stop passing terrible, education killing legislation. You'd think that would be simple. Sigh.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a sad day in Kansas. It's a slap in the face of hard working teachers.

4 years, 1 month ago

The Republicans are now actually doing what they have long wanted to do ideologically. They hold all the cards except the one that matters most, and that one belongs to the voting public. The Republicans are convinced they can win in the next election cycle. No joke.

Ralph Reed 4 years, 1 month ago

The Guv, Wagle and the rest of the legislature have now destroyed education in Kansas. I used to suggest that people come here to teach. Sure, the pay is horrid, but at least the educational environment is good. I will no longer do that, in fact, I will counsel people to leave the state and teach elsewhere. The local ALEC mouthpiece should be proud of how his marionette (aka The Guv) and the KS legislature have danced to his tune. Merrick said he has no shame in destroying thousands of teachers across the state. How dare he, his behavior is disgusting, yet he has no shame? Where's his pink slip?

Hmmm, No due process. Let's see.

You're in a stable same-sex relationship and have been for 20 years. You raised 2 adopted children and they turned out fine. You're a pillar of your community. Oops, too bad you're gay. Here's your pink slip.

The local ALEC rep in Lawrence says your political actions, conducted on your own time and not using school equipment, run counter to what he says ALEC wants The Guv to do. Here's your pink slip.

You dare to question School Board or Board of Education policies. Oops, too bad, you're a trouble-maker. Here's your pink slip.

You're not a good-ole-boy. Here's some extra, unpaid, assignments for you to do. You can't finish them because there's no time? Oops, too bad, here's your pink slip.

You have a political bumper sticker on your car I don't like; you have a coexist bumper sticker on your car. I don't care if it's your First Amendment right, take them off. What, you say no? How dare you defy me. Oops, here's your pink slip.

You're an NRA member. You carry a handgun and shoot someone claiming "Stand Your Ground." No pink slip for you. Here's a bonus for standing up for your "rights."

Sam Crow 4 years, 1 month ago

" destroyed education in Kansas"

When you write such nonsense it invalidates everything you write.

I can assure you that education will continue just fine in Kansas whether teachers have tenure or not.

Ralph Reed 4 years, 1 month ago

It's not "Tenure," it's due process. I hope you can understand the difference.

This law has made Kansas Teachers at will employees. This means a teacher can be fired just because. A teacher gives a deserved bad grade to the grandchild of a school board member which leads to the teacher being fired in the middle of the school year. Mark my words, this will happen. In essence, teachers will now need to engage in a popularity contest so they don't upset students and thus get fired.

Further, tax money that should go to the public school system will be used to give tax breaks to those supporting private schools or to those send their children to private schools.

Finally, you cherry-pick a phrase from what I wrote and say that 5 words invalidates everything I wrote. Yet you don't say how or why it does, nor do you offer a counter argument to what I wrote. This is a typical attack method of Fox News, the Tea Party, et al. Take a look at each of the examples I gave and tell me why they can't happen; you won't be able to.

ALEC has gotten what it wanted in Kansas in regards to the public education system. And, as I said above, I'm sure the local ALEC / Tea Party mouthpiece is quite satisfied with his work.

Sam Crow 4 years, 1 month ago

Your comment about understanding the difference is quite condescending. Actually I have a JD.

Many of you continue to bring up this hypothetical instance of a mythical school board member firing a teacher for giving a bad grade to a relative. In fact an entire board votes on personnel issues such as terminating a teacher.

The hypothesis of a cop getting fired for writing a ticket for a government officials grandmother is a valid comparison. So lets give cops tenure.

How about a nurse at the city owned LMH refusing to allow a patient who is connected to do something not allowed. Lets give nurses tenure.

When liberals cant make a point, always refer to Fox or the Tea Party.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence Police Dept. has Due process for all of its Personnel. Same with LMH and all other hospitals I can think of. Due Process = Tenure in regards to Public School Personnel. So, in essence, The groups you mentioned DO have tenure. For some reason , many interpret "Tenure" to be the same as "Tenure" of a College Professor. Tenure is Defined(Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary) as "a status granted after a Trial period to a teacher that gives protection from summary Dismissal." I am a State Worker. I have "Tenure"(Due Process) as well.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

Tenure is a status or term that Guarantees "Due Process". Due Process:(as Defined by Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary) " a judicial requirement that enacted laws may not contain provisions that result in the unfair, arbitrary, or unreasonable treatment of an individual." Did you get that part about "Judicial Requirement"? That means it is not a matter to be decided by your opinion: it is Required By Law. Why do You think it OK to Remove Due Process from one group of citizens but not others? Are you starting to see why this Law is Unconstitutional to it's very core? They(Kansas Legislature) are depriving Citizens of something that is Guaranteed by the Laws of this Country! Even Private sector employees have some sort of Due Process.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

I Talked to a person I highly respect and call a friend who also happens to be tenured Faculty. He corrected me on the fact that, Yes, Due process is involved but that is only Part of it. Due process is a Right, Tenure Is an Honor bestowed upon you. It says that The Institution holds Your knowledge and Ideas in the Highest Regard and would Proudly have you teach their Students. There is Trust and Mutual respect Between The Tenured and the Institution. It Is sad if they are doing away with that in Kansas.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

He also added" How can the State Government Take away Tenure? They don't Give it, Do they? And Tell your Mom we said Hello.

Ralph Reed 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm happy for you that you say you have a JD. But then I don't know you and can't tell if you're speaking the truth.

Under current rules a school board votes on whether or not to terminate a teacher. That is called due process. If Brownback, correction, when Brownback signs this travesty that due process will no longer exist. Hence, a teacher can be fired without cause, read that as just because. In essence, teachers will be on probation their entire career. I have seen teachers reassigned or given adverse evaluations because they dared to cross a school board member. That adverse evaluation was the first step towards being fired.

The hypothetical situations you provide of a cop and a nurse have no bearing on this discussion. This discussion is about teachers and education; please don't deflect. They might though if The Guv and his minions pass similar legislation regarding public employees.

I did not invoke Fox this or Tea Party that. I said your attack was a typical attack method of Fox or the Tea Party. Sorry if I struck close to home.

Again, it's due process, not tenure. See Thomas Bryce's comments. No need to reiterate them.

Greg Cooper 4 years, 1 month ago

What, exactly, Sam, is nonsense about that statement? Do you believe that education exists without qualified teachers? This is the upshot of the new idiocy passed by the legislature. Tenure, as noted above, is nothing more than due oprocess, which is something not enjoyed by mmost people, who can be terminated for no cause.

If you truly believe that quality education in Kansas can exist without due process for teachers, you are a part of the problem.

You, and everyone who continues to allow these thugs to inhabit the statehouse.

Sam Crow 4 years, 1 month ago

It is a nonsense statement because education is not destroyed in Kansas. In fact, educating kids in Kansas will continue. And not much will change because teachers will not have this curious concept of tenure.

Of course, it requires qualified teachers for education. Qualified teachers will not be affected. Only the NEA active teachers who have had their feelings hurt are affected. Quality education will continue in Kansas without tenure for teachers.

The name calling, such as thugs and idiocy, continues by the liberals that disagree with someone.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

Education isn't "destroyed." That's obviously hyperbole, but education is being intentionally eroded. Qualified teachers will be impacted at the same rate as everyone else, whether they're members of a professional organization of teachers or not. If you can get fired without cause at any time that includes anyone who doesn't have a cause to get fired. If I were a teacher, I'd be high-tailing it out of this state.

Seth Peterson 4 years, 1 month ago

"Of course, it requires qualified teachers for education."

No qualified teacher would choose to come to Kansas given any other option now.

James Nelson 4 years, 1 month ago

Thanks to the conservatives here we go again back to the courthouse. The day after Brownback signs this bill an attorney will be on the courthouse steps ready to file another law suit regarding the constitutionality of the tax credits, of which most will go for private schools operated by churches. Conservatives, it seems, will never learn what it means to separate church and government. They have caused so many tax dollars to be wasted in the courtroom defending the unconstitutional things they get through the legislative process. And thanks to Brownback, every tax dollar collected in Kansas is precious and cannot afford to be wasted. The Attorney General has been forced to seek a much higher budget from the legislature for defending in court several things that made it through the legislature.

Governor Brownback's pride will never allow him to admit that his experiment with state income taxes has already shown itself to be a total failure caused by colossal sized false assumptions. He and other fellow religious conservatives have already declared the public school system to be worthless. Their not so secret agenda is to shift state funding away from public schools toward private schools. Measures recently introduced by Kelley, Abrahms and Rhoades have all tried to do this very thing. And they despise teachers, those worthless low level card carrying scum union members unworthy of support of any kind. Never mind that their teachers were also card carrying union members who taught them to stand on their own two feet and exercise their brains, albeit in a most wasteful manner many times.

Instead of trying to tear down teachers and the public school system the legislature and governor should be trying to put back the dollars taken away from education during the worst economic downturn since the great depression. Teachers and other staff have been laid off during this time and class sizes have increased.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 1 month ago

There is nothing about the tax credit scholarship program that violates the State Constitution. Article 6(c) says "No religious sect or sects shall control any part of the public educational funds." No religious sect or sects will control any part of public education funds under this Act. The control is exercised by parents.

Your assumptions about the views of individual legislators and the Legislature in general toward public education do not represent reality. I've been in many discussions this session and over the years and have never heard anything of the nature you claim.

By the way, the number of classroom teachers is 4.5% higher now than in 2005, while the number of students is only 3.8% higher. Total school employment is 8.6% higher. The pupil / classroom teacher ratio has fallen from 16.4 in 1993 to 15.4 now. I'm not suggesting that that is the same as class size, but if class size is increasing while the pupil / teacher ration is have a variety of management problems.

William Weissbeck 4 years, 1 month ago

Your argument simply uses tax dollars in reverse. The government doesn't pay the private school, but instead so cripples the public schools that the individual has the incentive to use the largess of the corporation to put their child through school. The corporation in return pays lower taxes. You have simply done through the back door what you cannot do through the front and given the individual the illusion of your magic freedom and liberty.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 1 month ago

How does this plan 'cripple' public schools? The maximum allowance is $10 million in tax credits. School districts spend almost $6 billion and their costs will decline if some students take advantage of the scholarships.

FYI, the point of all this to give low income students in the state's lowest performing schools an option to go where their parents believe is best for them.

William Weissbeck 4 years, 1 month ago

Look, I now live in Indiana, and I listened to Romney's "education" talk during the election. This is pandering to the minorities in the worst possible way. Your primary goal is to weaken the teacher unions. If you really cared you'd bring the poor JOBS!

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

He's a true believer who honestly buys into the lie that if we totally privatized education, the invisible hand of the market would teach kids all they need to know and fluffy bunnies and unicorns and happily ever after. He really buys into it, and no amount of objective data showing that it doesn't actually work and is nothing but an ideological lie is ever going to convince him.

Plus, he does dig the whole union busting idea, so there is that, too.

Amy Varoli Elliott 4 years, 1 month ago

Your using your faulty math again buy counting non-teachers (para's) into your ALEC equation

Steve King 4 years, 1 month ago

...conservative republicians insisted on attaching additional policy changes. There it is. And they are the ones that need to go.

Lee Henry 4 years, 1 month ago

Using the tax dollars this way will blow up in the Republicans faces...

Who will want to get a teaching degree in Kansas now...and take a chance of being let go when you are just getting a decent wage for some younger teacher...are the teachers going to get re-imbursed for getting re-certified before they are let've really opened up a can of worms....

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years, 1 month ago

On KPR this morning I heard one of the Republican legislators say that teachers should be treated as if they worked at a business and can be hired and fired at will, no reason given. The problem is he and his cronies have just turned teaching into customer service jobs. Before, teachers were the boss, and the students were the workers. Over the years teachers have lost the power to "fire" disruptive students. One teacher was physically threatened by a student, but she was forced to have that student back in her classroom. Students who plagiarize now suffer few consequences if any. Students copy each other's homework and teachers have to be very careful to keep an eye on them during the test. But if you catch them cheating, there is little you can do. Many parents will fight any kind of punishment for their kids. Teachers with high standards are always under pressure from parents and administration to lower those standards, so the students can get really good grades and it looks good on paper. You have probably heard of grade inflation; prepare for more inflation.

Now teachers are customer service and the students are customers, so teachers will have to bend over backwards to please the parents and the students or they will get fired. Catch the student cheating? Tell them that they can get away with it in school, but probably not real life. Don't do the homework? Give them an A anyway. They want to play on their cell phones during class? Sure. I once had a parent angry with me, because she wanted to talk to her daughter during class about their shopping trip after school. And she was angry that her daughter wasn't making an A, because if they wanted to go shopping the mother would take the daughter out of school. She seldom showed up for school a whole week. But now they are the customer, so they can come and go as they please, according to our state representatives. I'm real sure this mother would have liked to have me fired, but I was protected.

I am really glad I retired. I'm worried for my fellow teachers, but most of all I'm worried for the children of Kansas. Business owners - you should be worried too. You will have workers who are not trained to follow rules. Good luck with that.

Sam Crow 4 years, 1 month ago

Certainly you know that issues with parents have been going on for decades, and will not just start now.

Your example of physical threats to a teacher should be a bigger issue to address than guaranteeing jobs to the incompetent.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years, 1 month ago

  1. There is a way to get rid of incompetent teachers. It's called due process. If the administration is too lazy to do the work, then maybe they should be fired.
  2. Parents have changed. When I was young, if I wasn't doing well in school, my parents turned off the TV, and said you will do better. Now it's the teacher's fault. And I guarantee you that if a student physically threatens a teacher and he/she goes to the police, that teacher will lose her job, now that there is no due process. Due process guaranteed that the teacher would only lose his/her job if they were incompetent or broke the law. Now they can be fired for disagreeing with the principal, a parent, a board member. For 60 years teachers have been protected for that. They were able to give their opinions. Now they will have to shut up and follow along with anything. The schools just took away the voices of the people who are the experts.

Sam Crow 4 years, 1 month ago

No Dorothy, you cant guarantee me that if a teacher goes to the police after being threatened by a student, that teacher will be fired. Or for disagreeing with a parent, teacher, or board member.

And, I agree, if an administrator is too lazy to go through the extensive algorithm to terminate an incompetent teacher, they should be fired.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

I can't guarantee that it will happen every time, because it won't, but it will happen to someone. Now since we're agreeing that there was already a mechanism in place to get rid of incompetent teachers, the change in law is both unnecessary and potentially destructive.

Greg Cooper 4 years, 1 month ago

I don't kow a thing about you, Sam, but I can guess that you (or your children) had a very bad educational experience. Nobody who learned civics or history could possibly be as uninformed and mean-minded about fairness and quality in education as one who supports this bill.

Also, the tenure system does not guarantee a job to anyone. Do some research before you spout ignorance.

Sam Crow 4 years, 1 month ago

My spouse is in her third decade of being a public school teacher, with a Masters degree. I have two advanced degrees. My kids are all well educated.

I have seen way too many incompetent teachers protected by tenure, whose incompetence has been forced on too many students.

There are many many teachers who are not concerned with losing tenure. They know their excellence is job protection.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

The only protection "tenure" gives them is due process, so really what you're saying is that you've seen way too many incompetent administrators who were unwilling to do the paperwork to get rid of someone. And now you're happy that those incompetent administrators can wield a shiny new hammer. Yikes.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years, 1 month ago

Blame the principals, Sam. They are the ones who are in charge of evaluating teachers. They can document that a teacher isn't doing their job and get rid of bad teachers.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

He claims it's his wife who is the teacher, but he's got enough cups of bitter about the experience to drown a whale. I hope he realizes that taking away tenure also means his wife can be fired by the same internal politicking he's alluding to in his posts, especially if people know the two of them are related.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

Or for that matter, they could get rid of a teacher "in her third decade of teaching" because she's just too expensive to keep on the books with that level of experience.

Nancy Hamilton 4 years, 1 month ago

I have two thoughts when I read statements comparing customer service jobs to teachers.
1) How much fun it would have been to grade my customers on how well they wore the clothes that I sold them "Oh dear. You wore the wrong shoes with that dress. C+". Come on people, a teacher's primary job is to promote LEARNING, which sometimes means providing uncomfortable feedback that someone has FAILED to learn a concept. A Customer Service employee's job is to make people happy! A sales person's job is to suck up to you and is not required to grade you on your fashion skills. 2) Why is it that our first reaction to observing that "someone has it better than me", is to try to make that person as miserable as we are? I don't know about you, but if I was working at Walmart, I would want due process too! Seriously, are we just stupid?

William Weissbeck 4 years, 1 month ago

The "at will employees" standard is not something enshrined in the Constitution. It's simply a notion that the boss is autonomous. Works in some business situations, but not every. Unions organize to set a different standard. Professionals sign contracts to set out the ground rules for both sides. There is nothing sacred or noble about "at will employee." If anything it is just a statement of cold fact - you can be terminated at any time, for any reason, simply because you displease. I wonder how many science and math teachers who are in demand, are going to ask for their own separate contracts. They should, they have leverage. But then you are going to have a teaching staff with different job security. Not always good for morale.

On the tax note - it pulls money out of public education. The corporations get a lower tax bill - the difference has to be made up somewhere. A teacher is paid the same whether they teach 25 or 30 students. The buildings have fixed costs. Schools don't operate on a per student cost.

Scott Bonnet 4 years, 1 month ago

Congrats to the state legislature. We have reclaimed this week's crown as dumbest state in the country. Have no fear, this legislature will not be beaten by Texas or some other low academic performance state. We will win the race to the bottom!

William Weissbeck 4 years, 1 month ago

This is also proof of what happens when the GOP purges the Senate. The House was the reasonable legislative body on this one. Those 7-8 moderates in the Senate are sorely missed.

Grégoire Guillaume 4 years, 1 month ago

This bill should be a rallying cry to all Kansans that their state has been hijacked (yes, I am aware that they were voted in by misleading the low information voters) and now is being run like a corporate plaything. I think the definition of fascism is when the corporation and state are in cahoots and make all the decisions. All Kansans should be ashamed for voting in a governor and legislature whose world view is more closely aligned with the Taliban than American values.

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