Archive for Sunday, April 13, 2014

Analysis: Brownback will sign schools bill, ending teacher tenure

April 13, 2014


— Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is all but certain to resist pressure to veto a proposal that would end tenure for public school teachers, approved by the Legislature as part of a court-mandated education funding plan.

Brownback must act on the bill before April 26. Signing the anti-tenure proposal into law could complicate Brownback’s re-election by energizing thousands of angry educators to work against him. He’s avoided public statements about the measure’s merits.

But Brownback, his aides and high-ranking Republican allies in the Legislature already have explained why they believe the measure should become law.

Top GOP legislators argue that the anti-tenure policy is not as harsh as it has been portrayed and will help remove bad teachers from classrooms. Brownback and his staff have noted that the measure is part of broader legislation increasing aid to poor school districts, and the whole thing probably would have to be sacrificed to save tenure.

Lawmakers face a July 1 deadline, imposed by the Kansas Supreme Court, which gives them little time to start over.

“We need to continue funding our schools,” Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said after promising the governor will “take a very careful look” at all the bill’s provisions.

The state Supreme Court ruled in March that past, recession-driven cuts in aid to poor districts created unconstitutional funding gaps between them and wealthier ones. Reversing those cuts will cost $129 million in the 2014-2015 school year, and the plan approved by lawmakers contains the full amount.

GOP conservatives insisted on tying spending to policy changes, including the anti-tenure proposal.

Brownback praised the plan immediately after its passage, pointing to the new dollars for schools. But the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union and a vocal critic of the plan, has said the issue is not money.

Instead, the KNEA says what’s driving its aggressive social media campaign against the measure is “due process.”

Currently, Kansas teachers facing dismissal after at least three years in the classroom can have their cases reviewed by independent administrative hearing officers. Last year, 18 teachers requested the appointment of hearing officers, according to the state Department of Education.

The school funding plan eliminates that right in state law, though any teacher could still seek an administrative hearing if he or she faces dismissal for exercising a right, such as free speech, protected by the state or U.S. constitutions. But with the changes, the KNEA said, administrators won’t be required to tell teachers why they’re being fired — and aren’t likely to admit it’s because of a political or religious view.

Supporters of the bill pushed back, saying the bill doesn’t prevent local school districts from preserving existing due-process rights in collective bargaining agreements with teachers.

“Honestly, this is a local control bill,” said Senate Vice President Jeff King, an Independence Republican and an attorney. “The impact of this bill has been greatly overblown.”

Ending tenure was the bill supporters’ intent, and they argue it’s a good thing, giving administrators more flexibility in improving their schools.

The KNEA scoffed at the suggestion that the anti-tenure provisions are milder than depicted, and spokesman Marcus Baltzell predicted the changes will promote a “culture of cover-up, harassment and bullying.”

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat who’s challenging Brownback for governor, seized on the issue. Campaign manager Chris Pumpelly said Brownback and his legislative allies faced a simple task, to “fund our schools.”

“They decided to mix in unnecessary, unpopular partisan policies,” he said. “That was a mistake.”

Supporters and critics initially debated whether Brownback could strike the anti-tenure language from the bill with a line-item veto, but the growing consensus among legislative lawyers and the governor’s staff was that he could not.

Thus, to kill the anti-tenure proposal, Brownback would have to veto the entire bill — killing the provisions that satisfy the Supreme Court’s mandate to provide “equity” in funding between poor and wealthier school districts.

Baltzell argues for Brownback to “strike the whole thing” and bring about “a clean funding bill.”

Republican leaders insisted on passing a school funding bill before lawmakers’ annual spring break, which lasts through April 29, arguing that waiting longer risks missing the July 1 deadline. The state’s high court said if lawmakers miss the deadline, part of the state’s funding formula — about $1 billion in school spending — must be put on hold.

“I would not want to do anything to put at risk funding for our schools,” Hawley said.

Thus, Brownback is poised to let the anti-tenure proposal become law, whatever enmity it earns him.


Larry Sturm 4 years, 2 months ago

Kansas government bought and paid for by ALEC Koch brothers and Wal-Mart.

Larry Sturm 4 years, 2 months ago

They didn't really fund schools they just shifted money from one hand to the other.

Ken Hunt 4 years, 2 months ago

A war on middle class wages and benefits. Just follow the money to see who is fighting teachers and unions.

Ralph Reed 4 years, 2 months ago

ALEC , The Guv and Waglies are happy now that teachers no longer have due process. This is not a local control bill, it is a bill allowing administrators to fire teachers who don't toe the political line.

A science teacher won't add creationism to the curriculum because it's not science gets fired and an evangelical is brought in to teach creationism in the science classroom.

A teacher doesn't toe the political line and is fired for simply having a bumper sticker the administration didn't like.

A coach is fired because an administrator's relative didn't get enough playing time, never mind that they are slow, out of shape and can't catch a football.

It goes on and on.

Kansas Education. RIP Deceased April 2014 after a long battle against ALEC, neocons and The Guv.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 2 months ago

As long as Governor Brownback Passes the Legislation that The Koch's want,Unconstitutional or not, Re-election or not,It doesn't matter. I am sure his future with"The Koch Machine" will be Bright! Politics Bought and paid for and the Kochs want to see the Return on their investment.

Paul Wharton 4 years, 2 months ago

I have a question about this bill. Will teachers be the only segment of public employees that are denied the protections of due process? If you are using the bad apple argument, I am certain there are many other areas of the public employment sector where bosses would enjoy having the same capabilities. Shouldn't fire fighters, law enforcement, and all other classified public employees be subjected to the same capriciousness of administrative entities? Once again people that are supposed to be our representatives have crafted and passed a bad law. I should add, passed at the midnight hour (literally), with admittedly no vetting, no public input and very little debate. Also this bill does not solve the inequities that courts mandated. Part of this bill allows rich districts to raise the percentage of LOBs obtained from property taxes and thus perpetuates the possibility of the same inequities. On a related tangent regarding our local representatives declaring that they desire to keep control of local governance and deny the influence of "Big Government". In so many cases the issues that they bring to the table are not conceived locally. They are issues that are born in the back rooms of “Big Government” political think tanks funded by the rich and influential few. At national meetings that our representatives attend (often paid for by local constituents) they are coached on how to present these issues to local constituencies in such a manner as to allow them believe they originate at the local level. Hypocrisy at its finest and at the same time it's worst. Kansans, they are selling snake oil and sadly we are buying it, a lot if it!

Paul Wharton 4 years, 2 months ago

After rereading my comment I realized that there are parts of it that could be misconstrued. I am not advocating for an expansion of denying due process to ANY public employees. Quite the contrary I feel that the legislature should have passed a clean funding bill that dealt with the inequities as mandated by the courts, period. In there haste to pass something, anything, so they could go home, the legislature attached so many things that dealt with everything BUT the issue of funding equity. The Governor should veto this whole bill because it is bad legislation. If it necessary for them to come back for a special session in June to meet the July 1 deadline as the ruling requires, so be it. At the very least getting this bill right should demand the same due diligence as that which was required by the special session that was called by the Governor to deal with the hard 50 ruling.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 2 months ago

I wonder if Governor Brownback realizes he is more of an asset or acquisition that belongs to Global Conglomerate than he is Governor, an individual,or anything else right now. You will be alright as long as they need you, Governor. Just look out for when they don't. This is a Throw Away Society. Things that are not needed any longer just get thrown away.

Larry Sturm 4 years, 2 months ago

I wonder when Brownback will change his name to Sam Koch and move into the Wichita offices.

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