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KNEA uses 'thunderclap' to spread word on education bill

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At 6 p.m. Tuesday, there was an unusual spike in the Twitter hashtag #ksleg, which reporters, lobbyists and other political junkies use to highlight items about the Kansas Legislature.

That spike, which shows up in the graphic below, was no accident. It was the result of a new kind of social media strategy known as a "thunderclap" that was organized by the Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

But it remains to be seen whether the thunderclap campaign achieved its stated goal, which was to bring pressure on Gov. Sam Brownback to veto a provision of the recently passed school finance bill that repeals teacher tenure rights.

The idea was to get as many people as possible to post messages on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtags #ksleg and #Brownback.

Based on data from hashtracking.com — an analytic tool that can be used to track the use of specific hashtags and key words on Twitter — there was an obvious spike in the use of #ksleg right at 6 p.m. For the period that covers 30 minutes on either side of that time, #ksleg was tweeted or retweeted 108 times to more than 185,000 followers. KNEA's goal had been to get 100 mentions reaching 75,000 followers.

It's probably doubtful that Brownback will weigh that in as he decides whether to sign or veto the bill. He has already stated publicly that he likes the bill, although he has been noticeably silent on the question of the additional policy amendments that were added to it, including the teacher tenure provision.

Even thornier is the question of whether Brownback wants to test the limits of his constitutional authority by using a line-item veto of a policy measure that is buried inside an appropriations bill. A plain reading of the constitutional language would suggest the framers probably never envisioned they were giving the governor that kind of discretion.

"If any bill presented to the governor contains several items of appropriation of money, one or more of such items may be disapproved by the governor while the other portion of the bill is approved by the governor."

Still, the broader objective of KNEA's "thunderclap" campaign probably had less to do with influencing Gov. Brownback, and more to do with raising public awareness of the issue and motivating voters in this year's elections.

To know whether or not that was successful, we'll all have to wait until November.

According to hashtracking.com, use of the hashtag #ksleg spiked at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the designated time of the Kansas National Education Association's "thunderclap" social media campaign.

According to hashtracking.com, use of the hashtag #ksleg spiked at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the designated time of the Kansas National Education Association's "thunderclap" social media campaign. by Peter Hancock

A word cloud graphic from hashtracking.com shows people using the hashtag #ksleg were also using the words "gov," "veto," "teachers" "policy" and "bill."

A word cloud graphic from hashtracking.com shows people using the hashtag #ksleg were also using the words "gov," "veto," "teachers" "policy" and "bill." by Peter Hancock

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