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Under the Dome - January 28, 2013


We remember from old movies when the slaves in some oar-driven ship were ordered to go at "ramming speed" and crushed their way through their enemies. The House Commerce Committee is working against Kansas teachers at a legislative ramming speed in an attempt to prevent those teachers from mounting any kind of defense against the onslaught.

Within the first 10 days of the session they had introduced a bill (HB 2023) to prohibit any teachers association from doing anything remotely "political" (the bill's definition of "political activities" is so broad that some people believe it would even prohibit talking to legislators about a vote) if they use payroll deduction for dues. The penalty for talking about politics? Loss of payroll deduction entirely. Teachers: seen and not heard.

Last Friday, the same committee dropped a bill (HB 2085) that effectively eliminates collective bargaining for teachers. Oh, they will say it doesn't but in reality it likely will. To achieve this they put two items in the bill that work together to destroy bargaining. First they give every teacher an individual right to bargain and then they make bargaining permissible for the school board. A school board that decided to bargain with the teachers association would then be required to bargain with any individual teacher or any group of teachers that so asked. The process is designed to be so cumbersome that no district will agree to bargain with anyone. Teachers: seen and not heard.

The hearing for HB 2085 was announced this morning. It is tomorrow. Opponents (like KNEA) have 24 hours to prepare for the hearing. We have learned, however, that the committee chairman and State Board of Education member Ken Willard spent a few extra days working KASB and superintendents looking for proponents and ensuring they had plenty of time to prepare.

The Kansas Association of School Boards has announced that they will appear as a PROPONENT of this bill. That means the KASB has decided to support a bill that effectively turns employee/employer relations in Kansas school districts back more than 50 years.

Does your school board think so little of their teachers that they support this legislation? Maybe you should ask. Individual school board members have the ability to drag KASB into the 21st century.

But beyond this, you need to ask your legislator if he or she has any respect for teachers at all. The war now being waged against public school teachers by the House is offensive and disrespectful. Within weeks of witnessing teachers in Newtown, Connecticut die for their students and a teacher in Taft, California put himself between his student and a gunman, the Kansas legislature seeks to de-professionalize the teachers of Kansas. If they get their way, Kansas teachers will have no right to collectively speak up in the political world and they will no longer have a voice in their wages, hours, and working conditions.

This legislation harms all teachers. Without a collective teacher voice in politics, this legislature will feel free to delete "suitability" from the Kansas constitution. This legislature will feel free to privatize public education through vouchers. This legislature will feel free to cut education funding even further in an effort to pay for ever larger corporate tax cuts.

The truth is that the Kansas NEA is an organization that stands up to counter the anti-public schools message. That's why the Kansas Chamber of Commerce admits that they seek to "get rid of public sector unions." Those public sector unions, speaking for teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, correctional officers, highway workers, and the men and women who provide the social service safety net to our citizens, fight to defend those services and the people that depend on them even if it means standing up to corporate tax cuts.

You are the voice of our children. Don't let them tell you to sit down and shut up.

Contact your legislators today. Tell them NO on HB 2032. NO on HB 2085. (See the end of this Update for contact opportunities.)

You might even want to remind them of what Ronald Reagan had to say about collective bargaining and unions: "They (our values) remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost. They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. You and I must protect and preserve freedom here or it will not be passed on to our children."

And if they don't want to listen to a Californian, what about a Kansan? Here's what Dwight D. Eisenhower had to say about unions: "Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice. I have no use for those -- regardless of their political party -- who hold some vain and foolish dream of spinning the clock back to days when organized labor was huddled, almost as a hapless mass. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice."

HB 2023 likely not up for debate until Thursday

As we went to press, it appeared that HB 2023 - which had be rumored to be up for debate tomorrow - has been delayed. While the bill is on the House debate calendar, it appears below the line that indicates the end of the day's debate. All bills above that line will be debated; those below will wait until another day. Word under the dome is that this particular bill will move above the line on Thursday.

This gives you time to weigh in with your Representative if you have not already done so.

Sign the petition online by clicking here.

Find your Representative and send an email by clicking here.

Leave a phone message for your Representative. Find his/her office phone number by clicking here.

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