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Under the Dome - January 29, 2013

Watch out, guys! Teacher might be mad!

That's the word from House GOP leadership who has warned legislators against hordes of angry teachers who might swarm the capitol as the House votes to prohibit them from engaging in "political activities."

The bill under consideration is HB 2023 that says any teachers organization that gets payments from members via payroll deduction is prohibited from participating in "political activities." And those activities are defined so broadly as to probably include lobbying, asking legislators to vote against bills (bills like HB 2023 or HB 2085 that effectively eliminates collective bargaining for teachers), or supporting your local school district's bond initiative.

Leadership needs to make sure every legislator is afraid of those nasty teachers who have the audacity to believe they are entitled to a voice in the political process or that the United States Constitution's sections on freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and equal protection under the law actually apply to public employees. You know - exactly what our government teachers have been sharing with students for more than 200 years.

Leaks from Republican House caucus meetings have reported that extra security will be called in, legislators are being urged not to wear name tags so they can't be identified, and the ladies should take the back stairs to avoid any constituents who might show up. (Read about it here in the Topeka Capital-Journal.)

Well, we hate to contradict the GOP leadership's tales of terror and woe, but Kansas teachers are going to be too busy caring for and teaching Kansas children to show up tomorrow and harass legislators - even in defense of their constitutional rights.

But your voice is not banned yet! There is still time to contact your legislator and urge him/her to vote NO on HB 2023.

To find your Representative and send an email, click here.

To find your Representative's office phone number and leave a message, click here.

To sign a petition telling all Legislators and the Governor to respect the rights of teachers and other public employees, click here.

Hearing on anti-collective bargaining bill

The House Commerce Committee held a hearing today on HB 2085, the next step in getting rid of the teachers association.

HB 2085 makes numerous changes to the Professional Negotiations Act and, taken as a whole, essentially eliminate collective bargaining for teachers. How is the possible, you ask...

Well, first the bill prohibits exclusivity in bargaining and grants every teacher an individual right to negotiate with the district for their own contracts. If the district bargains with the association, then they will have to bargain with any other group or individual that asks to bargain. This of course would create such a hardship for school districts that they need an out. And bingo, the bill makes collective bargaining permissive for the school district. So rather than deal with the hassle of bargaining with anyone who asks, the district can just refuse to bargain with anyone including the duly elected bargaining agent.

It's the end of collective bargaining for Kansas teachers.

So who is for such a bill? There were two proponents of the bill today. The anti-government, anti-public education "think tank" Kansas Policy Institute and the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Appearing as opponents were the Kansas NEA, Olathe School Board President Amy Martin, and Junction City School Board member Tom Brungardt, and The Kansas AFL-CIO submitted written testimony in opposition.

USA did not testify on the bill while the Kansas School Superintendents Association testified as neutral. The superintendents support two pieces of the bill (removing teacher evaluation, and teaching periods) from the mandatory list of topics but told the Committee that they oppose any attempt to repeal collective bargaining for teachers 

Steve Iliff was recognized as a proponent at the last minute. Iliff loves to refer to himself as a member of the 2010 Commission to bolster his credentials. The 2010 Commission was formed after the settling of the last school finance lawsuit as a body to keep track of progress and whether or not the Legislature was continuing to fund schools appropriately. They were also empowered to request audits to get good information. What Iliff fails to mention to the Legislature is that he is the only member of the 2010 Commission to never agree to any of their reports and recommendations. He never signed one apparently because the reports did not contain his personal recommendations of eliminating teacher due process, banning collective bargaining, and dismantling unions (these were the themes of his minority reports). Today Iliff recommended eliminating teacher due process and seniority and repealing collective bargaining outright.

Most of the committee questions centered on trying to make the point that teachers would all be better off if the unions went away and each individual could just represent him or herself in negotiations. This would apparently serve the superintendent well since he/she would pay each individual teacher whatever he/she felt that teacher was worth.

The committee seemed most interested in letting administrators determine each individual teacher's pay based on whatever the administrator felt was appropriate - especially the idea of bonuses. In his testimony KASB's Tallman told the committee that school districts had to bargain all bonuses and other forms of incentive pay such as additional money to work in hard-to-staff areas. David Schauner pointed out to the committee, however, that school districts can do that now without any negotiations. This issue was the subject of litigation in Wichita in which KNEA tried to maintain that such payments had to be negotiated and KNEA lost that litigation. It's always important to know your facts during a bill hearing.

The hearing took up all of the Committee's time. Chairman Kleeb told those in attendance that the bill would not be worked until after they had the opportunity to collect more information and input for all who wanted to provide it.

It gets worse!

This is Day 11 in the War on Kansas teachers and the dawn was greeted with the introduction of HB 2123 - the Scott Walker Act of Kansas. This bill would make public-sector collective bargaining and payroll deduction for union dues illegal 

All of these bills are political payback for the public sector workers who, through their unions, tried to present an alternative view of Kansas' future. Despite the fact that the conservatives and their friends at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce won the day on their tax bill and in the August elections where they ousted most members of the Republican Party who dared disagree with their vision, they feel the need to crush what ever dissenting voices still exist

Our recommendations for you? Easy:

1.     Be prepared for a long hard ride - they are indeed out to get you.

2.     Make sure you are reading Under the Dome daily and open any emails from KNEA you get - we will use other forms of contact when things are at their ugliest!

3.     Know who your legislators are and be ready to contact them by email, by phone, and in person back home.

4.     Attend those legislative forums and eggs and issues events in your hometown. Let them know you are watching and you are a voter!

5.     Make sure you proudly display your KNEA pride bumper sticker and window cling.

6.     Enlist your family, friends, and neighbors in the fight for your profession.

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