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Under the Dome - February 11, 2013

Bill would require schools to give access to teachers for anyone who wants to sell something

House Bill 2221 had a hearing in the House Education Committee today.  This bill-sought by conservative supporters of KanAAE-would force local school districts to open district functions to any professional employee organizations (PEO's).  A PEO is one that seeks bargaining rights.  House Bill 2221 would add to that definition liability insurance salesmen and any providers of professional development who ask.  In addition to facilities and bulletin boards, your mailbox and email would also be accessible.

The crux of the issue is this - under the Professional Negotiations Act, a school district may agree contractually to allow use of facilities for the bargaining agent.  Once included in the agreement, the right becomes exclusive to the bargaining agent and other PEO's are excluded.  Some school districts have negotiated this agreement, others have not.  A school district is always free to open an event to organizations that are not PEO's.

The KanAAE started in Kansas by organizing in Olathe and demanding a seat at the bargaining table. In a court case that went all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court, the Supreme Court ruled that KanAAE was a PEO under the law. It sought bargaining rights and so could be denied access when another organization had been duly elected to represent the teachers.

Now, KanAAE is trying to convince legislators that they should be granted access despite its standing as a PEO. HB 2221 changes the law so that school districts must grant access to any PEO that asks for it. If the law changes, districts that don't enjoy chaos at every employee meeting will simply deny anyone - including the bargaining agent - access to the employees.

As was pointed out in committee, the law does not deny access to other groups that don't seek to decertify the bargaining agent. Additionally, districts don't have to allow the bargaining agent access to district facilities and communication systems through negotiations. It is only where that right has been negotiated that other PEOs are denied access. Access to all other organizations (non-PEOs) is a matter of board policy - local control.

Arguing to remove local control along with KanAAE was James Franko of the anti-union Kansas Policy Institute. Franko was questioned about his support for stripping school boards of local control on the issue of access to their facilities and staff. KPI usually promotes getting government out of the way and letting local control rule unless, of course, local control might get in KPI's way!

Representing KNEA in the hearing were Shawnee Mission teacher Barb Casey, Derby teacher Shelly Addis, and KNEA Staff Attorney Marjie Blaufuss.

No action was taken on the bill today. 

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