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Under the Dome - February 18, 2013

Massive rework on the calendar!

Bills, bills, bills as we head to turn-around!

When we woke up this morning, we were confronted with a legislative calendar of bill hearings that bore little resemblance to Friday's calendar.

We scrambled to prepare for hearings on two bills today - HB 2232 which would have the state buy liability insurance for teachers and HB 2263, a special education voucher bill.

HB 2232 transfers the cost of liability insurance to the state. Currently school districts carry liability insurance for district employees. Many employees also have additional comprehensive liability insurance through membership in the Kansas NEA or other sources. If HB 2232 were to pass, the state would need to provide at least $1 million to cover the cost. But the bill raises other serious questions such as what happens to district rates for other insurance products under bundling agreements they currently maintain.

But the hearing never happened because the entire committee time was taken up with the voucher hearing.

Proponents for vouchers were State Representative Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe) and the anti-government Kansas Policy Institute. Kinzer spent much of his time touting the Florida voucher model and emphasizing that under this bill no state money went directly to the private school since it was a scholarship provided to parents. This was later called into question by KASB's Tom Krebs who pointed out that since the House had argued on HB 2023 that tax money was still tax money when it was in a teacher's paycheck, one could not take a different approach here!

James Franko of KPI tried to show a video rather than talk to the Committee but his technology failed and the video could not be viewed.

Opposing the bill were special education directors, KNEA, KASB, and USA/Kansas.  No action was taken today.

Tomorrow the committee will hold a hearing on HB 2319 which creates a "coalition of innovative school districts" - ten school districts that can exempt themselves from state rules, regulations, and statutes in order to be innovative.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of innovative schools and districts across Kansas and the teachers in those schools can be innovative and creative precisely because there are a set of rules, regulations and statutes that require teacher voices be heard and that protect them when they take risks with new ideas and methodologies.

Wednesday and Thursday are reserved for working the bills that have been heard while Friday a hearing is scheduled on HB 2280 establishing celebrate freedom week and related curriculum.

On the Senate side, there will be a hearing on another bullying bill, SB 137, requiring more folks to participate in developing bullying policies on Tuesday.

Wednesday there will be a hearing on SB 176 which is the exact same innovative districts act in HB 2319 but with a Senate number.

And on Friday, we are looking forward to a hearing on SB 169, the third grade retention bill.

Still no word on the anti-teacher measures

The House and Senate Commerce Committees have so far not scheduled or taken action on the anti-teacher, anti-KNEA measures we've been following.

HB 2023, the payroll deduction/political activities bill is still in the Senate Commerce Committee while HB 2085, the anti-collective bargaining bill is in the House Commerce Committee. We are monitoring both committees to see what might happen over the next few days and will keep you posted.

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