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Under the Dome - February 28, 2013

KNEA holds statehouse press conference

While many legislators were on the floor in the race to turnaround (tomorrow), KNEA took the opportunity to hold a press conference in the statehouse addressing the many bills being leveled at KNEA and public sector unions.

In her remarks, KNEA President Karen Godfrey focused on the most recent attack - the creation of Sub for HB 2027 that was voted out of the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Geary County School Board member Tom Brungardt, Topeka School Board member Patrick Wood, and KCK USD 500 Chief of Staff David Smith who was standing in for Superintendent Cynthia Lane supported Godfrey in the press conference.

"There has been an unprecedented effort to change the face of public education this legislative session, often with disregard for the collaborative efforts of the education community, with limited understanding of what is happening in our schools, and consistently with no willingness to hear from the teachers who are on the ground level working every day to educate our children.  Rep. Marvin Kleeb justified his behind closed doors meetings with superintendents and KASB and then in a sudden move in his committee on Wednesday presented a radically new amendment to HB 2085, now labeled HB 2027, which strips teachers of their voice in their district through collective bargaining," said Godfrey.

The new bill bears an uncanny resemblance to a set of recommendations given to Rep. Kleeb by the Kansas School Superintendents Association on February 14. We know that meetings were held with a few superintendents and a lobbyist and attorney for KASB after which the current bill emerged. When it came to light without any advance announcement on February 26, it was rushed through the committee and read in on the floor in less than six hours.

Said Godfrey, "For the first time, bills are written behind closed doors with specially invited "friends" to craft legislation brutalizing teacher rights. And despite repeated requests to meet with Rep. Kleeb and talk about the issues, KNEA was left out of all discussions until after the bill was passed. It was not until the bill was written, passed, and sent to full House for consideration that Rep. Kleeb asked to speak with KNEA."

After a public outcry about the lack of transparency in the process, Rep. Kleeb had the bill pulled from the floor calendar and referred back to committee. He has announced his intention of holding a hearing on the bill on Wednesday, March 6. While this is a step in the right direction, it does not change the fact that the hearing will be held after the committee has passed the bill. If this is to be a real hearing during which voices other than the KASB and KSSA will really be listened to, then the committee will have to agree to nullify their earlier vote by passing a motion to reconsider the bill.

The overarching theme of the press conference was the reality that a number of bills taken collectively represent a deliberate effort to silence the voice of public school teachers. Whether they are acting to deny the association a voice in politics or a voice in the legislature, or a voice at the local negotiations table, it is all the same - the idea that teachers need to be seen and not heard, to sit idly by while others control their professional lives and silence their advocacy for schools and students.

But Godfrey made it clear that KNEA will not be silent. "We will continue to be a voice of dissent when the legislature or the administration seek to harm public education. We will not sit idly by or surrender our principles."

Please remember that this bill - Sub for HB 2027 - is not dead and gone. While it is now back in Committee we cannot be certain that the committee will listen to KNEA. We cannot be certain that the bill will not just be sent immediately out of committee once again.

And so we urge you to continue talking to your legislators.

The bill is still very much alive and still very offensive. We must continue to act on the fact that the committee has already passed the bill.

We also know that there are many individual school board members and superintendents who do not support this bill. They have been calling us to say so and a number of them are ready and willing to help us defeat this legislation.

So here's what we need you to do!

 Email your Representative and tell him/her to vote NO on any legislation that limits or repeals collective bargaining for teachers. This would include HB 2085, Sub for HB 2027, and HB 2221. Click here to use KNEA's contact your legislator platform.

 In addition, leave a message on his/her office phone with the same message. Click here for a roster of Representatives.

Find and attend a back home legislative forum this weekend. Use our talking points (click here) and get your Representative to commit to supporting teachers by voting NO on any bill that limits of repeals collective bargaining for teachers. This would include HB 2085, Sub for HB 2027, and HB 2221.

Talk to your superintendent. It is time for him/her to get off the fence. Either they support your professional rights or they don't. Ask your superintendent to help by sending a public statement in opposition to HB 2085 and Sub for HB 2027.

Do the same with your school board. The Lawrence School Board is the first to officially adopt a statement in opposition to changes in collective bargaining for teachers. It's time for your school board to get off the fence. Either they support your professional rights or they don't. Ask you school board to issue a public statement in support of collective bargaining.

Finally, spread the word. Get your friends and neighbors on board; your fellow teachers and education support professionals. If teachers lose collective bargaining rights - if teachers lose a voice in their profession - then our schools and all of Kansas with them will begin a long slide into mediocrity.

Growing roster of board members, superintendents stand up for teachers

Earlier this week, the Lawrence USD 497 School Board became the first to pass a resolution opposing changes to the professional negotiations act.

Last night, the Emporia USD 253 School Board passed a similar resolution.

School Board members Patrick Wood (Topeka USD 501) and Tom Brungardt (Geary County USD 475) both appeared and spoke as individuals at the KNEA press conference this morning.

Kansas City, Kansas USD 500 Superintendent Cynthia Lane sent her Chief of Staff to the press conference this morning to represent her. David Smith also answered press questions during the event.

Buhler USD 313 Superintendent Dan Stiffler co-wrote a letter to the editor with Buhler NEA President Bret Gillmore in support of collective bargaining and other teacher rights.

Shawnee Heights USD 450 Superintendent Martin Stessman released a letter opposing changes to collective bargaining.

On behalf of all Kansas public school teachers, we send our heartfelt thanks to our friends who serve on local school boards or work as our administrative colleagues for standing up for the teaching profession and the men and women who make miracles happen in Kansas classrooms every day.

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