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Under the Dome - March 14, 2013

House Ed continues discussion of Charters
The House Education Committee continued their discussion of the charter school bill, HB 2320 starting at 7:30 this morning.


The more they discuss the bill, the more problems with it are raised. Rep. Melissa Rooker noticed that every time Committee Chair Kasha Kelley answered a question on the impact of the bill, it was couched in language based on the current charter school law, not on this radical expansion. 


Rep. Ed Trimmer noted that a study provided by the proponents (anti-public school "think tank" Kansas Policy Institute) reported that the worst performing charter schools are in states that have multiple charter school "authorizers" - just like this bill.


Rep. Sue Boldra expressed grave concern about the accountability measure in the bill - if 30% of the schools created by an authorizer are failing for three years, then the authorizer cannot create new schools. There's nothing about shutting down the failures, just a provision that they can't create more failures. Boldra was also offended by a provision that allows these charters to ignore teacher licensure regulations. Boldra, as a Nationally Board Certified teacher, is a proponent of strong licensure standards.


 They debated for some time this morning before recessing until their usual 1:30 pm meeting time.



And then KPI gets even more time for their propaganda
The Committee reconvened at 1:30 to get a special presentation by anti-public school zealot Dave Trabert of the "think tank" Kansas Policy Institute. Trabert sold his usual snake oil denouncing Kansas public schools as failing most students and thoroughly confused the committee with his talk of NAEP, NCLB, RTTT, state assessments, cut scores and the performance of Texas schools compared to Kansas.


He was joined via Skype by noted ideological researcher Matthew Ladner. Ladner, who greatly admires Jeb Bush and Florida schools was brought to Kansas by Trabert and KPI once before. Only back then his presentation was colored by the fact that he won a "Bunkum Award" from the National Educational Policy Center (NEPC). The NEPC, located at the University of Colorado is a national consortium of education researchers and academicians who review the reports of think tanks to make sure it is based on sound research standards. Their annual "Bunkum Awards" are given to those who most violate research standards in an attempt to prove their own hypotheses. 


In 2010, Ladner won a Bunkum Award entitled "If I Say It Enough, Will It Still Be Untrue?" for his report on the Florida "miracle." In give the award, the NEPC had this to say about Ladner's "research:" "Ladner's fecundity isn't really what sets this work apart. It's his willingness to smash through walls of basic research standards in his dogged pursuit of his policy agenda. In this case, the agenda is a passel of Florida reforms: vouchers funded by tax credits, charter schools, online education, performance-based teacher pay, test-score grading of schools and districts, test-based grade retention, and alternative teacher certification. He likes them. A lot. And he contends that other states should adopt the same package because, in his vision, they have clearly caused an improvement in Florida schools. The problem, alas, is with the "caused" part. Nothing in the data or analyses of Dr. Ladner or the Heritage Foundation comes even close to allowing for a causal inference." Read more here.


But it doesn't end there! In 2011, Ladner was the first to receive a "Lifetime Achievement Bunkum Award!" This is what they had to say in granting this special award: "Dr. Ladner's body of Bunk-work is focused on his shameless hawking of what he and the Governor call the "Florida Formula" for educational success.  As our reviews have explained, they'd be less deceptive if they were selling prime Florida swampland. One cannot, however, deny Dr. Ladner's salesmanship: gullible lawmakers throughout the nation have been pulling out their wallets and buying into his evidence-less pitch for flunking of low-scoring third graders and other policies likely to harm many more students than they help." Read more here.


What's amazing is that Dave Trabert and Matthew Ladner continue to promote the worst kind of bunkum and for their efforts earn a special place in the hearts of so many legislators! 



Senate moves forward
The full Senate today passed their modified version of the Governor's tax plan including a large and permanent increase in sales taxes which were scheduled to be reduced. Also gone is the mortgage interest deduction - all to pay for a hole created when the Governor and legislature approved massive corporate income tax cuts last year. 


The House is working a tax plan that takes a radically different approach so there is still much to be done before we know what will actually emerge from this sausage factory.


The Senate also passed HB 2022 on a vote of 24 - 16. 


This bill does two things: it allows employers with consent of an employee to recover overpayments or employee obligations (uniforms, tools, etc.) via payroll deduction. Rolled into the bill was HB 2023 which in its original form effectively silenced public sector unions in the political arena.


As the bill was amended, public sector unions would now be banned from collecting PAC contributions via payroll deduction but would still be allowed to engage in political activities in support of candidates using PAC funds. Unions would also be permitted to communicate political information to their own members using dues money collected via payroll deduction.


The bill is much better now than in its original form but still represents an unfair practice. Union members are prohibited from contributions via payroll deduction but corporate PACs may collect contributions from employees via payroll deduction. People are being treated differently simply because they belong to a union. That's not fair. 

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