Saturday, August 23, 2014

‘Teapublicans’ attack on education is unconscionable

4/7/2014

Seriously ... what’s the matter with Kansas?

The Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill with bi-partisan support Friday that addressed inequities in school funding as needed to satisfy a March 7 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court. The 91-31 vote was focused on solving the funding problem and was praised by both Gov. Sam Brownback and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis, which is a feat. State Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, helped bridge the gap with votes for the bi-partisan bill, however, what happened next is where things went awry with parliamentary games and procedural shenanigans.

Seriously ... what’s the matter with Kansas?

The Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill with bi-partisan support Friday that addressed inequities in school funding as needed to satisfy a March 7 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court. The 91-31 vote was focused on solving the funding problem and was praised by both Gov. Sam Brownback and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis, which is a feat. State Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, helped bridge the gap with votes for the bi-partisan bill, however, what happened next is where things went awry with parliamentary games and procedural shenanigans.

For those wanting to keep up with the happenings live at the Statehouse, it easily can be done with live streaming over the Internet through the state’s website — http://kslegislature.org/li/ — though listening doesn’t always explain the reasons behind what is being heard. Such was the case Sunday when what should have been an open debate of the people’s business in the people’s Capitol was cut off prematurely upon outgoing state Sen. Pat Apple, R- Louisburg, who previously represented portions of Franklin County, presenting a motion to adjourn. It makes zero sense to cut off discussion on the most important topic in the state. Those senators allowed to speak said so too.

The Senate took the House’s bill and inserted unrelated education policies, including the elimination of a teacher’s right to a due process hearing upon termination of employment and the addition of tax breaks for corporations donating to scholarships for private schools. Those amendments did not have a hearing in the education committee and, in fact, was agreed to at 4 a.m. Sunday by House and Senate conferees even though the meeting wasn’t posted according to normal standards. In fact, the early morning meeting quite possibly amounted to an open meetings violation, according to Wichita Eagle reporter Bryan Lowry, who also reported state Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, planned to ask Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor to investigate the situation. [Editor’s note: Taylor announced in February his plan to run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Pat Roberts.]

What the Senate’s education bill has to do with providing equity to school funding — as dictated by the ruling in the recent Gannon lawsuit — is incomprehensible because it only took about 12 lines in the 50-plus page bill to satisfy the judgment on the case. An agenda driven by Americans for Prosperity and others of the same ilk was accomplished Sunday, though it was done in an underhanded manner that ignored the spirit of the law and the practice of publicly vetting policies rather than slipping them through in the middle of the night when no one is looking.

Amazingly, the Senate passed a bill last week approving the setup of live streaming of committee hearings so the public can better be a part of the political process. It is a move that in hindsight seems disingenuous at best.

Sunday’s anti-public schools corporate-built Senate bill was so foreign that even its carrier — state Sen. Tom Arpke, R-Salina — was unable to answer questions about it without consulting the revisors during debate in the Senate Sunday afternoon. The revisors — rather than the individual carrying the bill — researched questions to say what specific aspects of the proposed law meant. Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, who previously represented portion of Franklin County, knew the parliamentary rules and used them to stop debate too.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, another lawmaker who previously represented portions of Franklin County in the House, boldly said we’re fixing a problem that didn’t exist. No educators, superintendents or anyone else for that matter said teachers needed to be denied due process — still, lawmakers passed the measure.

If this bill is signed by the governor, then no K-12 educator will have the protection of standing their ground. If Kansas thought it had trouble recruiting teachers before, it definitely will have problems now. No teacher will think he or she can defy a parent, administrator or others. This attempt at teachers’ union busting is unconscionable.

Teapublicans can’s say they support transparency, open government and public education because it is clear they don’t.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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