Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bill limiting collective bargaining for Kansas teachers draws fire

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

School administrators on Wednesday said a bill limiting teachers in contract negotiations would make schools run more efficiently, but a standing-room-only crowd of teachers and their advocates said the legislation represented an attack on teachers.

"The 35,000 who teach every day, who work for not enough money, who work for your kids and grandkids, deserve to be treated better," said David Schauner, general counsel of the Kansas National Education Association.

The two sides squared off over House Bill 2027 before the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee.

The meeting ran long, and Chairman Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, said he would continue the hearing Friday.

The measure would reduce from 30 to five the number of issues that teachers could negotiate with local school boards.

For example, teachers could still negotiate for pay and sick leave but not performance evaluations. And opponents of the bill said even pay negotiations would be undermined because the legislation would allow an alternative pay plan for some teachers.

"This bill essentially takes every collective voice away from teachers in Kansas," Schauner said.

But Frank Henderson, president-elect of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said school boards need more flexibility "to be more proactive in managing school districts."

Ken Willard, who chaired Gov. Sam Brownback's task force on school efficiency, said, "We believe it enhances effectiveness."

A similar bill prompted a letter of opposition from the Lawrence school board, which said the proposal was "ill-timed given surrounding circumstances, and quite simply seems to be a solution in search of an unillustrated and unjustified problem."