K-12 Commission delays work on draft negotiations bill

By Kansas Association of School Boards
December 16, 2014

An education efficiency panel on Monday delayed voting on a proposal to limit to compensation and hours worked the items that can be negotiated between school boards and teachers.

Members of the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission said they would await whether an agreement on the issue could be reached during meetings scheduled between several education associations, including KASB.

During Monday’s meeting, the commission worked on a number of proposals.

Currently, there are numerous items on the list of mandatorily negotiable items for school districts, such as vacation, allowance, holidays, wearing apparel, overtime pay, grievance procedures and others.

The K-12 Commission has a draft bill (15rs0074) that would limit negotiations to pay and work hours.

Several members of the commission voiced concerns about how such a bill would affect existing contracts. And several said they would prefer the bill make it permissive for districts to negotiate other items.

The commission plans to meet again on Tue., Jan. 6. Its recommendations will go to the Legislature, which starts the 2015 session on Jan. 12.

In other business, the commission:

Approved setting up a Kansas Education Standards Study Commission (15rs0060) that would analyze educational goals called the Rose Capacities. The K-12 Commission said it would add the Kansas education commissioner and possibly some members of the Kansas State Board of Education.

Approved language that directs the Legislature to deal with any excessive cash balances and recommend a reasonable amount of money school districts could carry forward from one fiscal year to the next. This proposal was approved in place of a draft bill (15rs0083) that would have set up a School District Cash Balances Study Commission.

Sent back to staff for further revisions a draft proposal (15rs0085) that would set up an Efficient Operations of Schools Task Force; requiring annual school district performance audits, and an audit of the Kansas State Department of Education. Some members said they wanted school officials to have designated spots on the task force.

Rejected a proposal authorizing districts to enter into agreements for consolidation of administrative services (15rs0055). Several commission members said districts can already do this.

Rejected a motion to have the Legislature determine reorganization of school district administrations and then rejected a draft bill (15rs0059) to have a study commission on the issue.

The meeting displayed a wide variance of opinion on school operations in Kansas.

Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, said several times Kansas schools were operating inefficiently and failing to educate many students.

Mike O’Neal, who is president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and a former House speaker, said the “800-pound gorilla in the room” was the fact that Kansas has 286 school districts. He said past studies have shown there should be fewer.

Chairman Sam Williams also complained that 200 school districts have their own payroll system. “That is insanity,” he said.

But former state senator John Vratil said districts have determined what works best for them. “One size does not fit all,” he said.

And Bev Mortimer, a member of the K-12 Commission and superintendent of Concordia USD 333, said superintendents are working hard every day with limited resources to do what is best for students. “I’m proud to be part of education in Kansas,” she said.