Last week I introduced legislation (HB 2772) to stop taxpayer funded pension benefits for lobbyists.
You read that right — Kansas funds KPERS pensions for select lobbyists. It came to my attention that apparently long ago, several lobbying groups managed to slip into law special KPERS pensions for their industry/association lobbyists. In fact, upon further research I discovered that Kansas is one of a handful of states with taxpayer funded pensions for certain lobbyists, putting us in company with such ethics-challenged states as New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
These are lobbyists that pressure the Legislature for more tax dollars, and often tax increases, to benefit their industries or association members. Kansas already struggles with funding KPERS to meet the promise made to true public service employees. We cannot afford to be rewarding lobbyists with golden pensions.
The groups in question are largely “off the books” advocacy groups created by certain government-related entities such as cities, school boards and athletic associations. These entities all have layers of officers, staff, and assorted bureaucracies. Yet, have used your tax dollars to form outside lobbying organizations not accountable to local taxpayers who foot the bill. Local units of government using taxpayer dollars to lobby for more tax dollars has long been a point of controversy. Giving “off the books” lobbyists taxpayer funded pensions, however, is more akin to pointed corruption.
The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System was established to attract and benefit employees engaged in public service accountable to the people of Kansas. Exploiting KPERS to benefit lobbyists while jeopardizing pension benefits for true public servants is unacceptable.
It’s worth noting that this secret pension scheme was allowed to linger in the dark for all of these years largely due to Kansas not having an independent State Auditor to root out such practices. It’s another reason why I earlier introduced legislation (HB2747) to empower the Kansas State Treasurer with audit oversight authority to investigate these very matters. Both HB 2772 and HB 2747 are awaiting hearings in committee this session.
This bill would amend law concerning teachers’ due process procedures when such teachers receive notice their contracts will be terminated or non-renewed. The bill would amend the definition of “teacher” to include any professional employee who is required to hold a certificate to teach in any school district and to specify the definition does not include supervisors, principals, superintendents, or any person employed under the authority of the statute governing the hiring of these kinds of administrative personnel. The bill would also amend the definition of “board” to include the board of education of any school district.
The bill would require the written notice provided to a teacher of a board’s intention to not renew or terminate a contract to include a statement that the teacher may have the matter heard by a hearing officer upon written request filed with the clerk of the board of education. To afford procedural due process, the bill would allow written testimony of a witness when the witness lives more than 100 miles from the location of a unified school district office. Further, when testimony is presented by affidavit, the bill would require the same to be served upon the clerk of the board of education.
The bill would specify the provisions governing due process rights would apply only to:
• Teachers who have completed at least three consecutive years of employment and been offered a fourth contract in the school district by which such teacher is currently employed; and
• Teachers who have completed at least two consecutive years of employment and been offered a third contract in the school district by which such teacher is currently employed if at any time prior to the current employment the teacher has completed three consecutive years of employment and been offered a fourth contract in any Kansas school district.
The bill would also provide that these due process rights would not apply to any teacher whose license has been non-renewed or revoked by the State Board of Education because the teacher has been convicted of certain offenses in Kansas or another state or entered into a criminal diversion agreement after having been charged with any of those offenses.
HB 2757 passed out of the House (73 Yes, 48 No), and I voted “no.” I support teachers having due process, but I did not support this legislation.
Teachers should expect that they will not be terminated without good reason, but meaningful due process should derive from local boards of which I sit on [Wellsville] USD 289.
I cannot support legislation that allows a single person from outside of a community to usurp the board’s authority. Communities elect school board members and charge them with this specific responsibility and authority. This legislation is an unwarranted interference in the local board’s authority. We can do better. Hopefully, school districts will embrace due process in negotiated agreements to address their stated challenges of recruitment and retention. That is if they determine what is best for their district. At this point the new legislation will go over to the Senate to be heard and worked.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in the Kansas Legislature. It is my pleasure to serve you.
Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, represents Franklin County and the 5th District in the Kansas House. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (785) 296-6287.