To the editor:
In their first significant policy action of the 2013 Kansas Legislative Session, 68 members of the House of Representatives voted to trample on the right of teachers and other public employees to collectively and freely advocate for schools, social services, and public safety.
House Bill 2023 prohibits public employees from using any dollars collected for any purpose through payroll deduction to be used for "political activities." The bill defines political activities so broadly that not only could the money not be used for electioneering communications to the public, it could not be used even to communicate with members internally.
Some legislators and organizations – notably the state's largest spending political organization, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce – seek to silence all opposition to their message in the political arena. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce intends for this bill to silence public sector workers – they said as much in the Committee hearing. when their lobbyist Eric Stafford responded to a question by saying, "I need you to pass this bill so we can get rid of public sector unions."
Said KNEA President Karen Godfrey, "I have been an active teacher for over 30 years and I have never seen such a deluge of offensive anti-teacher legislation as has been produced in the first 12 days of this session. Kansans are ashamed to be represented in such a vindictive manner. The heartfelt thanks of thousands of dedicated public employees go out to the 56 Democrats and Republicans who stood up for them today."
Prior to yesterday's preliminary vote, House Republican leadership called for extra security, warned Republican legislators to not wear their name tags, and urged the women to take back stairways or seek a male escort through the capitol. Their fear was a massive turnout of angry school teachers who happen to believe they are entitled to free speech rights.
When asked where the "union thugs" from KNEA were, KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti responded, "Our members put their students first. That's why they are back in their classrooms caring for and teaching our children and grandchildren. They don't have time to be up here in the middle of the week defending their constitutional rights."
In fact, that's where these anti-teacher legislators can always find our teachers – standing in front of their students. We have come to expect them even to put themselves between a gunman and the children but just let them try to express a political opinion and the Kansas legislature will shut them down.