Yesterday, a Kansas City Star article alleging that the Parents Bill of Rights legislative hearings wasn’t fair to transparency opponents made several false claims. The Star distorting the truth may be just another day ending in the letter ‘y,’ but this attempt to divide people is particularly bold, given that a video disproves their claims.
The House K-12 Budget Committee held a hearing on HB 2662, also known as the Parents Bill of Rights and Transparency Act. The PBOR legislation would give parents knowledge of materials taught in public schools and more control over their children’s education.
The story says, “Supporters and opponents of the bill were limited to 30 minutes on each side to make their case. Only three supporters showed up and each got 10 minutes to speak. The dozens of teachers and lobbyists there to testify against it received just two minutes each.”
That paragraph includes two claims that are deceptive at best. The three proponents were allotted 10 minutes each, but none used their full allotment; their collective testimony was about 22 minutes. Also, there were not “dozens” there to testify; 13 people spoke in opposition to the bill.
The Star also falsely accused the Committee Chair, Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta), of rudely cutting opponents off. They quote opponent Tom Witt saying, “We weren’t even allowed to finish a sentence at the end of our two minutes. We were just cut off and told to go sit down.”
That is simply not true, and the Star reporters would know that if they watched the video.
The first person speaking in opposition, Rabbi Moti Rieber, spoke uninterrupted for about two and a half minutes. Williams graciously noted that she allowed him to go over the time limit because he is a rabbi.
Tom Witt spoke next. Williams politely interjected when his two minutes were up, and Witt replied, “I don’t get (an extra) 20 seconds?” Williams calmly responded, “No, we have a lot..” and then Witt interrupted her again.
“You know, madam chair, I just want to say one thing. First, thank you for letting me speak today, but, you know, we’ve had hours and hours of statements and informational…”
Williams then calmly interjects again, saying, “Thank you, Thomas. I would have let you go on for 20 seconds, but now you’re going to criticize and I don’t think there’s any point in going there. So thank you very much.”
The remaining nine opponents stayed within their allotted time and testified without incident; they were not interrupted or cut short. All told, the opponents’ testimony was a little over 26 minutes, compared to 22 minutes for the proponents.
The reporters also quoted Rep. Jo Ella Hoye (D-Lenexa) to make another false allegation.
“We should not use our power of the purse … to try and force volunteer school boards to try to do something that we ourselves are not willing to do,”
But there is no funding associated with the legislation, which is readily apparent to anyone who reads the bill or listens to the hearing.
The hearing didn’t go even close to the Star’s portrayal of the events. Rep. Williams was polite and gracious throughout the hearing, but that didn’t fit the story the Star wanted to tell.
We get it. The Star’s view is ‘Republican bad, Democrat good’ and it opposes the Parents Bill of Rights. But they could at least be honest and confine their opinions on the editorial page.