The Garden City Telegram
4/7/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Teacher hit — Another ALEC, AFP target singled out by lawmakers

As state lawmakers tackled school finance, Kansas teachers became a target.

Teachers were hit with change pursued by ultraconservative Republicans aligned with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which aim to undermine public school support.

Late Sunday, the Kansas Senate and House responded to a Kansas Supreme Court order to boost aid to poor districts with an education bill that would provide an additional $129 million for those districts next school year.

But the bill unnecessarily included eliminating tenure — and, in turn, due process for teachers — and also added tax breaks for corporations' private school donations, part of the ALEC-AFP quest to build public support for charter schools and voucher programs.

With much of the attention focused on erasing tenure, Kansas teachers crowded the Statehouse over the weekend to express their displeasure.

Sadly, they were dismissed by ALEC-AFP followers who voted for the bill, including area state senators Larry Powell, R-Garden City; and Garrett Love, R-Montezuma.

Credit House members John Doll, R-Garden City; Russ Jennings, R-Lakin; and Don Hineman, R-Dighton; for voting against the measure.

Gov. Sam Brownback should veto it, but that's unlikely. He praised the funding portion, yet didn't address the controversial aspects — also choosing to overlook concerns shared by the many public school teachers who showed up to protest.

Lawmakers should have addressed the funding alone. Instead, ultraconservatives annoyed by the court order seized an opportunity to push through an ideological wish list.

In doing so, they showed little understanding of tenure in particular.

No one wants bad teachers hanging around. Teachers should prove they're having a positive effect on their students.

But tenure doesn't make it impossible to remove teachers. It does protect teachers from dismissal without justification, and guarantees a fair hearing before a firing could occur.

Experienced, tenured teachers feel empowered to collaborate with each other instead of competing. They're more likely to speak with confidence in regard to student and classroom issues without fear of retribution.

Should the bill become law, good teachers only would have another reason to avoid Kansas — precisely what ultraconservatives on an anti-public-schools crusade hope happens.