The Garden City Telegram
6/10/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

K-12 attack: Problems with legislation reach beyond due process.

Public school teachers in Kansas — and the people they serve — ended up on the losing end of policy change in the recent legislative session.

The education-related setbacks came courtesy of ultraconservative Republicans running the Statehouse, who chose to take advantage of the need to respond to a Kansas Supreme Court order to address funding inequities between poor and wealthy school districts.

Instead of simply pursuing a clean bill with $129 million to poorer districts for the next school year, ultraconservatives unnecessarily included policy reforms drawn from their ideological wish list — including elimination of due process for teachers, a sensible protection in place for many years in Kansas.

Without as much, good teachers could be fired without cause, making the change another way to undermine public schools by discouraging K-12 teachers from seeking or keeping jobs in Kansas.

The state's main teachers union plans to challenge the law's constitutionality, likely with a focus on due process and more.

While much attention understandably has been devoted to the loss of due process, other aspects of the misguided legislation demand attention, such as tax breaks for corporations' private school donations.

Parents have every right to send their children to private schools, but not at the expense of the public school system. Siphoning any resources from K-12 hurts even more considering the longstanding interest of Gov. Sam Brownback and his GOP allies in slashing state financing for public schools.

But such strategies are priorities for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its Koch-supported cronies, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), as part of their quest to privatize education.

Credit Republican House members John Doll of Garden City, Russ Jennings of Lakin, Don Hineman of Dighton and Steve Alford of Ulysses for voting against the plan.

Naturally, the governor fell in line with ALEC and AFP and signed off on the multipronged anti-public schools measure. Area state senators Larry Powell, R-Garden City, and Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, also endorsed the changes pushed through with scant public debate.

And now, unfortunately, Kansans have more proof of radical-right Republicans' lack of respect for teachers and public schools in the state.