There are 1,603 unfilled teaching jobs in Kansas right now, according to the website that posts them, out of some 34,000 such positions in the state. The site also says, “Kansas, a great place to teach and live!”
But what it doesn’t say is no secret: According to the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, the starting salary for Kansas teachers is down an average of 4.3 percent in constant dollars from what they were paid 16 years earlier. And while Kansas has a lot to recommend it, teacher pay that ranks 45th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia is not an enticement.
So when an excellent, deeply committed visual arts and theater teacher in rural Kansas, where recruitment is especially challenging, feels he has no choice but to leave the state after receiving a series of threatening letters about his sexual orientation, that’s hurtful, not only to that man and that community, but also to the whole state’s reputation and to its already struggling and under-funded education system.
It’s an offense to the common decency and common sense for which Kansas is rightly known. And it’s a hindrance to the effort to rebuild public schools hobbled by former Gov. Sam Brownback’s deep and deeply harmful tax cuts.
Discrimination, as always, is a social justice issue, but it’s an economic issue, too, with many companies these days as interested in tolerant attitudes as in tax incentives.
Nemaha Central High School in Seneca, population 2,000, is sorry to lose Michael Hill, who had also started a community theater program in the town. …
One of Hill’s sons, who is a student at the University of Kansas, said that, before his father left town, one of his tires was slashed, someone wrote a slur in the dust on his car and he became so concerned for his safety that the owner of his apartment installed a security camera he could monitor from his cellphone.
… The answer isn’t to ignore or minimize their behavior, but to send them a strong message in return: You are hurting all of us, and it’s your bigotry that isn’t welcome in Kansas.
— The Kansas City Star