We teachers are under attack, and we need your help. State legislators in Topeka are gunning for us as never before.
If you have a friend or a relative who is a Kansas educator, or if you have a soft spot in your heart for someone who flipped on your academic switch, now is the time to speak up.
There are several bills under consideration that are undisguised attempts to weaken teacher rights, including free speech and collective bargaining. I receive daily updates on the progress of these bills, and I still don?t understand everything that is going on. But, I do know the current legislature is anything but friendly toward educators.
When Rep. Don Schroeder visited Hillsboro a couple of Saturdays ago, he seemed less than enthusiastic about the direction many of his fellow Republicans have taken. He blamed the increasingly conservative change of wind on the high number of freshmen representatives who have yet to settle into the lawmaking routine.
I asked him a simple question at the end of the meeting: ?Why do the current legislators dislike public school teachers?? He didn?t have an answer, but I am pleased to see that he tried to protect due process, collective bargaining and continuing contract laws by voting for an amendment to House Bill 2319. Unfortunately, that amendment failed.
This legislation is all part of a move to exempt 10 ?innovative? schools from all state laws, rules and regulations, presumably to allow them to become cutting edge.
You might wonder what is wrong with this idea. For one thing, there is currently nothing preventing such innovations from taking place under current law. I would invite lawmakers to stop by for a visit sometime to see the exciting things happening in technology at Hillsboro High School.
A form of HB 2027 is still working its way through the system. This bill would eliminate 25 of the 30 current mandatorily negotiable items from collective bargaining and would limit bargaining to salary, sick leave, personal leave and number of hours to be worked.
It would nullify all current contract provisions that are not on the new list and allow school districts to unilaterally establish a new salary schedule (without negotiating with teachers). It would also automatically de-certify a bargaining agent every two years and require a new election while permitting school districts to grant ?sweetheart deals? to any employee for any reason.
And, by the way, many components of these onerous bills apply to all public employees, including firefighters and police officers.
Admittedly, the key opposition to the changes proposed to educator bargaining is coming from teacher unions, in particular the Kansas National Education Association. KNEA is the largest educator lobbying group in the state, and it stands to lose the most if the legislation in question becomes law.
One of the bills would no longer allow teachers to deduct union dues from paychecks. Legislators seem to think that KNEA coerces educators into joining, that there is a heavy amount of peer pressure to become part of the organization.
I can assure them this is not happening in Hillsboro. Of the more than 50 teachers in our system, only a dozen or so are members of KNEA. And, as far as I know, only one has opted to support the political action committee through payroll deduction.
But, back to the question I posed to Rep. Schroeder. Why have Kansas educators, long considered an asset, suddenly become a liability?
I believe I can supply the answer. We have a governor who is dead set on using our state as an ?experiment? (his word, not mine). He seems to believe our future is his to play with. He began by tricking the Senate into passing his wacky business tax-exemption law last year, and has continued by proposing our state accelerate into an even faster financial freefall by eliminating individual income tax.
Unfortunately, his party enjoys a super majority in both houses, so he has been given free rein.
Second, the recent court ruling that proclaimed Kansas is not adequately funding its schools has the Republicans? collective nose out of joint as well. As a result, they are doing everything they can to silence any political opposition to a constitutional amendment that would land all decisions about education financing squarely in the legislative lap. That opposition would presumably come from KNEA.
I want to thank Rep. Schroeder for his support of educators. He appears to be willing to vote his conscience, even when it seems at odds with his party loyalties.
I also want to acknowledge that, while I am disappointed that former USD 410 administrator and current Smoky Valley superintendent Glenn Suppes testified in support of eliminating many collective bargaining powers for teachers, USD 410 superintendent Steve Noble has voiced his opposition to the plan endorsed by the Kansas School Superintendents? Association and the Kansas Association of School Boards.
Jay Emler of Lindsborg (coincidence?), who is our senator, has so far been casting his votes in favor of limiting teacher rights.
Which brings me back to my original request. Though these bills and the process required to pass them into law is complicated, all you need to understand is that the current system is not broken; there is no need to fix it.
Please e-mail, call or write your representatives and voice your support for local educators before it is too late. You can make a difference.