Saying they felt insulted and attacked by recent school legislation, dozens of angry teachers in the Republican stronghold community of Goddard signed up Friday to help Democratic candidate Paul Davis in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
Davis spoke to about 80 teachers and administrators who gathered at Eisenhower Middle School.
The big concerns on the teachers’ minds were provisions in the recently passed school finance plan, House Bill 2056, that would allow districts to hire unlicensed teachers for science and math classes and whittle down teachers’ protection from arbitrary termination.
Brownback has about a week to decide whether to veto the bill, sign it into law, or allow it to become law without his signature.
Brad Cline, science department chairman at Goddard High School and a 26-year veteran teacher in the district, said pulling people from “straight off the street” and putting them into classrooms would be ill-advised.
He said in addition to their subject matter, teachers also need to know effective educational methods, classroom management, how to work with children with special needs and laws that govern what teachers can and can’t do.
“I can’t even imagine why an administrator would even want to hire them to begin with, because to me it’s a legal situation waiting to happen,” he said. “As a teacher, I find it very insulting.”
Davis agreed there’s more to teaching than mastery of the subject matter.
He said he knows a lot about government, but “I’m sure that if I walked into any of your classrooms … on Monday and tried to teach your kids, they would probably eat me alive by lunch.”
Davis also denounced the provision of HB 2506 that allows school districts to fire teachers without telling them why and without providing the “due-process” hearing before an independent hearing officer or arbitrator that is now required by law.
Republicans argue that the bill doesn’t outlaw tenure and due process, but enhances local control of schools by allowing each individual district to negotiate its dismissal procedures with its teachers’ union.
Davis said he thinks the same protections should apply to all teachers statewide.
Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence, said the bill originally passed the House with bipartisan support as a “clean” finance bill to meet a court order and fix funding inequalities between school districts.
But he said Republicans’ demands for conservative school policies had turned it into “an unnecessary attack made on our public school teachers.”
The Goddard and west Wichita area served by Goddard schools has been a GOP bastion in recent years, consistently electing some of the most conservative Republicans to the Sedgwick County Commission and the state Legislature.
Almost all the teachers who attended Davis’ presentation signed up on a clipboard to volunteer to help with his campaign.
Most of them held campaign signs as they served as a backdrop for a Davis news conference held just after his presentation.