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Sen. Susan Wagle: Students won major battle

  • Published Friday, April 25, 2014, at 6:21 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, April 27, 2014, at 7:46 a.m.

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With the governor’s signature of House Bill 2506 last week, Kansas students and their families won a major battle on many fronts. Not only does this law fulfill the request by the Kansas Supreme Court to equalize the school-funding formula, but it also puts more money into Kansas’ classrooms, provides needed property-tax relief for Kansas families, and makes other critically necessary education reforms.

In addition to supplemental funding, the law provides long-overdue reforms to the way teacher contracts are written in Kansas by ending the state mandate that local school systems provide what is often referred to as “tenure.” Perhaps most notably ignored is the simple fact that any local school system may still continue to offer tenure if it wishes under the current law.

The teachers union has worked diligently to spread fear and mistrust in an effort to extend these policies, which ultimately protect those falling short of the mark. However, we choose to stand on the side of children and parents who simply want the best teacher in every classroom, and believe this is a commonsense means to that end.

For too long, tenure kept bad teachers in the classroom while administrators went through a lengthy process to remove them. In the meantime, our students suffered while dedicated, energetic teachers waited for school systems to labor through this bureaucracy before they could be hired. These reforms attempt to ensure that never happens again.

Teachers who provide Kansas children with the excellent education they deserve should embrace these reforms. Good teachers have never needed tenure as a crutch to keep their jobs, because their work speaks for itself. It is an insult to these teachers that underperforming colleagues have been able to stay in the classroom while hiding behind the state’s tenure rules.

Finally, I want to be crystal clear: Teachers will continue to receive the same employment protections under state and federal law that all other Kansas workers enjoy – whether or not their locality chooses to continue to offer tenure. Every teacher will have the same constitutional rights as any other Kansas worker. In fact, tenure is a job protection that most Kansas workers are not eligible to receive. State law, before HB 2506, mandated tenure exclusively for teachers, yet there are many professions that work directly with young people that do not have the luxury of this job protection.

Through passage of this law, every Kansas student will now have the opportunity to attain an education without the obstacles of constrictive state policy, or lack of equitable funding. That is a win for all Kansans.

Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, is president of the Kansas Senate.

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