Due-process change will do harm
On Sunday, 63 conservative House Republicans, after 30 minutes of debate, voted to strip Kansas public school teachers of due process of law protections that have been settled law since 1957 (April 7 Eagle). The due-process provisions in question protect tenured teachers from arbitrary termination by requiring school districts to establish just cause for the termination of tenured teachers.
The Senate, under the leadership of Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, had earlier added the provision repealing due process to an unrelated school-finance bill, which addressed unconstitutional inequities identified by the Kansas Supreme Court in Gannon v. State of Kansas. It was added without having been vetted in committee.
Conservative Republican representatives framed the issue as relating to the best interests of the children of Kansas. I would argue that the best interests of the children would be more appropriately served by the Legislature conforming its conduct to the law and adequately funding public education, so that the salaries of Kansas teachers, which currently rank 42nd in the nation, could be enhanced. Moreover, stripping public school teachers of a modest measure of job security is hardly calculated to attract high-quality teachers.
The motive of those promoting the abolition of due process for teachers is malicious and punitive. It’s all about harming public school teachers and marginalizing their union. It is clearly calculated to do irreparable harm to the quality of education in Kansas.
E.L. LEE KINCH
Hands off Medicare
With a nudge from “Seniors need to rise up” (April 9 Eagle Editorial), I have written Gov. Sam Brownback urging him to veto House Bill 2553, the health care compact bill. The prospect of having Medicare in particular but also other health care programs administered by such an irresponsible group as the Legislature is truly frightening.
A letter mischaracterized the Kansas Policy Institute’s efforts to give citizens facts about school funding and student achievement as “the destruction of K-12 education” (“KPI ‘success,’” April 6 Letters to the Editor). To the contrary, KPI is working very hard to improve public education for students.
KPI is helping citizens and legislators understand that there is a large and growing achievement gap for low-income students in Kansas. KPI researchers also discovered that funding intended to improve low-income achievement increased from $52 million to $385 million while the gaps were getting worse. More money is clearly not the answer, but more educational opportunities for low-income parents, through tax-credit scholarships and charter schools, are student-focused solutions to a serious problem.
We are also helping citizens and legislators understand the truth about school funding. Kansas State Department of Education data shows that taxpayer support of public education hit record highs last year and is expected to set another record this year at $12,885 per pupil. Even the Kansas Supreme Court now agrees that all funding sources should “count” toward support of schools.
Surprisingly, only about 55 percent of school funding goes to instruction. KPI does extensive research to show legislators how to get more money into classrooms without raising taxes or cutting funding for other state services.
KPI puts higher priority on student needs than on institutional demands for more money. If that constitutes “destroying” public education, we enthusiastically plead guilty.
Kansas Policy Institute
ALEC in charge?
Recent decisions by the Legislature have left me wondering: When did public education become public enemy No. 1?
Perhaps it is because so many conservative lawmakers homeschool their children. Or maybe because so many teachers belong to a union. Or it could be sour grapes over the courts telling the legislative branch that it hasn’t been doing its job.
I bet much of it stems from the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative anti-tax “think tank” that coordinates with the out-of-state bill mill called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Because public schools cost a lot of money to operate, they are viewed as a big tax drain. So the first step in dismantling public education is to starve it of the money needed to operate properly.
When too many complain, the next step is to tie funding to mandates that undermine public education – vouchers for private schools, corporate tax breaks to private-school supporters, blocking educational standards, etc. Then, to isolate themselves from these reverse-Robin Hood schemes, they restructure the funding so schools that need money must get an ever-increasing share from local property taxes, which requires local voter approval – passing the buck and the blame.
Is ALEC in charge, or the voters of Kansas?
After the end of the 2013 Kansas legislative session, I thought I’d seen all the nutty and extremism possible. Then came the 2014 session.
The Republican Party that I registered with decades ago is virtually unrecognizable today. It seems like an all-out attack on everyone except the top 2 percent.
Most voters will vote against their best interests, sadly, by voting party line. I can assure you that will not be the case with this voter come November.