Especially given the state’s budget problems, it’s puzzling that some lawmakers want to end the state’s Teacher of the Year award and replace it with a much more expensive Kansas Legislature Award for Teaching Excellence Program. Is it because the Legislature would have majority control of the selection committee? Currently, Teacher of the Year winners receive a $4,000 cash prize and can earn up to nine free credit hours a year from several Kansas colleges and universities. The proposed alternative would select one outstanding teacher, four finalists and at least 10 semifinalists to receive cash awards. The total cost of the new program would be $340,000. Past winners testified against House Bill 2378 at a House Education Committee hearing last week. Dyane Smokorowski, the 2013 winner and a teacher in Andover, said the legislation could stop Kansas from participating in the National Teacher of the Year program, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Jeff Baxter, the 2014 winner from Leavenworth, said the current program is well-run. “I cannot for the life of me understand why the present program should be touched,” he said. – Phillip Brownlee
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