1. $129 million increase in overall funding
2. Tax breaks to private schools and donors
3. Elimination of "Tenure" (aka due process rights for teachers)
4. Exempting people with college degrees in Science/Technology, Math, Finance, Accounting from needing to be certified.
A few other things I may describe in a secondary post. I am also going to not address the funding issue, as if I cannot decide if that is a victory or not.
Here is what is frustrating me the most. The legislature could not pass a clean funding bill first, and have debates about educational policy second. Making these ties together make the students a political tool. Most of us would be willing to throw ourselves on landmines in the best interest of our students, but if teachers were to start whole-sale blocking any funding reform bill, we would be marked as selfish. The Brownback administration has successfully pushed through their anti-labor, anti-teacher agenda by masking it as a "gift" to fund our schools (although we are still in the bottom 10 states nation wide).
I also take issue with three of the provisions in the bill:
1. Breaks for Corporations to donate to private schools. According to the Topeka Capital Journal, the bill will "Create a tax credit for companies donating to private school scholarship funds, which would be earmarked for low-income students. Credits would be available in tax year 2014 in an amount equal to 70 percent of contributions, with the statewide program capped at $10 million annually." This sounds wonderful, creating scholarships for low-income students. However the primary flaw with this provision is that there is no incentive to invest in public education. The Republican-controlled legislature is trying to bolster support for private schools because a voucher system will never fly in this state. So, we offer yet another tax break to large businesses to support private institutions, without throwing a bone to public institutions. This also operates under the flawed assumption that private schools in Kansas achieve at higher levels than public schools in Kansas (don't get me wrong, in some instances this is true, but it is not a norm, and should not be legislated as such). Also, haven't we learned that tax cuts aren't doing anything to help in Kansas?
2. Eliminating teacher due process rights. It is ridiculous in seeing the number of legislators who make arguments like:
"There's no reason for tenure," said Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, R-Grandview Plaza. "The years I spent in the military, if you didn't produce, if you didn't meet standards, you were gone. There is no reason to have any protected class in this state or in this country."
“We need to make sure that the best teachers are in the classrooms,” said Jeff Glendening, the group’s state director. “It’s not about protecting the institutions or the labor union. It’s about protecting our kids.”
Let me give you some insight into why tenure may be necessary (I am citing experiences and fears of several of my teacher/coach friends from facebook, and their names have been removed (unless they read this and tell me its OK to use them here)):
1. I lost my first teaching job because the board attorney instructed the superintendent to fire all teachers who had uncovered evidence that one of our colleagues was forcing girls to engage in sex acts against their will. The lawyer was trying to protect the district from a lawsuit, and wanted to be able to portray us as disgruntled employees.......And I was advised not to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination because it would make other districts less likely to hire me because I would look like a trouble maker.
2. I then took a job at a Catholic high school where the administration fired three good teachers in three years because the weren't Catholic enough. The admin certainly had the right, and probably the responsibility to their parents to fire those teachers, but it did not make me a believer in private education. It taught me that fitting in with the culture was more important than being a good educator. That's the real lesson of private education for me.
3. As a debate coach in a world were I have to deal with parents who can become disgruntled by decisions I make. Like not letting a kid go to a tournament because they never memorized their piece, or who goes to state, or even requiring tournament attendance. Complaints and the defense of actions is going to become even more important without any protection. Also I think tenure is a good thing in that they have to tell you why you are being terminated. That's a scary thought as I have watched that happen to good teachers who were not tenured.
4. As a coach, I am called upon to make decisions on a regular basis which may no longer be defensible (e.g. this student isn't ready to go out so they're not going, even if not going is the difference in a letter grade for the semester). Knowing that all it takes is one enraged parent who believes just a little too much in the infallibility of his/her child to put me on the unemployment line makes me consider whether or not it might be smarter, for the sake of my family, to seek "safer ground" with my employer as just a teacher of a core subject. And even that isn't really safe.
Those are just the beginning. I get it, one of my friends who teaches says if you are a good teacher you don't have to worry, or if a school fires you for shady reasons, you probably don't want to work there. Both of those do have some truth's to it. Here is what I said last night in signing a petition "As someone who teaches government classes, and coaches competitive speech/debate, we cover countless topics that are difficult, taboo, controversial and unpopular. Covering a topic that can now anger a parent, administrator, board member can now get me fired....... Those of you who say tenure protects bad teachers, you are wrong. Tenure and Due Process protect those of us who wish to push our students' intellectual horizons and become stronger and more passionate advocates in the future. If you value critical thinking, you must support Due Process Rights for teachers."
I also think the people who say that tenure protects bad teachers are flat out wrong. Due process doesn't make it harder to fire a teacher, you have to be able to show just cause, most administrators don't do it because they don't want to fill out the paperwork to put someone on a Plan of Action. That is a tool to make bad teachers better, put them on a growth plan, and if they fail then get them the hell out of the profession. Rep. Bridges (a former principal) said two things on the house floor last night that intrigued me (from @Celia_LJ's twitter feed) "she has put some thought into why teachers have due process protections that other careers don't, the conclusion she has come to is that it's because teachers teach students how to think." and "if a principal or supt says they can't fire a teacher but need to, then get a new principal/supt who can do it."
3. The provision removing licensure requirements for people with "skilled" degrees. Is it just me or does it feel like this portion is steeped in the flawed rhetoric of "those who can't, teach." I mean no disrespect to people with those degrees, but teaching is a skilled profession as well. I may have breezed through college with a great understanding of public speaking theories, or political science, but that doesn't mean I knew anything about how to navigate a curriculum, deal with students who have developmental disabilities, or at the very least adapt my knowledge to a classroom full of teenagers with thousands of life problems.
If the assumption is that certification is what is keeping skilled science/math/business folks out of the profession, it is a flawed one. I don't want to get into the issue of competitive teaching salaries, but I bet that is where you need to start to bring those kind of people into the profession.
I have thousands of thoughts still bouncing around in my head....but I have to go back to doing my job, teaching my kids about why government is good.....which is a hard thing for me to rationalize right now since there are many pockets of our state government who don't value what I do, even if I think there is some kind of value in their existence.
PS: Shout out to my state representatives: Rep. Ballard and Sen. Tom Holland for voting no on this atrocity.