By Iola Register, April 7
It took less than an hour Sunday night for state representatives to agree to meet the minimum requirement to fund schools and in the process strip the rights of those who work there.
Kansas has eliminated tenure — the system that protects teachers, school counselors and librarians from being fired without a hearing — in order to agree to fund K-12 schools.
What do the two have in common?
So how did that help the Senate and House bridge their differences?
Because the ultra-conservative majority is pressing on the jugular of moderate Republicans and Democrats that unless teachers unions are emasculated, they will not come to the table to discuss a budget package.
Unions are in the bull's eye of ultra-conservatives and especially those beholden to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Americans for Prosperity, whose goals are to privatize education. That's right. Private companies would run our schools. Think of it as pay-go for education. You pay, you can go to school.
Ultra-conservatives defend the elimination of tenure, saying other employees don't enjoy such privileges.
With tenure, teachers with three years under their belts facing dismissal can challenge the decision and have their cases officially reviewed. It's not a guarantee they'll keep their jobs, but when faced by people with agendas, the school "has their back."
The system was set forth in 1957 by way of a Supreme Court decision. Today, almost 40,000 school employees rely on tenure to ensure they cannot be dismissed without just cause.
The defense of tenure is at its best when you consider a teacher is accountable to hundreds of "bosses" — parents and school boards as well as administrators.
Eric Magette teaches biology at Eudora High School.
What if a board of education is strongly opposed in the instruction of evolution, he asked in an interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Could his job be in jeopardy?
Without him having due process, absolutely.
Though it failed, legislation was proposed to give property tax breaks to parents of children who attend private schools. The measure would have allowed a $1,000 deduction for each child enrolled in private schools, with a $2,500 cap.
If allowed, the vast majority of taxpayers could expect an increase in their property taxes to make up for the deductions.What's truly alarming about the school finance legislation is how discussion was halted mid-stream.
In his capacity as rules chairman of the Senate, Jeff King, R-Independence, backed a motion to cut the debate short, to which Sen. David Haley of Kansas City retorted, "What kind of democracy do you live in?"
As never before, Kansas schools have become the petri dish as to where and how we are headed as a state.
Will we crush the unions and trample employees' rights? Will we favor private schools over public? Will we favor the wealthy over poor?
The tea leaves have been cast. Dare we read them?