Archive for Friday, March 4, 2011

First Bell: Teacher tenure under attack in Missouri?; Wichita company seeks to supply students early; looking back at budget cuts decided a year ago

March 4, 2011


A few education-oriented items from around the area:

As the Jayhawks prepare to cross the border to play Missouri’s Tigers this Saturday in basketball, teachers in Lawrence just may have their eyes on another battle brewing in the Show Me State.

Lawmakers in Jefferson City are busy considering a bill that would push school districts into ranking their teachers and then paying them accordingly.

According to a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the legislation would:

• Strip teachers of tenure.

• Award teachers contracts based on performance rankings, with those in the top of four tiers getting four-year contracts; teachers in the bottom tier would get one-year contracts.

• Reduce salaries for thousands of teachers, as teachers in the top tier could earn twice as much as those in the bottom group; the bill would require that a third of each district’s teachers be in the bottom tier.

The bill is being considered in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, and is considered “one of the top priorities of the House Republican leadership.”

Back here in Lawrence, negotiations opened Wednesday between Lawrence school district administrators and teachers regarding a new teacher contract for 2011-12.


I received a note Thursday from the folks at Packademics, a Wichita-based company that says it can fill orders for school supplies online for essentially any school, anywhere.

I went ahead and followed the link, and came across a long list of schools in Lawrence.

I’m not saying the site should be a first option for buying school supplies, or even if it would be appropriate. There are plenty of local retailers — both locally owned and national chains — that have all the supplies a student would need.

I do have a bit of an issue, however, with this quote from the note I’d received: “The firm gathers school supply lists for every grade in each school, and does the shopping — and shipping — so the supplies are delivered to the home in time for the school year.”

In time for the school year? It’s March, folks. The next academic year doesn’t start until August, and I’d hope they could fill an order by then.

Of course, they’ll have to wait for the updated supply lists, which won’t be available for, oh, at least a few more weeks (or months, I should say).


Members of the Lawrence school board know that next year’s budget likely will need to be $3 million smaller, given anticipated reductions in state revenue.

What remains unclear is just where board members intend to make cuts to make ends meet.

Thus far, only one plan has moved forward with any sort of recommendation: closure of Wakarusa Valley School for next year, as recommended by the Lawrence School Facility Vision Task Force. Board members are scheduled to discuss the recommendation — and others contained in the task force’s report — during a board meeting March 14, then come back with a formal public hearing on the closure issue March 28.

The closure would be expected to save the district nearly $500,000 next year, according to data provided to the task force.

Where would other cuts come? Who knows? But to see where cuts were approved at this time last year — March 9, 2010 — check out this memo provided to members of the task force.

— The First Bell e-mailbox is always open:


motuorg 3 years, 1 month ago

The whole notion of good teacher/bad teacher is completely overstated! I am a public school teacher in a building of 155 teachers. I can think of maybe 1 or 2 that are sub-par. Procuring a teaching position is somewhat competitive so administrators can pick and choose from among the best. In my district, if a teacher is not so good, THEY ARE LET GO BEFORE RECEIVING TENURE (hope you can hear that). Here is is my prediction:

  1. Society at large will come to blame all its ills on public school teachers (not corrupt politicians, or fat wall street pigs, or greedy CEOs)

  2. They will exorcise those who are deemed bad teachers (hey, just join the throngs of the unemployed)

  3. People will then expect the U.S. to zoom to the top of the international aptitude stockpile.

but, what will happen?


Here's a clue for those of you who don't teach, or are too blind to see the problem. Societies ills are not the fault of teachers. I get kids for 6 hours a day. When they leave, for the remaining 18 hours, they enter a dumbed-down, media driven, pop-culture, that doesn't really value education to begin with, (simply compare avg. American TV programming with those of other countries) and then I am asked to fix the problem the next day, and set them on their way. In China, and India (the countries we are compared to) only the best students are offered the best education. Yet, here, I have to educate EVERYONE! EVERYONE! Not only the best, but the worst. Those of you out there who shun science and math...yes...I have to educate you! Those of you who had parents that really didn't give a damn, and devalued your education, I have to educate you. I have to sell you something you don't wanna buy. You know who you are. Unless you're a teacher you haven't a clue what that entails. If I should raise the bar really high, which I have done, I get yelled at by parents whose children are now not getting straight "A"s, but some "B"s (even though I know that their kids could get "A"s if they worked harder). I get blamed for that "B" As to salaries: The avg. salary of the American school teacher is $56,000 - greedy bastards. Yes, America will begin its frontal assault on teacher tenure and salaries, but will find in truth, that it was only a Red-Herring, when we remain at the bottom of the stockpile.


Kelly Johnson 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm really annoyed that the school board/task force is trying to get away with CLOSING 4 SCHOOLS by calling it "Closing one and 'consolidating' six schools."

In case anyone is missing my point: consolidating six schools into three results in THREE MORE SCHOOLS CLOSED.

Last year there was a major problem when there was talk of closing three schools, but this year since it's only talk of closing one suddenly it seems acceptable?

Let's reframe it: assuming Wakarusa Valley kids are transferred to Broken Arrow, Schwegler, and Sunflower, then it's actually "consolidating" ten schools. Ten, out of 15!


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

To RuralWanderer

Sorry, I guess I was misinterpreting the sloppy language of your previous post.

"Protect the bad apple to protect a third of all of them?"

Regardless, the whole point of the plan proposed in this article is tantamount to firing the "lowest third." It's nothing but a lazy legislator making not a plan for improving the quality of education, but rather making the ideological statement that he has no respect for teachers.

You apparently share that ideology.


wow365 3 years, 1 month ago

Why isn't closing Cordley being considered? There will be much more savings as the school is in disrepair. The land could also be sold - it is prime real estate area.


GardenMomma 3 years, 1 month ago

"Teachers in the top tier could earn twice as much as those in the bottom group." Okay, that would motivate me to be a better teacher and actually help my students learn.

"The bill would require that a third of each district's teachers be in the bottom tier." What happens when there is no large difference between the top tier and the bottom tier? Suppose the teachers in the top tier are ranking at 98% and those in the bottom tier are ranking at 96%?


usnsnp 3 years, 1 month ago

One problem that has not been brought up. How can teachers make a student learn if the student does not want to learn. The best teacher in the world cannot make a student learn if this student does not want to learn. People say vouchers and private schools will fix the problem, but all that will happen is the private schools will pick off the best students and not take the problem students, and if the private school is for profit it will cost the tax payer more money to educate this student. It is time to stop blaming the teachers for all the problems, its time for everybody to take responsibility for the problems. Every group has to stop pushing their own agenda.


troll 3 years, 1 month ago

Would be interesting to see this be pushed through to publicly funded universities. I've never seen anything crazier than college prof who is having his tenure taken away.


jhawkinsf 3 years, 1 month ago

The educational system in America has been a mess for many decades, at least. Maybe it's time we admitted that no one has a clue as to how to fix the problem. Everyone from the President of the U.S. to the janitors cleaning the bathrooms has an idea but they all have failed for years.
That said, I'll give my two cents worth (yes I know I'm opening myself up to the comment that that's all my post is worth). Parents, many of you are the problem. Too many of you drop off your kids at school and expect schools to produce a quality education. It's a partnership and too many of you are busy with your lives and not getting involved. That old saying that 10% of the parents do 90% of the work, it's true. Teachers, you know that some in your profession do not belong. You are in the best position to police yourselves. But until you do, you will not get the respect you deserve. As long as you tolerate mediocrity from some in your profession, you will be tainted by that mediocrity. Administrators, not every idea that some crackpot needs to be tried. We've seen programs designed to do this and programs designed to do that. The road to h*ll is paved with good intentions. Hey, I have an idea. How about we teach the basics. There is too much trying to make everyone feel good about themselves. Put all the kids who work hard and excel in one class. Put the disruptive kids in another. Quit trying to solve the problems of the world (and failing) and solve the problems in the schools. As we go forward, maybe we should go backwards. Teach the three R's and kick the problems kids out.


average 3 years, 1 month ago

The unacknowledged problem in that proposal is that, especially before the recession hit, it was exceedingly difficult to find enough teachers to fill many spots, particularly science and math in urban districts. Still hard as heck to fill those.

It's not that administrators were looking to hire any mediocre teachers. They were hiring the best people available to them. That's the problem. There isn't some large pool of outstanding top-notch teachers, willing to take the current pay (or less) who are currently shut out of the system. This bill, and so many others, just assumes there must be.

Sure, some 3rd grade teachers who became realtors during the bubble are back in the system, so we don't quite have the shortage there we had five years back. But, a whole lot of current teachers are over 55. The 'require 1/3 of teachers in a district to be bottom-tiered paid, no matter how well the district does' isn't encouraging today's college kids to go into education.


RuralWanderer 3 years, 1 month ago

I'd much rather have my kids being taught by teachers who are coasting through the year, protected by tenure, doing the minimum to get by instead of highly motivated, successful teachers who wants to achieve the best results possible for each student.

Wait... now why do we want to protect tenure?


optimist 3 years, 1 month ago

The point is to reward good teachers by paying them what they are worth to retain them and motivate those underperforming teachers to improve or find another job. This is a formula to destroy the current system and rebuild a new system where our kids will benefit from competition by teachers to do their best. Jack Welch applied a similar methodology while CEO of GE and he attributed much of the company’s success to competition in the workforce and regularly trimming the least productive in the workforce in order to bring in new talent and give them an opportunity to advance. You may not like the approach but the fact that it is effective can't be denied. Employees that provided value to the organization greater than their compensation and their competition have “job security”.


SynjynSmythe 3 years, 1 month ago

Interesting. At page 2 of the itemization link you provided, they listed "school closure": Combine East Height, New York & Kennedy into New York & Kennedy as a PK -6 school, for savings of 350,000 now and cumulatively saving 4,128,239. The other documents they gave the taskforce indicated that combining NY and Kennedy would result in $225,000 in operational savings and another $835,000 in savings from capital outlay requirements to keep those 2 schools operating. That's an additional $1 million + savings! NY is the smallest school in the district, Kennedy awaits mold testing. What a miserable situation!!!!!


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

"• Strip teachers of tenure.

• Award teachers contracts based on performance rankings, with those in the top of four tiers getting four-year contracts; teachers in the bottom tier would get one-year contracts.

• Reduce salaries for thousands of teachers, as teachers in the top tier could earn twice as much as those in the bottom group; the bill would require that a third of each district’s teachers be in the bottom tier."

What an idiotic idea. It would absolutely destroy the education system.

Oh, wait, that's the whole point, isn't it?


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