Archive for Monday, April 28, 2014

Teachers hope to make tenure an issue in governor’s race

April 28, 2014


Kansas teachers who are angered over Gov. Sam Brownback's repeal of tenure hope they can convince the general public that they have a stake in this fight, too.

Kim Schneweis, a middle school teacher in Hays, said the public should be concerned because taking away tenure for teachers will reduce the quality of teaching.

"A teacher who is doing his or her job well doesn't always make everyone happy," Schneweis said. "You don't want them spending more time worrying about protecting themselves than doing what is best for the students."

It remains to be seen what impact this issue will have, if any, in the November election.

Brownback is seeking re-election against likely Democratic opponent Paul Davis of Lawrence, the House minority leader. Davis voted against the school finance legislation that included the repeal of tenure provision.

If elected governor, Davis' campaign said he will work with the Legislature "to reverse this unpopular and unnecessary policy change."

Brownback has framed the issue of tenure as one of local control. With repeal of the state law, now local school districts can decide whether offering tenure to teachers is right for them, he has said.

In comments since he signed the school bill into law, Brownback has focused on the funding portion of the bill, which is meant to address a Kansas Supreme Court order to increase funding to poor districts.

When asked if the tenure issue will affect Brownback's election chances, his campaign manager Mark Dugan said, "Paul Davis voted against millions of dollars for schools and for property tax relief. He's going to have to explain that to voters."

Davis had voted for an earlier bi-partisan version of the school bill that included the funding for school districts and property tax relief, but none of the controversial policy changes.

Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at Kansas University, said Brownback's repeal of tenure "is not a huge game-changer." Loomis said that it will be an issue during the campaign and probably helps Davis because it has energized some teachers to work for his election.

"Had this been a clean bill that simply gave money to the schools, it would have taken the education issue away from Paul Davis," said Loomis.

Teachers say some large school districts will probably continue to offer tenure, which would hurt smaller districts' ability to attract teachers. There are nearly 35,000 public school teachers in Kansas.


Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Wisconsin also has an ALEC governor…… unfortunately. Scott Walker is promoting privately run and publicly funded charter schools and other privatization schemes.

"Schools last week started putting teachers on notice that their contracts may not be renewed for next year given the budget uncertainty.

More than 2,000 teachers had received nonrenewal notices as of Monday, according to the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

The Milwaukee Public Schools, the state’s largest district, stands to lose $60 million under Walker’s revenue limit reduction alone, and its 8,000 teachers and support staff could have their contract reopened to slash wages, benefits and impose large classroom sizes. Over 82 percent of the MPS students live in poverty and almost 20 percent require more costly special education, which will be cut to the bone if not eliminated outright. "

At the same time, Scott Walker is promoting privately run and publicly funded charter schools and other privatization schemes.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years ago

They are also proposing to allow people who have not majored in education to become teachers. Everyone thinks that they can be a teacher, because they went to school. A person may be very knowledgable in their field, but a lousy teacher. They no nothing about classroom management and addressing different learning styles. We have all seen this in some college professors. Wonderful, intelligent people who know a lot, but can't communicate what they know well. They will replace trained good teachers with people they consider "experts", but who can't teach themselves out of a paper bag. They are trying to unprofessionalize (I know, not a "real" word, but if you had a good English teacher and you paid attention, you know what it means) teaching.

Sam Crow 4 years ago

Why cant someone teaching college algebra to 18 year old freshmen at Johnson County Junior College teach algebra to 17 year old seniors in high school?

Why cant a person with a biology degree teaching freshmen biology at Washburn teach advanced placement biology to seniors in Topeka high schools?

Why cant a person with a chemistry degree that teaches freshmen chemistry at Baker teach chemistry to seniors in Lawrence?

Classroom management and different learning styles are sometimes moot.

You are simply advocating protectionism, no different than a UAW riveter at a Ford plant.

David Reber 4 years ago

Public school teachers have to accept and teach everyone, not just those who seek out additional education. There's a big selective process that happens between high school and post-secondary education. Classroom management and different learning styles might be moot in college but they are certainly not in high school.

There are also many legal aspects to teaching minors who are compelled to attend, versus legal adults who are there of their own choosing.

This isn't about protectionism. It's about professionalism.

Sam Crow 4 years ago

Reber. The saying about KU being the “Harvard on the Kaw” is a joke.

The big selective process you refer to has a large percentage of incoming freshmen to KU needing remedial classes to even qualify to take their first true college course. The admission requirements for state schools in Kansas is quite generous, basically only requiring graduating from a Kansas high school. Of course, Kansas JUCOs accept anyone.

The selection process is much more to take advanced placement classes in high school. There is little difference in a senior in high school truly interest in their education and a freshman in college.

A mere 25 years ago, in the practice of medicine, those with MDs would not accept osteopaths because they did not take the right classes. Hospitals, through the AMA, locked DOs out practicing there, resulting in osteopathic hospitals being built. Today DOs teach at KUMC. More recently, the same is happening with nurse practitioners and physician assistants, each questioning the qualifications because of education. They both are an integral part of the health care delivery system today.

Like the riveter at the Ford plant, teacher licensing is about protectionism.

James Howlette 4 years ago

21+ ACT/980+ SAT or

Rank in the top one-third of your high school class or

2.0+ GPA in the Kansas Qualified Admissions curriculum

That's still quite generous, but it's not "basically only requiring graduating from a Kansas high school."

James Howlette 4 years ago

Well, for starters, if you listened to the complaints from the tenured faculty at some of those institutions, including the one you can't properly name, you'd find that they routinely complain that the adjunct faculty aren't good teachers. It's a flaw with higher education in general that we emphasize subject matter expertise to the exclusion of pedagogy, but it's particularly visible at research institutions, which I notice you carefully did not include in your list of hypotheticals. Putting stripes on your sleeves does not make you better at teaching.

That said, I'm fairly sure none of those full-time professors actually want those teacher wages. Quite a few of them actually came from the other direction at non-research institutions. After spending years teaching high school, they decided they'd rather teach the more motivated students in higher education.

Lynn Grant 4 years ago

The impact will be that more people will see that Brownback does not work for the good of Kansans but rather does what ALEC and the like wants from him and his tea party friends in the Legislature. He pretends that he is supporting public education but in reality supports its privatization as seen by this school funding bill.

Stuart Sweeney 4 years ago

I believe the real thing King Sam is wanting to ultimately accomplish is the privatization of the education system. Look at the billions of dollars spent on education and it is hard to believe there are not people wanting the profits they can reap from driving down wages for the teachers with privatization.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years ago

Every teacher in Kansas that wants to keep their jobs better register as Republican, VOTE Republican (they have ways of knowing) and make donations to the Koch Regime.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 years ago

I know there are a lot of teachers that read the JW. I would love to know why tenure is important from a teachers perspective. I really know nothing about it other than once you get tenure it is nearly impossible to get fired and even that thought may be wrong.

So what is tenure, what is the benefit to the teacher, the district and the students? What is the equivalent in the private non-union sector?

David Reber 4 years ago

"Tenure" isn't the right name for it, actually. It is nothing like the tenure granted to college professors, and it is certainly not a guarantee of lifetime employment. It is not impossible to get fired.

It simply means that in order to fire a "tenured" K-12 public school teacher, the school board must have a legitimate reason. If the teacher believes the dismissal is not warranted, they can CHOOSE to have a due process hearing. They may still be fired, if the district has legitimate cause for firing them. In most cases, firing is legitimate, the teacher knows it, and there is no hearing. I think there are about 10 hearings a year, or something like that (out of nearly 300 school districts, and 30,000+ teachers).

Those who hate teachers and hate public education (don't know how else to say that, other than call it like I see it...) claim that it is impossible to fire teachers and that due process protects bad teachers. The truth is, if a bad teacher stays on the job you can bet there is a bad administrator right above them not doing THEIR job.

And the truth is, due process protects GOOD teachers; who might otherwise be dismissed for doing just a little too good a job teaching evolution, or sex ed, or history, or art. Or who insist kids follow the rules - even kids with wealthy, influential parents. Or who refuse to give a passing grade to the star quarterback who should rightly fail. Or who happen to occupy a position a new board member wants to open up for their nephew.

See that giant mess going on right now about a coach being fired...with no reason given, and all the rumors,...and who knows really whether it's legitimate? Guess what - those supplemental positions are "at will" employment, with no due process. Maybe that coach should go, maybe not. I don't know. I never will, nor will any of his colleagues...who will now second guess their every move, and do their jobs much more timidly than perhaps they SHOULD do them....

Is that the sort of working conditions we want for our classroom teachers? I don't think so.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 years ago

So what you are saying is all it is, is a system that protects someone from wrongful termination?

It is different from the privates sectors "employment at will" in that in the private sector (as I understand it) can fire you at anytime for any reason?

So what is the gain for getting rid of tenure by the people who want to get rid of it. I am not sure I see the benefit of it being gone. What is the position they take in terms of the reasons that they pushed the bill and got it signed? I will ask the same question about this...What is the benefit of not having Tenure to taxpayers? How does it benefit Students? How does it benefit Schools?

David Reber 4 years ago

The people who want to get rid of it are ALEC puppets and, as was evident when questioned on the bill they had introduced, many don’t even really know what it is they’re doing. ALEC makes no secret about their agenda to de-fund and dismantle public education as we know it, and replace it with a privatized for-profit system.

This is one of many changes designed to undermine public education by making the teaching profession less attractive. Thus, you get fewer good quality people in the profession and that can then be used as “evidence” of failure and support the “need” for privatizing the system. ALEC would love to reduce teaching to a temp-agency job; funneling tons of public dollars into organizations like Teach for America.

Supporters claim eliminating tenure will allow firing of bad teachers. This is wrong, because bad teachers can already be fired. And, the idea of “firing our way to a top-notch teaching force” rests on the premise that there are waiting rooms filled with quality candidates who simply can’t find an opening. We all know that isn’t true.

Supporters also claim that this simply puts control of things “at the local level, where control belongs.” Also a lie. Remember, these are the same people who REMOVED decisions about payroll deduction from local control last year; and in fact tried to remove the entirety of teaching contracts from local control – a bill that failed last year would have nullified all existing contracts between teachers and locally-elected school boards; and prohibited collective bargaining on anything except salary. Bottom line is that these people make up their rationalizations as they go along; shamelessly switching their philosophy around as needed in order to defend their indefensible actions.

Not having tenure will have zero monetary effect on taxpayers. Public school financing is set by state statute and appropriations bills that have nothing whatsoever to do with teacher’s job security. Nobody will see a lower tax bill as a result of this change.

I see no way this can benefit students. It creates a climate of fear and intimidation for teachers, meaning they can’t do their jobs as well as they need to. Ditto for how this would benefit schools.

Sam Crow 4 years ago

Greg, Now the counterpoint.

Reber has followed the liberal book on framing an argument such that if you are against on thing, you are against something bigger. If you are against Obamacare, you must want people to die. If you don’t want to see an increase in the minimum wage, you must want people to live as in squalor. If you don’t want an increase in food stamps, you must want people to starve. If you are against tenure, you must hate public education.

The issue with tenure is that it protects incompetent teachers. To terminate a teacher requires following a maze of complex algorithms, timelines, warnings, notices, hearings and appeals. It requires administration at every level to be involved. In one instance, I have seen it take 18 months to terminate a teacher with egregious problems, because she choose to work the system all the way.

The education establishment always brings up the mythical “high school star quarterback whose uncle is on the school board” as an argument. In fact all personnel matters go through a school board, including new teacher hiring, resignations, and yes termination. Another example is “the teacher who teaches evolution or sex ed”. The fact is, local elected school boards decide the curriculum and how it is to be taught. If a teacher doesn’t want to follow that curriculum, they should go somewhere else.

Tenure is a curious concept that is unique to the education establishment. There are hundreds of thousands of Kansans that get up and go to work each morning without tenure. They are engineers, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists, nurses, business people, salespeople, hairstylists, and many others from many walks of life.

Why should teachers have such a system?

James Howlette 4 years ago

I see that you're following the "book of ad hominem" and backing it up with anecdata. The same anecdote you've told many times about one teacher that your wife didn't like and it took a long time and blah blah blah. Obviously, that one teacher is conclusive evidence that the entire system needed to change. Also note that the teacher in question was fired, and that there are some acts besides the subjective idea of "incompetence" that would get a teacher (or anyone else) terminated immediately.

Why should teachers have such a system, aside from arguments that they should be insulated from political interference in their job performance? Teachers aren't free to just quit with two weeks notice, as engineers, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists, business people and other examples of better paid professions are free to do. Teachers are obligated to finish their contracts or face penalties, and it seems reasonable that their employers face the same constraints. One of the tradeoffs for having the relatively lower income and fewer promotion possibilities (whether or not you're of the ilk that argue that it is also less work) is that you're also gaining greater employment stability. Once you've worked the three years to gain "tenure," you can't just be fired because some new hotshot CEO wants to rearrange the org chart.

Mike Ford 4 years ago

My mother was a teacher when she passed away in 2009. When she taught in Kansas my mother was willing to drive 110 miles each way from Pittsburg, KS, to Burlington, KS, to protect her tenure. Teachers deal with irrational administration and irrational parents and put in many hours outside of the official work clock. My mother would be at that school from 7am to 7pm regularly. When my mother was a librarian in Kansas she had an administrator who played the teachers and librarian against each other for sport. It's sad that some people live is such economic isolation from the regular people that they don't get it. One year due to the LOB being rejected in Emporia, Kansas, my mother's salary went from $33,000 to $9,000 a year. You try surviving that.

Sam Crow 4 years ago

Tens of thousands of Kansans have lost their jobs from Boeing and Sprint in the last few years. They used to be two of the largest employers in the state. It was not the employees fault, but rather market conditions.

In March there were 110,000 Kansans getting unemployment checks.

Those people didnt have their income decreased. It went to nothing.

Human resource surveys have always shown a large percentage of people people dont like their bosses.

The experiences of your mother are not unique.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

BOEING had more to do with what area would offer the largest Free Lunch aka tax dollar mooching corporate welfare.

James Howlette 4 years ago

Except that the "market" for teachers is student population, which, unlike the economy, didn't crash.

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