Teachers, staff lash out on layoffs

Blue-ribbon campaign formed to signal solidarity for educators

Lawrence teachers who received layoff notices are blue, and they want everybody in the city to know it.

On Tuesday, pink-slipped teachers Bria Klotz and Lisa Rush joined Lawrence Education Assn. leaders to initiate the “Band Together” campaign to encourage folks to wear blue lapel ribbons and blue armbands to express solidarity with educators.

“Our campaign encourages citizens to band together and stand up for our public schools,” said Wayne Kruse, president of LEA. “Teaching is rocket science. We cannot afford to lose caring, quality teachers.”

The teachers’ organization will distribute 1,000 blue arm bands in the community.

Lawrence school board members sent notices to 66 certified teachers, nurses and counselors that their contracts wouldn’t be automatically renewed. Perhaps one-third will be rehired by the district when the budget dust settles in August.

About 20 of the teachers on that list were at the unveiling of the Band Together initiative at Lawrence High School.

Klotz, a sixth-grade teacher at Prairie Park School, said she knew well the agony of losing her job. Last year, she was let go by the district.

She was rehired, and then was among 23 educators to receive the Kansas Horizon Award that recognizes exemplary first-year teachers.

“Once again, I’ve been cut,” she said. “Right now, it’s really hard to hang in there.”

From left, Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, speaks with Lawrence teachers Lisa Rush and Bria Klotz. Because of state budget cuts, neither Rush nor Klotz were offered teaching contracts for next year. The trio spoke after a news conference Tuesday at Lawrence High School, where teachers, parents and Davis demanded that governments reinvest in education.

Klotz said she would explore the possibility of working in real estate this summer.

Rush, who is in her first year of teaching, has been in a first-grade class at Deerfield School. She’s hoping to get rehired, because she described her inauguration to the profession as “incredible.”

“I hope there are people out there who know how to help us,” she said.

Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said the teachers should work hard to lobby on behalf of pubic schools. He said everybody from the teachers’ neighbors to the governor needed to hear about the value placed on schools in Lawrence.

“We need to organize,” Davis said.

He was among 16 freshman legislators who proposed during the 2003 legislative session a set of tax increases to support education and social programs. Their proposal was rejected, but Davis said the effort wouldn’t die with that vote.

“We have not given up by any means,” he said. “There are a lot of legislators who need to get the message.”