Letter to the Editor 4-11-14

Dear Editor,
 Last weekend, House Bill 2506 was passed by both the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate. Along with hundreds of other Kansas educators, I was present into the wee hours Sunday morning while this bill was being debated, voted down, and sent to a Conference Committee. Final action resulted in its passage late Sunday night. I can honestly say that I was appalled at some of the things I heard come from Representatives about their regard, or lack thereof, for public schoolteachers. On a positive note, I wish to publicly thank Representative Susan Concannon (R-Beloit) and Senator Elaine Bowers (R-Concordia) for voting against this bill.
 First, however, we must remember that HB 2506 was ostensibly a school funding bill. As we all know, the Kansas Supreme Court has mandated that the legislature appropriate an additional $129 million to education to address funding inequities.  This issue is especially important in rural communities, where funding cuts over the past several years have been broad and deep, and have resulted in reductions in staff, elimination of field trips, consolidation of facilities, and limited purchases of needed textbooks and equipment. Our legislators chose to add several amendments to HB 2506 that were only marginally related to school funding. The amendment I am addressing is the one proposed by Senator Tom Arpke (R-Salina) to eliminate teacher due process rights. “Due process” protects teachers from arbitrary firing, and is sometimes casually referred to as “tenure.” It means that if a teacher is dismissed after working in a given district for at least 3 years, they must be given specific reason for that termination. This then would allow the teacher to contest the termination, and request a fair hearing. Some believe that it is impossible to fire an underperforming or incompetent teacher after the third year, and this is not true. Under current law, if there is a need to dismiss a nonprobationary teacher, administrators and boards of education can do so through a process that involves evaluation and a plan of improvement. I can honestly say that most teachers become teachers because they feel a calling to do so. They remain in education because it becomes a passion. We all know great teachers, and hopefully had several who influenced us. These teachers are also our neighbors and friends, people we attend church with and who care deeply about our children. Eliminating the due process provisions for teachers is like a slap in the face to them. Teachers are among the lowest paid professionals in our community, yet they hold a significant responsibility for the future of our country, state, and OUR children.
 Please contact Governor Brownback and ask him to veto the bill, and assign the legislature the task of passing a “clean” school finance bill. His phone number is 877.579.6757. You could also send him a message at the following wed address:
https://governor.ks.gov/serving-kansans/constituent-services/legislation-and-policy-issues
 I urge you to contact Governor Brownback before the wrap up session begins at the end of the month.
 
Sincerely yours,

S. Christy Hasch
CoPresident, North Cloud Education Association
President, KNEA Uniserve District 114

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