The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 11, 2014

Other Views: Kansas petri dish

— 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?

Absolutely nothing.

So how did that help the Senate and House bridge their differences?

Because the ultraconservative 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 ultraconservatives 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.

Ultraconservatives 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.

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?

— The Iola (Kan.) Register

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