By Salina Journal, April 10
One of the central arguments from Kansas legislators in their continuing resistance to meet the legal obligation to fund K-12 public education is that they control the purse strings.
They don’t believe that any nonelected, responsible-to-no-one justices on the Kansas Supreme Court have any business telling legislators how to spend money.
Given that attitude, we were pleased to see that the education funding bill the Legislature passed and sent to Gov. Brownback addresses the funding requirement of the court’s most recent ruling.
But senators couldn’t leave well enough alone. According to the Associated Press, conservative senators determined that if they were going to be forced to spend more money on education, then they were going to extract something in exchange.
So, in the bill passed Sunday, legislators voted to change the due process protection granted the state’s K-12 teachers. Under current policy, after three years on the job a teacher who faces dismissal must be given a written explanation and can have the case reviewed.
The Kansas National Education Association, a teachers union, argues that that keeps good teachers from being fired for arbitrary reasons.
Sen. Tom Arpke, R-Salina, who introduced the amendment to change the law, told the Journal’s Michael Strand that it’s “completely untrue” that the bill strips teachers of their due process rights and allows districts to fire without cause.
What the bill does, according to a story in the Wichita Eagle, is change the definition of “teacher” to exclude K-12 teachers, but not others, such as community college instructors.
Conservatives claim the current system makes it too difficult to get rid of poor or abusive teachers.
The Arpke amendment was backed by the conservative special-interest group Americans for Prosperity. Jeff Glendening, AFP’s state director, said the change wasn’t about “protecting the institutions or the labor union. It’s about protecting our kids,” a talking point echoed by Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina.
We’re not buying it. This is about weakening labor unions. This was about power.
There’s no end to the argument over whether labor unions do more harm than good. But if you want a clear example of why people form unions, meddlesome legislators and their special-interest groups bumbling around where they have no business would provide a good example.
Legislators would do better to just mind their purse strings.