A backlash is beginning to be felt in Kansas finally, after years of cheap and stingy actions taken to constantly reduce what the state pays out for education. Teachers are getting tired of complaining, and tired of fighting, and some are beginning to leave, making it more difficult to find replacements. Sadly it will be students that feel the brunt of it, and the effects will be long-lasting if good teachers can’t be recruited to fill openings statewide.
Recent reports on KAKE, Wichita Public Radio, and Education Week warn of neighboring states, particularly Missouri, heavily recruiting Kansas teachers and many, according to reports, are going. One can assume they are finding a better deal across the border, for why else would they leave? Kansas, after all, is a beautiful state with friendly people who care about one another and aren’t afraid to show it. We do, after all, have the highest rate of volunteerism in the nation.
But, while many problems can be helped or even solved by people giving of their own free time and resources, we shouldn’t expect that of professionals that dedicate themselves to years of school, internships, student teaching, licensing and ongoing education for the rest of our lives in order to earn the right to be called teachers. Surely we didn’t think all these well-educated people would put up with this forever.
On top of recent upsets in the state legislature, i.e. stripping teachers of hard-fought rights, and a continual defiance of court orders to fund education in a constitutional manner, the state has okayed Innovative Districts to hire unlicensed teachers to fill spots they can’t fill with licensed teachers. It’s just an experiment--and as Kansans we’re becoming experts at the pitfalls of experiments. If the experiment in the end saves the state money, what happens next? Kansans should be pretty good at seeing the long-view. We’re surrounded by them.
So far, we in Great Bend have been lucky. While there have been a number of resignations from USD 428 in the past year, the district hasn’t lacked for applicants, thus, students here will not go without this year. The district respects its teachers, and it shows through negotiations. And, the district has been frugal with its money, avoiding some of the funding nightmares other districts have experienced in the past two years.
But, even a well-funded district can only operate out of its reserves for so long. Patrons of school districts all over the state need to educate themselves on how the effects of legislation and experiments are affecting our schools, and our kids. All patrons, with or without children at home.