Last week we sent five questions to candidates for Kansas State Board of Education District 2 which covers a large part of Johnson County. The set of questions came from those submitted by readers.
Here are the responses from incumbent Republican Steve Roberts and Democrat challenger Chris Cindric to our second question. Today’s question is:
In 2014, the Kansas legislature repealed teachers’ due process right, leaving this protection up to the discretion of local school districts. Should this decision be reconsidered, particularly given the teacher shortage in some areas of the state? Why or why not?
Our system of checks and balances is out-of-whack. Of course, good teachers should be kept on the job, and allowed to make mistakes. If good teachers are terminated on the whim of an incompetent principal or superintendent, we obviously have a problem. Thankfully, those instances are uncommon, even rare. Most principals are very good, with, admittedly, some notable exceptions. That is a reason to trust local boards.
Some teachers are not very good. Shoot the messenger, but it is the truth. Our least experienced and least talented instructors tend to “serve” in tougher schools where it is more difficult to be effective. It just is. It takes a special teacher to be successful in these tough environments, and we have too few of them. Balance this with: 40 percent of new teachers quit the profession within the first five years. We are out-of-whack.
So, what to do?
One long-needed repair to our system is to welcome professionals into our secondary schools for technical subjects. Unfortunately, when this idea is phrased as “you do not necessarily have to attend a college of education to be a great teacher,” the union howls. Educators feel threatened. Uncontrolled responses to this idea include: Roberts says anybody can teach, Roberts says you don’t need any education to be a teacher, Roberts says colleges of education have no purpose, Roberts wants to destroy our public schools. These lies and scare tactics need to be refuted.
Public schools should be more welcoming to the public. It is wrong to believe that only those who have matriculated at a college of education could have anything of any value to give any of our children in any academic setting. Unlike our schools in northeast Johnson County, many Kansan schools have a critical shortage of knowledgeable instructors for technical subjects in high schools and middle schools.
We are a local control state. Unlike California or Texas, the state board in Kansas does not tell teachers which textbooks to use. Our balance needs to be local control with basic oversight from the state, and less oversight from the federal government. Personnel decisions are generally better made locally.
Due process is guaranteed by our federal constitution. Let us not confuse this with tenure.
As a sign in our board room declares: Our Children Come First in Every Board Decision.
Due process has worked well since 1957 and it does not prevent schools/districts from firing employees who should not be in the teaching profession. There is no data to support the argument that due process protects bad teachers but it does protect good ones from arbitrary dismissal. Due process is simply a mandate for an independent hearing in the dismissal of a teacher. This was a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. We should restore due process and the respect for a profession that should never have lost it in the first place.