By KARI BLURTON
Kim Schneweis, Hays chapter of the Kansas National Education Association president and art instructor at Hays Middle School, and five other USD 489 teachers were among 400 Kansas educators at the Capitol this weekend while legislators debated a school funding bill.
Schneweis said the Hays-KNEA is not at odds with the portion of the final bill that provides additional state funding for poorer school districts, but she warned policy changes on the verge of being enacted will be detrimental.
Schneweis said many teachers felt they were “attacked” as debate on the bill went back and forth — especially when the policy changes that would end tenure were “slipped in.”
Schneweis said tenure, or due process, ensures teachers do not lose jobs without just cause or because “they made someone mad.” Dismissals currently must go through a process with the school board and administrators.
“Many people have the false impression that you can’t get rid of a teacher — that is not the case,” said Schneweis. “The current due process law provides a process for the dismissal of teachers. It also protects teachers from dismissal based on false accusations or erroneous reasons.”
“If every day we to have to fear for our jobs, be afraid of upsetting the wrong person or we will lose our job, teachers will not have job security,” she said. “After parents, teachers are the biggest advocate for children — and now the Legislature just put a gag on us.”
“We don’t want bad teachers in the district either, and due process does not allow bad teachers to stay in the school,” Schneweis added.
She said another problem with the funding bill is providing tax credit benefits for private and charter schools.
“We should not be diverting funds to private schools when they are not accountable to the same regulations and license standards state schools are,” she said.
The bill is now headed to Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk.
The school funding compromise comes as Hays USD 489 is grappling with ways to climb out of a $1.3 million budget hole for the coming year. Administrators said last week some faculty and staff were informed their services would not be needed next school year.