By Victor Skinner
TOPEKA, Kansas – Some Kansas lawmakers want to curb teachers unions’ collective bargaining privileges, to give administrators the financial and structural flexibility they need to operate schools in the best interests of students.
Legislation slated for a hearing tomorrow in the state House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee would restrict union negotiations with schools to pay, leave time, and work hours outside of class time, the Associated Press reports.
The legislation would give school administrators authority over the teacher evaluation process, teacher duties, the number of classes taught, and other critical components of the education process that have traditionally been controlled by the union contract. Local school officials would have the option of negotiating those topics with their local unions, but would not be required by law to do so by law.
The bill, of course, equates to “war” for the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.
“We as Kansans are going to have to decide whether we are going to embrace democracy, collaboration, openness, or whether we’re going to accept the sham of democracy or the silencing of dissenting voices,” Karen Godfrey, president of the KNEA, said at a news conference, according to the AP.
“We will not compromise in our advocacy for quality public schools for every child.”
If public schools operated as Godfrey suggests – with “democracy, collaboration, openness” – then there would be no reason to revise collective bargaining laws, because school and union officials would work through all their disagreements with a sole focus on what’s best for students.
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But the reality is that union officials push hard during collective bargaining sessions for all sorts of benefits for teachers that have nothing to do with educating students, and they’re often quite expensive.
Unused sick day payouts, retirement bonuses, free or low-cost health insurance, paid release time for teachers to work for their union, and extra pay for numerous daily duties – such as lunchroom or bus loading supervision – ratchet up the cost of education while adding nothing of value to the education process.
Kansas lawmakers seem to realize that true democracy means giving locally elected officials the ability to run public schools in a way that works best for those who elected them, not according to union rules negotiated behind the scenes.
State House lawmakers already passed legislation to end the union’s practice of automatically deducting dues from members’ paychecks to fund its radical politics – freeing teachers to choose for themselves whether they want to support the KNEA’s political agenda.
It only makes sense to free local school officials to make their own decisions about the most effective way to educate their students, without having to negotiate every detail with an organization that’s more concerned about maintaining power than teaching students.