Journey of a Superintendent: Going After Teachers? Really?

Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Lane at a staff professional development session at New Stanley Elementary School.

Really?

That was my first reaction to the tone of what is happening in Kansas right now. Our state is on a path to change what has been a core value in Kansas: that education is a right of every citizen. Some individuals in positions of power seem to be determined to slash and burn opportunities for every child (citizen) to receive a quality education, despite the fact that their actions have already been deemed unconstitutional. If the failure to suitably fund education isn’t outrageous enough, now the political wrath is turning on teachers!

Really? I say enough! Teachers are not the problem. Frankly, teachers are our only hope for a prosperous future. It’s our teachers who are the solution to decreasing poverty, improving the economics of our state, developing our future workforce, and giving hope to our children and families. It’s our teachers who inspire our dreams, and push us to reach our potential.

I am savvy enough to understand that many of the legislative proposals getting play in Kansas right now are about control and power, but I honestly never expected to see an attempt to diminish the rights of citizens. Going after teachers, really? I can only imagine what’s next . . .

It is well known that the most important factor in a child’s education is having highly effective teachers, supported by highly effective leaders. So why are some legislators proposing to dramatically change teachers’ rights to engage in collective bargaining? As superintendent, I want the teachers to engage in their work with passion and urgency. I want their thoughts to be focused on how to move their students to higher levels of success. I don’t want teachers to be worried about their jobs, salaries, health insurance, hours of work, and retirement benefits. As I look at the list of what is “mandatorily” negotiable under current law, I can’t see one item that is worth going after, at the risk of the alienation of teachers. If these areas are important to highly effective teachers, let’s talk about them, find common ground on which we can agree, and turn our full attention to our kids.

Any sports fan or coach will tell you that the best game plans are team plans, not individual plans. There has never been a championship team that was full of “it’s all about me” players. And our schools and students will not be able to compete without fully engaged and effective teachers, not teachers who are worried about themselves.

The teachers are not the problem, they are the solution! Yes, of course we have individuals who are not performing where they need to be. But the answer is in the collective responsibility of district leaders and the teacher’s association to develop or remove the ineffective teacher(s). A direct attack on the collective bargaining rights of teachers will only get in the way of getting all of our students to higher standards. We must change the conversation and get the team moving as a united front. It’s Up to Us – Really!

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