KNEA, Kansas teachers union, makes endorsements

The Kansas National Education Association (KNEA, the teachers union) has released the list of candidates it is endorsing in the August 3rd Kansas primary election.

If you’re thinking about using the teachers union as a source of voting recommendations, you ought to familiarize yourself with the union and its activities. Then you can decide whether an organization with such a noble-sounding name is, in fact, working for the quality education of all Kansas schoolchildren.

If you read much material put out by the teachers union, you quickly realize a few things. First, the union promotes public schools. Education taking place outside the public schools is of no concern to this organization. The simple reason for this is that private schools aren’t unionized.

Second, all forms of competition for public dollars in education are vigorously opposed. Innovations that are taking place in many states across the country — charter schools, tying teacher pay to job performance, elimination of tenure, vouchers, tax credits — are not present to any significant measure in Kansas. While some innovations like charter schools are not perfect, they are a threat to the teachers union, and that is why the KNEA opposes them.

Third, taxes can never be high enough to fund schools with as much money as the union wants. In an editorial written by KNEA President Blake West earlier this year, we see the plea laid bare: “Every member needs to let legislators know that we NEED whatever tax increases it takes to fund public schools and crucial services.” The union presses every year for tax increases to funnel more taxpayer funds into schools.

Fourth, all alternative solutions are opposed with campaigns of misinformation. For example, a public policy institute found that schools have money socked away in various funds that could be spent, if the schools wanted to. This finding spurred the school spending advocates, of which KNEA is at the forefront, to launch a informational campaign against these findings. They and school spending allies insisted that these funds, to the extent they existed, could not be spent in a way that would help schools cope with revenue shortfalls.

But the Kansas State Department of Education published figures that showed schools had been spending these funds, the funds they said didn’t exist and couldn’t be used. See Kansas schools have used funds to increase spending.

Further, this institute — the Kansas Policy Institute — commissioned a study that found that Kansans are very poorly informed about the level of school spending and its direction in recent years.

A startling finding was that parents of schoolchildren had more misconceptions about school funding than other Kansans.

This finding should not really be a surprise, as the school spending lobby and the KNEA are quite effective in their spreading of misinformation, and parents of schoolchildren are fed a steady stream.

Now it would be one thing if the only harm the KNEA caused was higher taxes that aren’t needed to provide a quality education. But their campaign of misinformation is harmful to students. West, the union president, makes this claim, as do other Kansas school bureaucrats: “Increased school funding in the past few years helped improve student achievement.”

The union — as do other school spending advocates — relies on test scores produced by the state of Kansas. And yes, these scores show rapid increases.

The problem, however, is these test scores are almost certainly fraudulent.

Looking at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), we see a different story that is contradictory to the teacher union president’s claim. On this test, which Kansas school officials can’t control, Kansas scores are largely flat. Sometimes they rise slowly and sometimes they fall. But they don’t mirror the trend that Kansas school spending advocates trumpet as evidence of the greatness of Kansas schools, and as proof that the increased spending in recent years has paid off.

The ACT college entrance exam provides another look at the performance of Kansas schools. A recent report shows that for the period 2005 to 2009, Kansas ACT scores are up a small amount. For the most recent years, scores are down very slightly. The Kansas scores are slightly higher than the scores for the entire nation, and have mirrored the national trend.

The most shocking part of the report, however, is how few Kansas students graduate from high school ready for college. While Kansas high school students perform slightly better than the nation, only 26 percent of Kansas students that take the ACT test are ready for college-level coursework in all four areas that ACT considers.

The NAEP score trends and the ACT college readiness results are evidence that the Kansas school bureaucracy, including the KNEA, is unwilling to confront the reality of the performance of public schools. While promoting the importance of education — and yes, it is vitally important — they at the same time work overtime to preserve a government monopoly that is harmful to Kansas schoolchildren.

We need less government involvement in schools. We need more of the innovations that the KNEA opposes. Keep that in mind as you make your primary election choices.


12 thoughts on “KNEA, Kansas teachers union, makes endorsements”

  1. A quick comment about “tying teacher pay to job performance”: there is a big misconception that if we pay teachers more we get better education. Government school teacher’s pay and benefits are known to be much better than what will find at a private school. But, the perception is that education is better at the private school.

    I just interviewed at a private school. If I get hired, I will make about 1/3 less than a government school teacher. Put another way, I would make 50% more as a government school teacher. But, I can live with that. I need the job, I enjoy teaching, and you can not pay me enough for me to teach at a government school.

  2. The KNEA is the most powerful lobbying organization at the KS statehouse. Number 2 is far behind them.

    When you look at the occupations of legislators, you will see an awful lot government school employees. Jean Schodorf, who is running for congress, and has been a state senator for a decade, is probably the most prominent.

    In addition, many legislators are the spouses of government school employees. Is this a conflict of interest? Not according to the fast-asleep KS news media. Never seen a story on this in print or in the broadcast “news” media.

    The Wichita school district provides full pay for school district employees who manage to get elected to the legislature. I think that this is true for many of the other school districts in KS. These legislators are directly dependent upon additional funding for their pay raises.

    The Kansas Public Policy Institute deserves a tremendous amount of credit for advertising the amount of spending for K-12 in this state. We are well over $12,000 per pupil per year in Wichita. We are not getting our money’s worse. My neighbors with kids in the school regularly get material to circulate in their neighborhood to raise more $ by selling magazines and other knick-knacks. What a disgrace.

    Look at the pension the former superintendent in Wichita, Winston Brooks is going to get from USD 259 alone. He’ll get more from the New Mexico taxpayers in his current position of raising taxes in Albuquerque’s school district.

    Why don’t we eliminate this centralized, state-based system and move to vouchers, tax credits, or even some modest reform and allow some charter schools? Nah, the KNEA wouldn’t allow it. Who rules in Topeka: KNEA

    Who’s probably the #2 lobbying group: argubably, it is the taxpayer fund Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB). KASB represents almost every KS school district with over a half dozen lobbyists who sometimes also represent the KNEA in speaking to legislative committees a lobbyist told me. I saw it myself on one Topeka trip. KASB spends millions a year and operates out of a posh, marble floored office in west Topeka a school board member told me. KASB’s published materials show that they have over 30 employees!

  3. I am a substitute teacher with the KCK School Board. I have been attempting to draw/collect unemployment benefits during this passed summer. I was told to contact your office (by the United States Department of Labor in Washington, D.C.). Please assist me with this matter if you can. Thanking you in advance. Telicia R. White

  4. I think it was nancy pelosi who said, “elections have consequences.” And she may also be the one who said “we won.” This is the only thing nancy has said that I agree with. So live with it. Do you think the dems will walk out of the House of Representatives in Washington as the democrat senators have done in Wisconsin and Indiana? Apparently, there are groups working to recall three of the democrat senators in Wisconsin. Hopefully that will be accomplished. They certainly are not getting their monies worth. Wouldn’t be allowed in private sector.

    I wonder if the KNEA or NEA would vote to pay for all of my retirement and my health insurance? Does anyone who aspires to be a teacher while entering college believe that it is highly paid? I don’t think so but they become teachers anyway.

    There is NO proof of improved results for additional funding for education for years now. There seems to be a lot of proof that there are more students dropping out, that reading levels have not improved and more So it would seem the problem is not more money but more effective teachers. In the private sector, much of what the NEA and KNEA would not be tolerated.

    I am with those who not vote for the people receiving the endorsemsent of the NEA or KNEA, ever.

  5. Talica – why should you receive unemployment for not being hired as a substitute teacher. That is not a permanent full or part time position.

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