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.