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Wichita teachers union uses meeting for advocacy, campaigning

Two weeks ago, while the Kansas Legislature was working on budget and tax issues, Larry Landwehr, president of United Teachers of Wichita, the union for Wichita public school teachers, addressed the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district.

Landwehr referred to “difficult decisions” the board had to make in the past few months, presumably due to budget cuts the district believed it needed to make. His remarks were based on a false premise, however. Many of these cuts were not necessary, as school districts have money to spend, if they want.

During the present school year, according to figures released at the end of April, schools in Kansas were able to increase spending by an estimated $320 million. This was in spite of the fact that revenue to Kansas school districts declined by about $50 million. $370 million in fund balances were used to boost total spending by $320 million.

These are the fund balances that school districts and school officials have said cannot be used. But districts have used them, and there’s more that can be used. There is no need to make cuts to teachers and programs.

In his remarks, Landwehr also issued a threat to legislators who “chose re-election over providing a quality education for our students.” He added “I hope they [voters] respond accordingly in the summer and spring elections.”

There’s a few issues here that deserve discussion. First, while the teachers union may believe that public schools in Kansas are producing a quality product, the rest of us need to dismiss this illusion. While Kansas reports rising test scores on state-administered assessments, these test scores are certainly fraudulent, as scores on tests the state does not control do not match this trend.

Furthermore, only 26 percent of Kansas students that take the ACT test are ready for college-level coursework in all four areas that ACT considers.

This is not a record of achievement that Wichita and Kansas school districts and teachers unions should be proud of.

There’s also the issue as to whether Wichita school board meetings should be used for political campaigning. While Wichita public schools hate to be called “government schools,” the fact that this behavior is permitted at school board meetings show us that public schools are, in fact, creations of, and expressions of, government.

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3 Comments

  1. Kim May 28, 2010

    Some teachers do not do their jobs very well and good teachers are often sacrificed for political reasons. As a parent I have taken the time to GO to a classroom during the day and what I have seen is APPALLING. The chaos, lack of respect, the indifference of the teachers to it. The teacher spends a good portion of the class period just basically “hanging out” with the kids. So at the end of the year, my child drops from an A to a low D. We will be spending money that could be used for college, paying for a private tutor all summer. What concerns me most is how many parents just think it’s their child’s fault, or if they know it’s not— how they may not have the resources to engage a tutor. Do these apathetic teachers not understand they are screwing around with the dreams and futures of these children? My hat is off to all the other teachers who love what they do, but that handful that gives the rest a bad name—– NEED TO GO!

  2. Wichitator May 29, 2010

    The lamestream Kansas news media won’t report this, but all the informed lobbyists that I’ve spoken to will tell you that the KNEA teachers union and its local affiliates are the most powerful special interest lobbying group at the Kansas statehouse.

    The second most powerful is well back from the KNEA but it might be the potent tax funded Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) and their double digit number of lobbyists. The KNEA and KASB work closely together to promote tax hikes, higher government spending, and oppose all efforts to allow voters to have a say on raising local property taxes. In addition, KNEA/KASB hate the phrase “government schools,” in describing their special interest. The key is growing the number of government school employees since that translates into votes, dues, pac funds, and political clout.

    That is why the compliant KS legislature passed legislation in the 1990s that allowed to teachers to retire with “85 and out,” which meant that if you added your age plus years of service, when the total reached 85, you could retire.

    A lot of government school employees were retiring with full retirement benefits in their early 50’s (say age 53 plus 32 years of teaching with 3 months off for summer = 85). This is the hidden reason why KPERS (government employees retirement system) is in a severe financial mess. The drop in stock values for KPERS has received a lot of coverage, but the 85 and out has not.

    In addition, a lot of government school employees “double dipped,” by retiring with 85 and out, and then went to a neighboring school district and took a similar position where they would receive a huge pay hike: retirement pay, no more payments into KPERS-they are now officially retired, and the salary from the new school district.

    This is also under-reported in the news media. None of the government school employees can be questioned since, “it is ALL FOR THE CHILDREN.” Anyone questioning this has the full force from the government school lobby fall upon them. Look at the attack on Kansas Policy Institute when they tried to report on just the amount of spending as well as the cash balances of the almost 300 KS government school districts.

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