April 5, 2013
Kansas legislators are moving to implement commonsense education reforms to attract and retain better teachers. Currently under the union negotiated system, layoffs occur based on seniority instead of quality. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk explains :
The pain of union control is illustrated by Bria Klotz, a former sixth-grade teacher in Lawrence, Kansas. She won statewide recognition for her excellence in the classroom. She nonetheless got laid off when Lawrence Public Schools had to make cuts.
Why did she lose out? Her union contract called for seniority-based layoffs, so she was among the first to go. The winners? The more senior union members who got ironclad job security from the contract.
Thanks to Kansas’ right to work law, teachers are no longer forced to pay dues to the Kansas National Education Association. As Sherk points out, many teachers choose not to be a part of the union.
In many of Kansas’s largest school districts—including Wichita and Topeka—not one current teacher voted for Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) representation.
There’s a catch though. All teachers still have to abide by union contracts. Sherk continues:
Kansas legislators are considering changing this. Kansas HB 2027 overhauls collective bargaining in public schools. The bill has attracted attention for limiting what unions can negotiate. Among other changes, it lets districts set teacher evaluation standards without union interference.
Another significant provision has attracted much less attention. The bill requires unions to stand for re-election every two years. Teachers unhappy with their union could vote it out. Even better, the bill also lets teachers negotiate individual contracts. Anyone who loses under the KNEA contract could negotiate a better deal separately.
Predictably, the KNEA has called the bill a “war on teachers.” But what teachers does the bill harm? Certainly not teachers like Klotz.
Kansas’ proposed reform is not a silver bullet for education and reforms should not stop there. But it is an innovative idea and offers another avenue for education improvement to policy makers and will ultimately help students by bringing back quality teachers.
Should teachers be allowed to negotiate their contracts individually?