Teaching as Community Service

The House K-12 Budget Committee today had a briefing on the Teach for America Program. It’s clear that they want to expand their presence in Kansas.

Teach for America recruits college students to be temporary teachers in hard to staff schools. These students are given some training over the summer and then dropped into a school with a very challenging student population (high poverty, high numbers of ELL students). They generally spend two years teaching and then leave for better-paying jobs.

The TFA representativeness assured the committee that their recruits leaving teaching to become doctors and lawyers and serve on boards of directors where they become community leaders.

The students, however, are left in schools with a constant staff churn while the future doctors and lawyers get essentially some time with community service.

We would love for high achieving young people to become teachers in all schools but we want those people to seek a career in teaching; to provide continuity for our students. Teaching should not be community service on one’s way to a better paying job.

Frankly, it is possible for us to do better. Kansas ought to invest in teachers. Pay them well, provide benefits and a sound retirement system. Hold them to the highest standards for entry into the profession. Respect them. These future doctors and lawyers could never aspire to be doctors and lawyers without excellent career teachers.

We don’t need Teach for America. We need a system that values, rewards and respects career educators.

House Ed Debates Braille Services in Private Schools

The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2613 which would require public school districts to provide assistive technology, sign language interpretation, or Braille materials to students in private schools.

The bill came about in response to a lawsuit against the Blue Valley School District. According to the parents suing, the district unilaterally changed their daughter’s IEP by requiring her to receive her Braille services in the public school. Blue Valley had apparently been providing Braille materials to her private school for four years.

The debate in committee boiled down to issues of curriculum – the public district would be required to provide materials that would not benefit any public school children because the private school curriculum is different – and opportunity – if the child has to go to the public school for services, then she is being denied the opportunity of attending a private school.

Questions by Committee members focused on cost and reflected continuing frustration that the state is funding special education well below the statutory requirement to reimburse 92% of excess costs.

This won’t be an easy issue for the Committee as both sides of the argument had compelling arguments.

The bill was not worked today.