An Opinion-Editorial by KNEA President Sherri Schwanz
Throughout the nation, and indeed, in Kansas, a coordinated attack upon our public schools is underway. Hyper-partisan politicians are forcing their ideology into our classrooms through policies and laws that steal learning time from students, strip away local control, make individualized instruction near impossible, and punish those who would bring color and life to learning.
Three bills strike at the heart of the teaching and learning relationship in Kansas- inspiration. Cloaked in words like “transparency” and “bill of rights,” these bills actually seek to make it more difficult to inspire students and much easier to punish those who try to.
Inspiring students requires that we engage them and open their eyes to the world. These bills seek to filter student experiences through a partisan lens. Inspiring students requires that educators be free to seek out the “teachable moment” and not fear that doing so may bring punishment upon them or their students. Inspiring students means that the unique nature of the teaching and learning relationship is respected, and so are the individuals at each end of that relationship.
But let’s not mince words. There is a bigger effort afoot. When politicians interfere in classrooms, they advance a partisan agenda. So what is the agenda here? One need only look at the dark-money organizations pushing these bills in states like Kansas. Paid solely to accuse and indict those who work in public schools, these agents seek only to inspire suspicion and erode public confidence.
What’s the proof, you may ask? Bills like these purport to create mechanisms for transparency, but those mechanisms already exist. Layering more bureaucracy on top of existing policies only serves to make the life of an educator more difficult. The only reason for duplicating these mechanisms is to raise suspicion and shake Kansans’ confidence in their schools.
Stealing time from students that should be spent on teaching and learning to- instead- copy and paste links to learning materials on a website isn’t “transparency.” Two of these bills require posting links to every textbook, novel, media, and any resource of any kind chosen by a teacher to use in their lessons. This is an effort to make casual observers believe these materials are suspect and not already available for any parent to review They- of course- are.
These laws seek to reduce the modern classroom to something akin to what one may have found in a dust-bowl era, schoolhouse. If passed these onerous laws targeted at educators only weaken students, weaken our economic future, and reduce America’s standing as the leader of a global society.
So why would politicians want to interfere in our classrooms in this way? As stated previously, eroding public confidence in education is a goal. When public education is weakened, educators must do more with less. We’ve seen this before just a few years ago under Sam Brownback. When the system is in crisis it is much easier to convince the public that it is failing. It’s also easier to hand your tax dollars to unaccountable private schools that are free from any regulations and free to pick and choose their students.
These kinds of laws also allow the dark-money agents to pour through the resources teachers post online in order to cherry-pick any that they might be able to frame as harmful and use in their own disinformation campaign to further erode public confidence. It’s a vicious cycle and hyper-partisan politicians are happy to force those who work in our classrooms to execute their agenda to move tax dollars away from public schools while creating a system of winners and losers along the way. Except, in this effort, the majority of Kansans lose while only a very few privileged Kansans win.
What can you do right now? Simple. Teach. Inspire. And when the time comes; and it will very soon, answer the call to advocate for your profession and your students. Find your representatives and show them what teaching and learning truly mean in a time of global pandemic. Teach them how their misguided policies impact the teaching and learning relationship in a harmful way. Most importantly, do what they fear the most. Organize, and let them know we will never stand for their attacks on the students and profession we love.
-KNEA President Sherri Schwanz
Read the Bills Here
Read House Bill 2662 here: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/hb2662/
Read Senate Bill 363 here: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb363/
Read House Bill 2690 here: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/hb2690/