Shawnee Mission teachers are again this year asking the school board to stand with them to oppose bills in the Kansas Legislature intended to reduce educators’ bargaining rights, says Nancy Fritz, president of the Shawnee Mission NEA (National Education Association) unit.
Last month, Fritz appeared before the Shawnee Mission School Board (statement at 25:50 in the video) to ask that the board support the teachers specifically on two issues that are expected to come up next year. The first is an effort to reduce the number of items the law requires to be negotiated between districts and their teacher bargaining units potentially to just salary and work hours.
A second proposal that the teachers oppose is an attempt to revise the due process protections for teachers who are no longer in their probationary period. Currently, an impartial hearing officer has a final say over a contested teacher firing. The expected legislation would leave the final determination in the hands of the school board.
In her board presentation, Fritz specifically mentioned that the Kansas Association of School Boards is supporting these initiatives. KASB lays out its proposals in a video and says school boards will need to contact legislators if these proposals are to pass.
“Stand with your teachers,” Fritz asked the board. She said the lack of a base pay increase for four years and increased class sizes and work load has already stressed teachers and diminished morale. On the due process issue, Fritz said, “it’s difficult for the board to remain objective” if it has to choose between supporting the administration it works with continually or siding with a teacher.
None of the teacher issues are included in the draft legislative agenda in front of the board and Fritz said she has not had a response from the board.
A third issue that the NEA opposes is a proposal to switch the teachers retirement plan from a defined benefit plan to defined contribution. Fritz said the defined benefit program was developed to make up for low salaries. The problem comes from the legislature’s lack of funding for the retirement program, she says.