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Some State Board Of Education Members Blame Lawmakers For Teachers Fleeing Kansas

Sam Zeff

The chairman of the Kansas Board of Education says the Legislature and others have to show more support for teachers or the exodus of teaching talent to other states will continue.

The board Tuesday heard the annual report on the teaching profession in the state, a report that covers everything from salary to ages.

However, there was one piece of information that has been the focus of many educators during the past week, how many teachers are leaving Kansas to teach in other states.

"There have been a number of legislative actions that have been perceived by educators across the state in a very negative way," says board Chairman Jim McNiece, a Republican from Wichita and former high school principal.

"The amazing thing is that when you go to local communities, local school boards, people are very proud of their schools and their teachers," McNiece says. "But that doesn't seem to extend into the Legislature."

According to the report, 399 teachers left Kansas in 2011 to teach in other states. Last year, that figure jumped to 654. Also, five years ago, 491 teachers simply left the profession. Last year, that soared to 740.

Marie Carter, the personnel manager for the Topeka School District, told the board she's having trouble retaining and recruiting teachers because they worry about an uncertain budget and whether they'll have a job into the future.

"They leave to go teach in another state because of what they read about our Legislature, the laws they pass and the money that's been taken away from us," Carter says.

Democrat Janet Waugh, board member from Kansas City, Kansas, says lawmakers must find more money to pay teachers and show them more respect.

"The current feeling among many legislators and some people is lack of respect for our teachers," Waugh says. "I think that this is tragic."

Also at Tuesday's meeting the board, on a closer than expected 6-4 vote, approved a plan that would let six designatedInnovative School districts in Kansas ease licensing requirements for teachers.

Teachers from across the state lined up to oppose the change, saying it dilutes the teaching profession.

One of the Innovative Districts is Kansas City, Kansas Superintendent Cynthia Lane says this new licensing procedure will be used infrequently and for hard to fill positions. “The big issue is that this is going to be used on a small number of openings for very specialized reasons. This is not about solving the teacher shortage in Kansas,” says Lane.

The Innovative Districts made the licensing plan more transparent after loud objections from teachers. The board made some minor adjustments in the plan before passing it.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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