Wichita teachers union sends conflicting message


Wichita public school teachers want to be treated as professionals. Their union, however, sends a different message. The background to the following excerpt from a recent Wichita Eagle story is how teachers portray themselves as heroic public servants, working many hours of overtime each day in order to teach Wichita’s schoolchildren.

The union proposed that weekly professional development sessions be worked into the regular school day by having students start later or leave earlier on those days.

Negotiators also proposed cutting the number of in-service days — now at 11 per year — which are designed for teachers to attend professional development programs.

“It’s not about the money,” Landwehr said. “It’s about being treated as professionals and listened to.”

Superintendent John Allison said in a written statement Friday that “our district is not at a position to decrease the amount of time worked without a corresponding decrease in employee pay, which is what the UTW negotiating team sought in lieu of a salary increase.”

So we see the school district and union quibbling over the number of minutes to be worked each day.

The quest by public school teachers to be treated with professional respect will not be taken seriously until teachers abandon their union.

Besides this, teachers should examine whether the union is really in their best interests. While not specific to Wichita, my post Study of public and private school teachers reveals sharp differences reports on the extreme dissatisfaction public school teachers have with their working conditions. Where are the teachers unions on this issue?


2 responses to “Wichita teachers union sends conflicting message”

  1. Thomas Witt

    You can’t make a direct comparison of students in public schools to students in private schools without understanding some basic facts.

    Private schools “cherry-pick” their students. For example, Wichita’s two secular private schools, Collegiate and Independent, are incredibly expensive and have a *highly* competitive admissions process. Both schools require a non-refundable “fee” just to fill out their applications. Once admitted, students who underperform academically or who are discipline problems are kicked out. Where do they end up? In the public school system, which *must* enroll them.

    The private Catholic schools aren’t much different, as even low-income Catholic families must tithe a substantial amount of their incomes. Children who are problems are kicked out, and end up in the public schools. This extends to the families of non-Catholic students – there was an incident in Wichita a few years ago where a student was kicked out because her parents are lesbians. It’s a nice homogeneous system where diversity is almost non-existent. You have to have money, and/or you have to obey Catholic dogma, to keep your kids enrolled.

    The public school system doesn’t get to make these choices or distinctions. Any child in the district has to be enrolled; the only way to kick kids out is expulsion for a limited number of reasons. And even *those* kids get served by the public school system – there are homebound programs, and there’s even a public school operating inside the JDF facility on Hydraulic.

    Elite private schools don’t compete for the bottom of the barrel, they compete for the students from the wealthiest families. They don’t compete to educate non-English speaking refugees from third world nations, they don’t compete to educate students with autism, or Down Syndrome, or ADD, or from broken families destroyed by drug and alcohol abuse. They compete for the high-achieving kids from high-achieving families. If you’re poor, or a “C” student, forget it.

    The Friedman report’s conclusion that private school teachers are happier with their jobs than public school teachers is a no-brainer. Who would you rather teach? Wealthy kids from College Hill, Eastborough, Maize, or Andover? Or the poorest of the poor from Hilltop, Northeast, and Planeview?

    Oh, PS: Bob, your union-bashing is just silly and hypocritical. Owners of capital get to make contracts, form cartels and syndicates, associations, etc., but the wage earners don’t have that right? Please.

  2. SpentPenny (retired copper)

    That old argument about private schools *cherry picking* students is shop-worn. The truth is that kids who are kicked out of private schools make up such a minute percentage of government school students that they are all but invisible.

    As to unionized teachers, look around at the excellent schools in the suburbs. How many do you see with unionized teachers? Right. None. The union protects the very type of losers who make good parents flee to the burbs. Teachers who are functionally illiterate are protected. The union diligently (and effectively) fights any attempt at performance analysis that would either highlight excellence or poor performance. No one is allowed to do any kind of analysis on classroom performance if the teacher’s name is attached.

    Finally, you have to consider that there are serious flaws in the way elections related to items such as the bond etc. are held. I do not know of a better way so am not advocating we throw out the current model, but I think it is necessary to point out and consider that many of the folks who make up the tax base of the District do not live in the District. Look at the root of the tax base – all those nice expensive buildings downtown and nearby. The owners of those building pay a large share of the taxes in the District but do you think they live there? Uh no, most likely they do not.

    The voters that actually live in the District are highly minority and low income (look at the District figures on free lunch) and have nothing at risk when they vote for higher taxes or vote a union rep onto the school board.

    The whole thing is out of whack.

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