Archive for Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Opinion: An objection to ‘flim-flam’

February 9, 2011

After a tornado, we are all cautioned about doing business with fly-by-night repair companies that promise a great job at half the cost of our local roofing company. We call these people who showed up at the door with quick talk, sub-standard supplies and out-of-state tags "flim-flam" men.

Last week, the Kansas Policy Institute sponsored public forums encouraging us to scrap the quality Kansas schools we know with alternatives they acknowledge are controversial. The KPI brought in its own "flim-flam" man — Matthew Ladner — touting the Florida school "fix" even he admits is divisive.

Ladner admitted Kansas students across all grades and categories perform better than their peers in the touted Florida system. This was based on Ladner's own "report card." And yet, he expects Kansas to adopt ideas that would take tax dollars from the public schools through vouchers. Further, he wants to establish privately run charter schools, over which the public would have no control and no say regarding how their tax money is being used.

These ideas rest on glaring errors of analysis. KPI disregards basic reasons for Florida students improving: major class size reduction and not including the most challenging learners in their test averages. It makes one wonder why they would mislead us with such obvious disdain for reality.

But this letter is not to refute these ideas. Kansans will decide on the schools we want. My puzzlement is that KPI official Dave Trabert, in an editorial promoting these ideas, insinuated that the teachers who belong to the Kansas National Education Association are uncomfortable talking about ideas that might help the students we teach every day.

For years, Kansas NEA members have advocated for transforming our schools so that our Kansas kids have the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with students across the country and around the world. We are leaders in finding new ways to integrate the latest technology into our teaching.

Our students need the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, plus critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills so they will be successful in the twenty-first century. Kansas NEA members partner with school boards and local communities every day to make this happen… to make public schools great for every child.

So, Trabert of the KPI, and Ladner, from an out-of-state think tank, do not come to our state to tell us that we don't care about kids or are afraid of controversial ideas. We make and stand by our decisions every day, decisions that impact students and their families, the economic health of our communities and the future of our state.

We at KNEA are comfortable with new ideas. We've been pushing new ideas for years. We are Kansans. KNEA, local school board members and Kansas taxpayers aren't going to leave town next week like some "flim-flam" man. We are here to stay.

— The executive director for the Kansas NEA, Claudette Johns is a former Rose Hill School board member and a former teacher.

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