“It will be possible to hire a certified electrician to teach high school English under the Innovative Districts proposal,” was one charge made during Open Forum at this month’s State Board of Education meeting.
Later that morning, Kansas Education Commissioner-Elect Randy Watkins spoke for the Coalition of Innovative School Districts (CISD) and asserted that was not their intention.
So, do we run schools (or any other government enterprise) based on “intentions” or based on “the letter of the law.” The answer to that is simple: we run schools by the letter of the law. So yes, CISD schools could hire electricians to teach English.
I have a rule to never question intentions. I always write to written proposals and recorded statements. I never impugn others’ motivation or integrity. Yet, CISD’s strategy is to win acceptance based on “good intentions” and “trust me” and not on the substance of the various proposals they have submitted. So I have no choice but to address “intent.”
CISD invited the Kansas Deans of Education to a place at the table as a stakeholder. However, in their April 15 letter of invitation, CISD made clear in bold type that “...a public innovative district shall be exempt from all laws and rules and regulations that are applicable to school districts.” So yes, the Education Deans are invited to the table, but they will be eating what the CISD serves up. The 2013 House Bill 2319 pretty much makes the involvement of any “stakeholders” moot. That includes stakeholders such as teachers who are concerned with having incompetent colleagues as well as parents worried about their child’s teachers?
The “intent” of CISD members varies greatly. The two big districts at the east edge of Kansas want the money that comes with being “innovative.” One superintendent was very clear in her request for funds to pay for concurrent enrolment course work for poor students. For these two CISD schools, it is a disadvantage if the number of innovative schools grows much beyond the current six to the allowed 28 or even 56 (including Title I priority schools). That would dilute the innovation money dramatically.
On the other side is the original proposal by Hugoton that reflects a completely different widespread shortage of qualified teachers in rural areas. If Hugoton got permission to “grow their own” teachers and license them locally—so a teacher could not teach in any other district—half of the rural Kansas USDs would be eager to join in this ability to hire non-licensed and even non-degreed “teachers” and keep them from leaving.
Why would any superintendent want to hire an unqualified teacher? A shortage is growing nationwide. Nearly every state is issuing permits and emergency teaching licenses to staff their classrooms. However, they do not declare the permit teacher to be a fully qualified teacher, making the shortage go away on paper. Kansas will.
Advocates for CISD declare that these school administrators will be held to higher standards, and the CISD bylaws talk of “meeting the standards for math and reading” as well as showing improvement in graduates enlisting in the military or completing post-secondary programs.” Not only is this more teaching-to-the-test in two narrow areas, it ignores science, music, art, social studies, special education and other areas.
There are those who believe that if we allow untrained teachers into the classroom, Kansas schools may even improve and show that education courses and even college degrees are not needed.
CISD is claiming that they do not intend to deprofessionalize teaching, saying “trust us.”
But their proposals on paper say the opposite. Trust me, they do.