Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Kansas SB393

There are a slew of similar anti-public education bills being proposed in multiple states. Here is the testimony I submitted opposing Kansas SB393.  Be on the look out for bills in your state that show a need for public education advocacy!

February 9, 2022

Chair Sen. Molly Baumgardner, Vice Chair Sen. Renee Erickson, Ranking Minority Member Sen. Dinah Sykes, and Members of the Senate Committee on Education:

My name is Katie Morris and I have been a Kansas public school teacher for 12.5 years. I am very concerned about and ask you to oppose SB393. Either the bill sponsors do not know how much they are asking with this legislation or they know exactly how much they are asking and are purposefully trying to drive more educators away from the field, at a time when we are already facing shortages.

This bill is both impractical and unnecessary. Why is it impractical? I teach Kindergarten-12th grade art which means that in any given school year I prepare and plan units and lessons for 12 different curriculums: one for each grade K-8, and three different high school courses. I see 7 different classes a day and 11 different classes in a week. My lesson plans change year to year and sometimes within sections of the same class because I adapt to meet the needs of my students. I want to be able to continue to do what is best for my students without the fear I will forget to share a resource and bring financial punishment on my school district. I’m not sure this is common knowledge outside the teaching profession so I will tell you: it is already impossible or nearly so for teachers to get their work done during 45 minutes of plan time. In the last two school years teachers have even been asked to give up that plan time to cover other teachers’ classes when substitutes can not be found! We are not paid for coming in to get work done before school or working after. Any work I do outside my 7:50-3:30 duty day is unpaid labor. This extra reporting would increase the burden on a population that is already overworked. Teachers across the state of Kansas and across the nation are feeling burnt out like never before and we do not need one more hoop to jump through.

This legislation is unnecessary, and frankly, it is insulting. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in 2009, my Master’s degree in 2016, and continue to both develop professionally and take on leadership roles to help serve the profession. I attend annual professional development conferences and prepare workshops on art standards, curriculum, studio techniques, and more to share with other teachers. I serve on the board of Kansas Art Education Association and have twice been named KAEA Outstanding Art Educator of the Year- in 2014 for Elementary and last October for K-12. I serve on my school’s Building and District Leadership teams and as the 7-12 Mentor for 1st and 2nd year teachers in our school district. I tell you these facts not to boast, but to illustrate the fact that I am a trained professional who is dedicated to my field. I also want to note that I am not unique in this regard. I work with a school full of capable educators and I trust them with my children.

This bill shows the sponsors’ distrust of professional educators’ abilities to do the jobs for which we were hired under the guise of “accountability”. Parents have as much access to information about what their children are being taught as they desire. Many teachers, myself included, use social media to share what is happening in our classrooms because we are proud of the work we are doing with students and want parents to be part of that process. School districts often use platforms that allow parents to see assignments shared digitally with students, parents have access to assignments in gradebooks, and of course can speak with a teacher if they have questions about what is being taught. We do not need a piece of legislation for parents to know what is happening in their child’s school and we do not need to paint teachers as “bad guys”.

The legislature would also be wise to consider economic ramifications of this and other anti-public education bills. A friend from my hometown who is living in another state shared that she and her husband were considering moving back to Kansas to be closer to home but hearing about attacks on public education make them hesitant to relocate their growing family. When we show we care about public education, we make Kansas more attractive to families and businesses looking to relocate. Another factor to consider is what happens when more teachers leave the profession? Schools are vital to our communities, especially in rural areas and we need them operational!

Teachers want to teach. We want to feel supported or at the very least not attacked. Please make sure we are able to keep doing a good job for Kansas students.

Katie Morris

Holton, KS

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