In my first column, I warned that morale was going to get worse as long as teachers were disrespected (“Teachers Are Potted Palms in School Reform,” Feb. 16, 2010). The news out of Kansas confirms my bleak prediction (“Kansas Underfunded Education And Cut Tenure. Now It Can’t Find Enough Teachers To Fill Classrooms,” The Huffington Post, Jul. 31).
In the wake of low salaries, lack of job protection and funding cutbacks, schools throughout the state have hundreds of teaching positions that are vacant just a few weeks before the new fall semester begins. The state department of education reported that 2,326 teachers retired after the 2014-15 school year, compared with 1,260 in the 2011-12 school year. Last year, 654 teachers opted to leave Kansas, compared with 399 for the same period.
I don’t know why anyone would want to teach in Kansas when the governor and the legislature clearly do not appreciate them. Teaching has never been harder than it is today. That goes for all states because of the accountability movement. But Kansas seems to take special pride in kicking teachers when they are down under the guise of raising educational quality. I call that outright bullying. What teachers need is better understanding of the work they do. Instead, all they receive is a litany of complaints.
I expect to see matters getting worse as pressure builds for ever higher test scores. I hope I’m wrong, but the evidence continues to mount, making teaching a career only for missionaries or masochists.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.