Late last night, the Kansas legislature stripped Kansas teachers of all major job protections.
I suppose you could claim that it wasn't all bad; Kansas ultimately decided NOT to pay parents to home school. But all in all, it was still pretty bad.
It was a textbook example of how politics works these days (and also how it is covered; in Pennsylvania I followed the story in real time on twitter).
On Saturday, teachers who got word of the new attack (attached to a bill that Kansas needed to pass in order to settle the lawsuit they lost about underfunding rural schools) flocked to the capitol, and the legislators simply tried to wait them out. Late Saturday night it appeared that the bill had lost and that legislators couldn't outwait the teachers anymore. At 3 AM, they packed it in.
Except, they didn't. A 4 AM meeting allowed the GOP to regroup and catch their Sunday wind. Meanwhile, the Koch Brothers arrived in Topeka, set up camp in a senator's office, and started chatting with moderate GOP legislators Godfather style. The threat was simple-- you'll vote for this, or you'll be fighting a primary battle against a well-financed more conservative opponent from your own party. Meanwhile, teachers were hilariously posting "while you were out" messages on Governor "I'm For Education Just Not In Doing Anything About It" Brownback, who has yet to open his mouth usefully on this mess.
I would have given a limb yesterday just to fly John Roberts to Topeka so that he could see how rich guys with lots of money pervert and corrupt the political process. Thank you, Supreme Court.
So late last night, the Kansas House and Senate took important steps to "protect excellent teachers" in their state, and to give school administrators the power to fire whoever-the-hell they want.
Is this an ALEC job? At this point, I don't know, and I don't care. I do know this "protect excellent teachers" baloney is popping up everywhere. Students First is already bringing it to Pennsylvania. And of course many states are already there. So is this a fully coordinated effort, or just the current wave in reformy stuff? I don't know. But I do know two things--
One is that this can barely even pretend to be about school reform. Sure, it ploughs the road for cheaper charter operation, and now it will be easy to fast-food-ize staffing at schools. But those are side effects. This is just a direct face-on assault on the teaching profession, on slapping down those uppity teachers and putting them in their place.
The other is sad and chilling. I know that last Friday, Kansas teachers could go about their jobs knowing that even if they refused to teach creationsim, gave the wrong kid a bad grade, went to the wrong church, loved a person of the wrong gender, has the wrong hairstyle, stood up for the wrong kid, or pissed off the wrong administrator, they would still keep their job. This morning they are going to work with no such assurances.