By Victor Skinner

TOPEKA, Kan. – A task force studying public education in Kansas is expected to recommend a review of collective bargaining laws and how they impact the ability of administrators to manage schools.

“Several members of the Task Force indicated superintendents believe teacher-negotiated agreements limit management flexibility,” according to a Kansas Association of School Boards email newsletter.

The School Efficiency Task Force, an initiative of Gov. Sam Brownback, is expected to deliver its recommendations to the governor soon, and members have declined to discuss the details until they do, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

A Brownback spokeswoman, however, confirmed the task force will recommend a review of the Kansas Professional Negotiations Act.

The move comes after the KASB laid out its legislative agenda calling for a limited revision of Kansas’ collective bargaining law to eliminate teacher evaluations as a subject of negotiations. The change would give school officials the authority to devise evaluations with some teeth using student growth as a determining factor.

EAGnews has repeatedly argued that allowing teachers unions to negotiate the terms of evaluations for their members makes little sense, and essentially creates an opportunity for union officials to water down accountability measures.

Currently the vast majority of teachers – more than 97 percent in some states – are rated effective or highly effective each year due to evaluation systems that rely too heavily on pre-planned classroom visits. Teachers have weeks to polish lesson plans, pick out their best outfits and prepare for the big day, so we’re not surprised most are given a thumbs up.

We believe by utilizing student test scores and other important factors, administrators can develop a much better picture of how each teacher is performing.

Public schools should be focused on educating students. It seems like common sense that student achievement should play into employment decisions.

But common sense is something that’s often lost in the collective bargaining process, and we commend Brownback’s task force for acknowledging that fact.

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