Teacher unions under fire in Kansas

SHAWNEE, Kan. - A bill in the Kansas legislature could impact every student in the state.

Teachers unions are under fire as Kansas lawmakers try to increase school efficiency.

They're now up in arms across the state, calling the legislation a direct attack on teachers.

Governor Sam Brownback wants to make schools more efficient by eliminating the bargaining power of the unions.

The latest plan would eliminate the number of items that can be negotiated in teachers' contracts, which would give school superintendents the upper hand in negotiating health benefits, teacher performance evaluations and the number of teaching periods during a day.

Patricia Hodison, who represents teachers in Kansas City, Kansas through the National Education Association, says it boils down to this: If you want the best teachers, you have to make attractive offers. She says collective bargaining helps schools recruit the best teachers in the country to come to Kansas.

"These teachers are looking for some place where they have autonomy, where they have a voice so they can make a difference with kids. If you take away their voice and they're just eight-hour employees, you lose the best and brightest and our students miss out because of that," she said. "It's not about good teaching, it's not about education or even Kansas kids. It's all political."

Lawmakers in support of these changes say unions drive up the cost of education and protect poorly performing teachers from being fired.

While both sides say their plan is more in favor of students, several national studies have been unable to prove whether collective bargaining hurts or helps education.

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