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Teachers rally for education support

4/24/2014

BY JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

The red-shirted group of education advocates that gathered Wednesday at Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History and Sheridan Hall had a point to make to Gov. Sam Brownback.

They don't like the school funding bill he signed earlier this week.

Brownback was in Hays for a ceremonial signing of a bill declaring the state's official fossils, and to meet with FHSU officials and have a news conference about the education bill.

Virginia Korobka and Ginny Hoerneke, both retired USD 489 teachers, came to Sternberg to support their working colleagues who might not be able to attend the mid-afternoon gathering.

"We worked hard to get tenure and due process," said Korobka, who retired after teaching for 33 years.

Opponents of the policy have tried to take it away before but weren't successful.

"They slipped it in," Korobka said of the policy change in the school finance bill that eliminates teacher tenure.

"We're here in support of public education," said Kim Schneweis, Hays-NEA president.

Later in the afternoon, more than twice as many teachers and others gathered around the fountain in front of Sheridan Hall waiting for the governor.

"We wanted a clean education bill, and we don't think we got one," said Christie Sander, a Victoria teacher.

It was Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer who arrived at FHSU and spoke in support of the school finance bill and higher education funding.

Brownback cut his Hays trip short because of the threat of severe weather, FHSU president Edward Hammond said.

"The funding profile that came out, I think, is a tremendous opportunity for the state," Colyer said.

FHSU will get money for salaries, expanding the engineering program and summer KAMS program.

Referring to K-12 education, Colyer said the senate brought up the policy issues on strengthening teachers and improving students' classroom experience.

The first was a change in licensing that addresses teacher shortages, especially in science classrooms.

The tenure policy in the bill "removes the tenure portion for teachers as a requirement of state law. What that does is that allows local school boards to decide a policy," he said.

Mark Desetti, KNEA director of legislative advocacy, delivered a different message to those rallying outside the building.

He encouraged them to vote in the next election and "remember in November."

The school finance bill is "bad for public schools," Desetti said. "This is not over. We lost by one vote. Let's win this for Kansas kids."