Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2001

Letters to the Editor

November 1, 2001

I want to let people know how much I enjoy the flag flying at the Eudora Elevator.

I also want people to know I think the county did a nice job mowing the roadsides this year and fixing Main Street. They do a good job patching the roads.

Pete Lawson,

Eudora

The week of Oct. 28 to Nov. 3 is the nationally recognized Campus Equity Week, which focuses attention on issues of fairness and equality of education. It falls at an awkward time for the University of Kansas administration, because the negotiations for a new contract between KU and graduate teachers have extended into a second year.

The negotiations process involves KU administrators and their legal team meeting to exchange counter-proposals with the Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition (GTAC).

GTAC is the union representing all GTAs and is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Kansas Association of Public Employees (KAPE).

Undergraduate education is greatly affected by GTAs, who teach around one-third of undergraduate courses. But despite their valuable and essential labors, GTAs are not fairly compensated by KU.

Working conditions for KU's graduate teachers remain sub-par when contrasted to institutions with which KU compares itself. For example, the minimum salary at the University of Iowa is $14,130. At the University of Michigan, GTAs' minimum salary is $12,560.

KU doesn't even have a minimum salary. Pay varies widely. According to KU, the average GTA pay is above $9,000. And graduate teachers in some departments receive only $8,400 for the school year. The university administration needs to allocate enough funds so that all GTAs earn closer to a living wage. That also helps recruit and retain the best graduate teachers.

If KU wants to be a top-ranked university, it needs to fund education adequately and to treat its employees better. Then perhaps in future years, Campus Equity Week will be more of an occasion for celebration.

Amy Cummins,

Lawrence

GTAC President and a graduate teacher in the University of Kansas Department of English.

A high school basketball coach was having a challenge with one of his players who continually went to the wrong spot during a practice drill. After several failed attempts, the coach stopped the practice and said, "Son, what is your problem? Is it a lack of understanding, or apathy? After a moment of thought, the player replied, "Coach, I don't know and I don't care."

I hope neither a lack of understanding or apathy in Eudora Unified School District No. 491 decides the proposed bond issue for school improvements on November 6th. Please take the time to get the facts and please plan to vote on this important question for the future of your school district.

Some would imply that buildings are not that important for education and that the real key is the teachers and programs within the structures. Why would any school, or other business for that matter, ever expand or improve a facility if the environment doesn't make a difference in the final product? The best example I can offer is that I worked with Hutchinson schools several years ago when the district built a new elementary school to replace a 60-year-old building. The students in the outdated facility had tested at a 60-percentile level. After moving to the new facility, the same test group of students reached the 80-percent level in basic tests. This represents a 33-percent increase in productivity. Either the new, brighter, efficient environment motivated the students or teachers became more motivated and productive, but the results speak for themselves. Environment does make a difference. We only have our young people for a very few years to prepare them for a very competitive and changing society.

As the financial advisor for the proposed bond issue, I have worked on many school bond issues in my 25-plus years in the municipal bond industry. I have had the opportunity to help more than 90 school districts that have approved capital improvement programs throughout the state of Kansas in recent years. It gives me great pride and satisfaction to revisit many of those communities after completion of these projects that have an impact on both children and communities. I can say with confidence that I have never revisited a community after a school bond issue and been told that the effort was a mistake. In reality, more often than not, the feedback I receive is that they wish they would have done more.

Please consider communicating with your teachers and ask them about the frustrations of trying to teach with outdated mechanical and electrical systems and in classrooms and libraries that are inadequate in size for the district's growing enrollment and for the use today's technology.

The Nov. 6 bond issue is an investment in your children, your community and the future. Any worthwhile investment comes with a cost. The timing to make this investment may never be more affordable with attractively low interest rates and a state aid program that offers to pay 35 percent of both the principal and interest cost.

On Nov. 6, please vote your conscience, but please don't say "I don't know and I don't care."

Steve Shogren

Ranson & Associates, Inc.

Financial Advisor to USD 491

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