John Richard Schrock
By JOHN RICHARD SCHROCK
Four hundred and twenty-nine House and 267 Senate bills have been tabled in Topeka. After the committees take their final actions on Monday and Tuesday, both houses will debate those approved by their committees. “Turnaround Day” is February 24 when the bills in one house are passed to the other house. However, some bills can be passed through exempt committees, so some issues can come back to life through that route.
Teachers in general can cross their fingers that HB2163 and SB145 survive as they would restore “due process” that was taken away over a decade ago. Students pursuing teacher programs at universities across Kansas decreased by half when they lost this “tenure.” Despite having solid probationary teaching experience, they could be fired without cause at any time. This could slow the decline in enrollment in taught programs.
HB2224 would increase school days from 186 to 195 days or equivalent. This could make up for some of the learning loss that has occurred over the past three years.
SB231 provides a benefit that could help recruit qualified public school teachers from out of state by providing an out-of-state college tuition waiver for their children.
But several bills compete for the prize most harmful to education. SB66 calls for Kansas to join pact for interstate teacher mobility and allow undertrained teachers, especially weak “science teachers” from neighboring states, with barely a quarter of science education required in Kansas, to be fully licensed and fully paid with no obligation to make up for their shortfalls. While there will likely be few such teachers from states already loaded with vacancies, this burden on qualified teachers next door will likely encourage many of our best to leave the classroom.
In 1986, Kansas was only the second state to mandate sex education in response to the AIDS crisis at the time. Most other states followed. This included a compulsory week of sex education in elementary school and more in high school, with the KSDE inspecting schools to make sure this happened. But faced with nationwide pushback, the promotion of abstinence-only sex education, and national science associations looking the other way, most requirements for sex education programs ended early, including in Kansas in 2005. .
If a solid sex education had been provided in biology over the last four decades, it is possible that there would be a significant population who would understand that chromosomes include not only XX and XY, but also XXY, XXX, XO, etc. – That they all produce testosterone in the adrenal glands and estrogen in adipose tissue. -That sexual anatomy varies and is sometimes ambiguous. -That sometimes these three factors are not all aligned. -And that the sensation of “gender” is determined before birth, is not learned, and may not even align with the other three factors. This understanding is missing from many invoices. Indeed, SB180 attempts to define biological sex with simplistic criteria.
In total disdain for Kansans who voted against the amendment removing abortion protection from the state constitution by nearly 60%, HB2181 would criminalize abortion. Similarly, SB175 makes it a crime to destroy a fertilized embryo, despite the fact that up to half of natural embryos die before implanting, usually due to defects.
We don’t give patients oversight of hospitals, but different bills would in various ways give parents oversight of school content. HB2236 gives a parent the right to direct their children’s education.
Medicine and law are professions that have jurisdiction over the professional conduct of their members. But SB12 is a total abolition of the medical practices necessary to align a trans child’s hormones and/or anatomy with his or her brain, a blatant usurpation of professional responsibility. Unfortunately SB233 goes further to allow for a civil lawsuit to be initiated against any surgeon who performs gender reassignment; this essentially condemns the transsexual child to be trapped in an unwanted body until adulthood.
Lawmakers aren’t pharmacists, but SB173 mandates that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine tablets be made available over-the-counter.
Of all the bills, SB188 is by far the most egregious, removing an affirmative defense for public, private and parochial schools from obscenity. This would effectively silence all sex education and perhaps even prevent most of the concepts in this column from being disseminated.
Perhaps if Kansas hadn’t dropped sex education in 2005, there might have been more younger lawmakers who could have understood these issues and avoided this lack of clarity.
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John Richard Schrock has trained biology teachers for more than 30 years in Kansas. He has also lectured at 27 universities during 20 trips to China. He holds the honor of “Faculty Emeritus” at Emporia State University.