Committee hears due process bill

The House Education Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on a bill that would partially restore due process rights to Kansas teachers. A move by committee members to advance a separate bill fully restoring those rights was rebuffed by Committee Chair Rep. Clay Aurand. 

KASB, KNEA, the American Federation of Teachers and the Kansas AFL-CIO opposed HB 2483, which would give due process rights, often called “tenure,” to teachers who had worked for three or more years in a school district in 2014 and have been continuously employed in the same school district since then. Teachers hired since 2014 would not have the right under state law to a due process hearing to contest dismissal from their jobs. 

For many years prior to 2014, Kansas teachers who had passed a three-year probationary period were granted by state statute the right to a due process hearing and an appeal to an independent hearing officer upon dismissal. The law was repealed in 2014 through a floor amendment to a school finance bill.  

Many Kansas school boards restored some manner of due process right to their teacher employees in their negotiated agreements; teacher advocates and legislators, however, have worked since then to put due process protections back into state law. 

Committee chairman and bill sponsor Aurand, R-Belleville, was the measure’s sole proponent. Aurand said he was hoping to find middle ground on the contentious issue. 

In KASB’s testimony, Associate Executive Director for Advocacy and Communications Mark Tallman said KASB believes the final decision on teacher due process procedures should be made by the local board, subject to constitutional protections. “We believe the board’s decision should be given deference UNLESS the teacher demonstrates the board has acted inappropriately, such as violating constitutional rights,” Tallman testified. That position was reinforced last fall by KASB members over the course of 10 regional meetings across the state. 

In 2017, the Kansas House passed HB 2179, which restored the pre-2014 teacher due process procedures to state law. The bill did not see action in the Senate but is still viable in 2018. 

Following testimony on Tuesday, Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village, moved that the committee consider HB 2179 at its next meeting. His motion was seconded by Rep. Steve Crum, D-Haysville, a public school teacher. Aurand exercised his prerogative as committee chair to rule that motion out of order, saying he wanted members to find a compromise between school boards and teacher unions. 

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