House Committee rejects second teacher due process bill

The House Education Committee on Monday rejected an attempt by committee chairman Rep. Clay Aurand to pass out a “clean” teacher due process bill, preferring instead to support a previously-passed measure.  

The committee on Feb. 12 accepted a motion by Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, to amend the language of HB 2179 of 2017 into HB 2578, an anti-bullying bill, and forward the amended HB 2578 to the full House for a vote. On Feb. 14, committee member Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, attempted to insert the anti-bullying text from HB 2578 into a previously unheard bill in order to get a “clean,” or stand-alone, anti-bullying measure. After several minutes of debate that included a discussion of the merits of separate, clean due process and anti-bullying bills, Aurand adjourned the Feb. 14 hearing without acting on Dove’s motion. 

Aurand referenced the Feb. 14 debate on Monday when he convened the committee’s daily meeting, stating that he wanted to try to get a compromise measure on teacher due process approved and pass out a stand-alone anti-bullying bill.  

Aurand offered an amendment to HB 2483 (a teacher due process bill heard earlier this year) that would have divided teacher due process rights into two categories.  

In the first category, teachers who had due process rights (3-plus years of service in the same school district) as of July 1, 2014 would have the right to a due process hearing in which an independent hearing officer would have the final decision subject to appeal to the district court by either party. 

In the second category, teachers who weren’t in the first group would have a due process hearing with an independent officer but the local board of education would have the final say unless it could be proved the board’s action was arbitrary, capricious or fraudulent.  

Aurand’s amendment appeared to be an attempt to fashion a compromise between KASB’s policy position that local boards should have the final say over teacher due process proceedings (subject to constitutional protections) and the Kansas NEA’s position that the independent hearing officer should be the final arbiter. 

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 The law was repealed in 2014 through a floor amendment to a school finance bill.  

Some 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. HB 2179, which was approved by the committee and passed by the House in 2017, restored the provisions of the previous due process law. The bill saw no action in the Kansas Senate in 2017 but is still viable this year. 

Education Committee members on Monday mostly disagreed with Aurand’s effort to advance his amendment, which they criticized for setting up two classes of teacher due process and for offering teachers a lesser standard of protection than that in the HB 2578/HB 2179 bill approved on Feb. 12. Aurand countered that the HB 2179 language, if approved again by the House in 2018, is unlikely to be approved by the Senate or by Gov. Jeff Colyer. Committee members were mostly unmoved by Aurand’s position and declined to adopt his amendment. 

Upon defeat of the teacher due process amendment, Aurand closed the meeting without acting on a separate anti-bullying bill.  

 

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