House advances bill restoring teacher due process procedures

The Kansas House on Wednesday gave preliminary approval on a 72-48 vote to restore teacher due process protections that had been repealed in 2014. A final House vote on HB 2757 is scheduled for Thursday. 

The legislation would give Kansas teachers who work three-plus years in the same school district the right to a due process hearing before an independent hearing officer. 

That process was repealed by conservative Republicans as part of a school finance funding debate in 2014. Since then, moderate Republicans, Democrats and teachers’ unions have sought to reinstate the law.   

During a two-hour debate, supporters of the bill said it was needed to give teachers job protections, which would allow teachers to better advocate on behalf of students and other teachers. They also said it would help in recruiting and retaining teachers, show respect for the teaching profession and right a wrong when legislators three years ago without warning took due process away. 

Opponents of the bill, said local school districts should be free to make the decision on whether to offer due process procedures. They also said the former due process procedures made it difficult for districts to terminate the contracts of ineffective teachers. 

Two amendments were offered by opponents of the bill and were rejected. 

State Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, moved to extend due process procedures to all public sector employees. But supporters of HB 2757 said the amendment was designed to undermine the entire bill. The amendment failed, 38-82. 

State Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, offered an amendment that would have restored due process procedures to teachers who had it prior to 2014. For teachers after that, they would have some process but not full due process procedures. Aurand described his amendment as a compromise, saying he doubted the underlying bill would be considered by the Senate. The amendment was rejected on a voice vote. 

KASB’s position is that the final decision on teacher due process procedures should be made by the local board, subject to constitutional protections.  

In testimony on Jan. 24 on a similar bill, KASB Associate Executive Director for Advocacy Mark Tallman said, “the strong consensus was that our members believe local boards, who are the employers and managers of the school system and are responsible for student achievement and management of district funds, should make the decision on removing teachers. We also support an appeal or recourse if boards make decisions that are arbitrary or capricious. However, we do not believe the previous system was the best way to achieve those two goals.” 

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