A Kansas bill eliminating the due-process rights of K-12 teachers is headed to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk.
The Republican-led state Legislature narrowly approved the controversial measure on April 6 after a marathon weekend of debate. Conservative lawmakers pushed the move after a state Supreme Court ruling forced them to provide more funding to poor school districts.
The bill redefines the term “teacher” to exclude K-12 educators, thereby eliminating tenure for them while leaving it intact for college instructors and others.
The Kansas National Education Association has vowed to sue school districts that move to fire teachers without just cause. Previously, Kansas teachers with tenure had to be told in writing why they were being fired and had the right to request a review of the decision.
Mark Desetti, the union’s legislative director, described the chilling effect the change will have on educators’ advocacy for their students.
“My job as a teacher is to fight for my students, to fight for their education, and sometimes that means that I have to tell my principal or another administrator, ‘You’re wrong,’” Desetti said. “What allows us to do that is the knowledge that we can’t just be fired.”
Kansas’ teachers have had the right to due process since 1957, when the state Supreme Court established it “to protect competent and worthy instructors and other members of the teaching profession against unjust dismissal of any kind.”
The Wichita Eagle, April 6, 7