November 17, 2017

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No More Due Process for Kansas Teachers?

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Supporters of public education gather at Topeka High School on April 5, 2014 to partake in the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) ‘Raise Your Hand Kansas!’ rally. Photograph by Marcus Baltzell

The Kansas state legislature narrowly passed House Bill 2506 this past Sunday (April 6), a school finance bill allowing teachers to be terminated without due process. (Note: Teachers in higher education remain unaffected by this bill.) The passage of the bill follows the passage of an amendment on April 3 to cease state spending to implement Common Core adopted by the Kansas Board of Education in 2010.

Proceeding and following the bill’s passage, the response of teachers and education activists broke out over the Twittersphere with the hashtags #ksleg and #ksed. New York University professor and education policy analyst Diane Ravitch tweeted the news:

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The Moderate Party of Kansas has begun to circulate an online petition to restore due process for teachers.

According to the April 6 Kansas City Star, the school finance reforms would:The bill was in response to the the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling in March 2014 ordering the state to address the funding discrepancies between the rich and poor schools by July 2014—or face having the judiciary branch intervene with legislation. The just-passed school finance reforms have been lobbied by far-right conservatives such as Americans for Prosperity (funded by the Koch brothers) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and tied to a series of reforms aimed at closing the spending gap between rich and poor schools by allowing the privatization of public schools and their funding amongst other changes.

  • Foster school choice by allowing corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to scholarship funds so children with special needs or who come from low-income households could attend private school.
  • Make it easier to fire teachers by eliminating their due-process rights.
  • Relax teacher licensing when hiring instructors with professional experience in areas including math, science, finance and technical education.

The bill has been passed to Governor Sam Brownback to sign—but, he has yet to do so. The Republican governor seeks a second term, and while the Kansas state legislature is in a firm Republican grip, the powerful Kansas National Education Association—Kansas’ largest teacher’s union—issued a strong message the day after the bill’s passage on April 7 as reported by the New York Times:

“We expect you, Governor Brownback, to VETO this bill as it diminishes teachers’ ability to advocate for their students without fear of retribution.”

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Teachers protesting at the Kansas State Capitol.
Photograph by Marcus Baltzell.

Over this past weekend, hundreds of teachers in red t-shirts protested at the Capitol’s statehouse. While Governor Brownback has yet to sign the bill, he has issued a formal statement regarding the bill on the Kansas Office of the Governor website on April 6  indicating his support of the bill that reads:

“The school finance bill passed by the Kansas legislature today fully complies with, and indeed exceeds, the requirements of the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling for funding schools and providing equity. House Bill 2506 increases funding to Kansas schools by $73 million and includes $78 million of property tax relief. The bill ensures that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently, putting money in the classrooms to help teachers teach and students learn. I appreciate the efforts of the legislature…”

Both Kansas teachers—and the entire nation—wait to see how Governor Brownback will ultimately weigh in.

Carolyn Sun About Carolyn Sun

Carolyn Sun was a news editor at School Library Journal. Find her on Twitter @CarolynSSun.

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