TOPEKA, Kan. -- Several hundred Kansas teachers were in Topeka already Saturday for their annual delegation meeting with the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA). In the midst of their regularly-scheduled events, they got wind of a major development in the legislature's school funding debate at the Capitol.
They say the development threatened teacher tenure and due process.
"We were getting minute by minute updates on how the bill was progressing," said Megin O'Brien, a fifth grade teacher from Hutchinson.
O'Brien says when she and the other teachers heard a school funding compromise included a provision to eliminate teacher tenure, in essence making it easier for teachers to be fired, the delegation changed its plans.
They decided to put their meeting on hold and do some lobbying instead.
"We felt at that time as a delegation it was important for us to be seen and heard so the representatives had a better idea of what our thoughts and feelings were," O'Brien said.
They went to the Capitol in their matching red shirts. Leaving only briefly Saturday afternoon for a rally in front of Topeka High School.
They soon returned to the Capitol were they made their presence felt.
"We are sitting right upstairs. When they come in from their recesses, we are right there in the back, all decked out in red," O'Brien said.
During a recess around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, O'Brien says the teachers lined the hallway to the chamber.
"We stood there as a united group and we cheered the (lawmakers) as they came out of their "house" and tried to thank them for their support hoping we can encourage them to help us out in return," O'Brien said.
The elimination of teacher tenure is one of several Conservative education reform provisions passed by the Senate. Others include a tax credit scholarship program and a tax reduction for private school parents.
Saturday afternoon, negotiators agreed to keep those provisions in place while accepting the House's more generous funding plan. It was an effort to reach a compromise that satisfied the order from the Kansas Supreme Court to narrow the funding gap between school districts.
That put an agreement in place that appeared headed for a vote early Saturday evening. But those at the Capitol say the vote had been delayed several times Saturday evening and there was no guarantee late Saturday night the agreement, as it was written, would garner the necessary votes in both the House and Senate.
Early Saturday, Senators agreed to jettison their fight against funding the Common Core to help pave the way to that compromise agreement.
O'Brien and the other teachers say they hope legislators will also give up their fight against teacher tenure and due process.
"Due process is one that they don't understand," a KNEA representative told KAKE sister station WIBW. "It's not getting rid of bad teachers, it's just protecting the rights of teachers if they get in that situation."
The teachers say they aren't leaving the Capitol until the final vote is done. The gallery was packed with teachers even as Midnight approached.
"We will be here as long as they will be here," O'Brien said. "As long as the session is open, we will be here."