Schools explain teacher 'tenure'

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- Many Kansas teachers are criticizing the bill passed late Sunday that equalizes state aid to public schools.

That's because the bill also eliminates due process -- which some say amounts to tenure -- for Kansas public school teachers.

State lawmakers who supported tacking the policy change onto the school funding bill said it will ensure there are not any bad teachers in Kansas classrooms. Opponents say districts already can get rid of sub-standard teachers.

"Nobody wants underperforming teachers in the classroom," said Diane Gjersted, government relations director for Wichita Public Schools.

Gjersted said due process establishes a protocol for terminating veteran teachers.

"What due process has been in Kansas is a systematic way a veteran teacher would be dealt with if they had some employment issues," she said.

The way it has worked is a teacher who has been with a district for more than three years has to receive notice explaining why he or she is being fired. That teacher also has a right to challenge the decision and ask for a hearing.

The Kansas National Education Association said many students spend more time with teachers than with any other adult and, in a statement, said the bill "effectively seeks to silence those teachers and opens the classroom door to people without background or training on how to do what our teachers know best."

KNEA said its legal counsel is reviewing the language in the bill. Some believe local school districts will still be able to grant educators due process.

Gjersted said she had not yet seen a printed version of the legislation by Monday afternoon. That's just one issue she has with this weekend's action.

"There was not an opportunity for hearing, there was not an opportunity for input, there was not an opportunity to dialogue and discuss, 'What does this mean?' 'What did you want it to mean?' 'Does this do what you think it does?'" she said.

The bill has gone to Governor Sam Brownback for his signature. He has not commented on the policy changes added to the finance bill, but he released a statement shortly after its passage praising lawmakers for meeting last month's Kansas Supreme Court requirement to equalize school funding.

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