Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Teachers' Bid to Roll Back Attack on Teacher Tenure in Kansas Fails, But the Overall Resistance Remains Strong

In 2014, the Kansas legislature significantly changed teachers' due process and tenure rights.  The new law "amended the Teacher Due Process Act, K.S.A. 72–5436 et seq., to remove many elementary and secondary public school teachers from long-standing statutory protections regarding the termination or nonrenewal of their annual employment contracts."  Of particular note was the elimination of notice to teachers of how they might improve any teaching deficiencies and an opportunity to actually do so.

Rather than directly challenge the substance of the new law, teachers argued that it violated a constitutional rule in the state that prohibits legislation from addressing more than one subject.  The bill stripping teachers of rights was also an appropriations bill.  Thus, teachers argued it violated the one subject rule.  The Kansas Supreme Court disagreed, reasoning that the appropriations related to education as well and, thus, did not violate the one subject rule. Kansas Nat'l Educ. Ass'n v. State, No. 114,135, 2017 WL 242658 (Kan. Jan. 20, 2017):

[The teachers' union] decries the adverse impact it alleges results to its members and public education in general by H.B. 2506's tampering with the Teacher Due Process Act. But the wisdom of the public policy choices reflected in any individual part of a bill is irrelevant to whether the legislation as a whole contains more than one subject. In this instance, H.B. 2506 does not “ ‘embrace[ ] two or more dissimilar and discordant subjects that cannot reasonably be considered as having any legitimate connection with or relationship to each other.’ 

Of course, several other states have attempted to undermine teacher rights and tenure in recent years.  Teachers efforts to resist those changes through litigation have been relatively successful.  See New Jersey, North Carolina.  Courts have also finally begun to turn against those lawsuits that have argued that teacher rights and tenure deprive students of their constitutional right to education. See Minnesota, California.  For more on the overall attack on teacher rights and its fundamental flaws, see here.

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