A provision in the school funding bill passed by the Kansas State Legislature and praised by Governor Sam Brownback eliminates due process rights for teachers.

A provision in the school funding bill passed by the Kansas State Legislature and praised by Governor Sam Brownback eliminates due process rights for teachers.
The provision has drawn criticism from Kansas educators and groups that support education.
Due process for teachers requires that districts provide documents to show why a teacher is being fired and allows teachers a hearing to determine whether the firing was just.
It was given to Kansas teachers in 1957, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled it would protect teachers against being fired for political, religious or personal matters and encourage teacher growth.
Those who support eliminating due process for teachers say it will make it easier for districts to fire unqualified teachers. Opponents of the provision say it will hinder teachers’ ability to express their views and give fair grades.
“In the future, teachers can be fired for no reason,” said Mark Desetti, director of legal advocacy for the Kansas National Education Association. “A teacher who argues with an administrator about school services or gives a failing grade to a school board member’s grandson can get fired.”
While some see due process as a guarantee that teachers will have a job regardless of performance, Desetti said this is not the case. Teachers can still be fired as long as the district can provide a legitimate reason and take reasonable steps to help teachers improve.
“It means administrators have to do their job and document performance,” Desetti said.
Local educators were disappointed with the provision. Randy Watson, superintendent of McPherson School District, said though his district will continue to follow its current policies, some cases of unfair firing might occur.
“It’s not something we anticipated or desired, and we were disappointed they didn't pass a clean bill,” Watson said. “We hope if districts have struggling teachers, they’ll work with them. There may be incidents where that doesn’t happen, but we hope they’ll be isolated.”
Inge Esping, McPherson Education Association president, and Rebecca Pflughoeft, McPherson Education Association vice president, said they feel the provision is an attack on teachers.
“Under due process, bad teachers can be fired, but are allowed an independent hearing to ensure the firing was just,” Esping and Pflughoeft said. “While we feel very secure that the administration and BOE in McPherson have always and will continue to operate with a high moral integrity in regards to placing teachers on plans of improvement or releasing from duty, if needed, we don’t feel that every teacher in the state has that same sense of security.”
Becky Pringle, secretary-treasurer for the National Education Association, said the bill will harm students and teachers alike.
“Students are going to suffer when their best advocates are fearful that they can’t speak up for their right to a quality public education,” Pringle said. “House Bill 2506 is an anti-student and anti-teacher policy, which eliminates due process for Kansas teachers, funds private schools with public tax dollars and cuts funding for children who are struggling.”
Desetti said teachers need to be able to advocate for children without fear of losing their jobs.
“Teachers, after parents, are the strongest advocates for children,” Desetti said. “They advocate for children all day, and if that goes against an administrator, they can be fired.”