Kansas Union Sues to Get Teacher Tenure Back

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(atlasnetwork.org)

The Kansas teachers union is expected to sue the state over elements of a recently passed education funding bill, although union officials said they’re not yet sure what the lawsuit will entail.

Essentially, officials with the Kansas National Education Association held a press conference this week to inform the media of an upcoming lawsuit centered on an education bill designed to fix funding inequalities between districts the Kansas Supreme Court previously determined illegal, the Hays Daily News reports.

“There are a number of pieces in there which we think are harmful to kids, to teachers, to educators generally,” union attorney David Schauner said, according to the news site. “And we haven’t come to a final decision about how broad our complaint will be.”

Kansas union officials are reportedly conspiring with legal experts at the National Education Association, the KNEA’s parent organization, to draft the lawsuit, which they plan to file in Shawnee County District Court later this month.

State lawmakers recently approved an education bill that will increase education funding to comply with the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on inequity between poor and more affluent school districts. But lawmakers also attached reforms to the bill that eliminate mandatory hearings necessary to terminate a teacher, and changed the teacher licensing process to make it easier for professionals to transition into teaching, according to the Daily News.

Another provision in the bill would allow corporations to receive tax incentives for donating money toward private school scholarships for students.

All of the “extra” provisions in the bill beyond the funding increase are items teachers unions traditionally oppose, and all could be potential targets for union litigation, although it seems the KNEA is focused on how the bill was amended and approved.

“We would have filed already, but we want to be very careful about what we file,” Schauner said. “We don’t want to overreach, and at the same time, we want to be certain that the process, the legislative process, was properly followed. And we don’t think it was.”

Union bosses believe state House lawmakers may have violated the state’s open-meetings laws by amending the bill without informing the Senate.

Gov. Sam Brownback and others defended the legislation, and called the union out on its self-serving lawsuit. It’s interesting that the KNEA, which constantly harps about increasing education funding, will soon file a lawsuit against a bill that does exactly that, simply because they find other reforms in the legislation undesirable.

“We are not going to speculate on what may or may not be included in any lawsuit KNEA may choose to file in the future. The education bill provided $129 million in funding to classrooms and for property tax relief, it provided additional pay for ‘master teachers,’ and it returned local control to schools,” Brownback said in a prepared statement, according to the Daily News.

“This is a good bill that benefits Kansas children. I hope KNEA will take no action that threatens funding for our schools and the welfare of our students,” he said.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle said the bill is clearly designed to benefit students, but “with the filing of this lawsuit, it is apparent that the KNEA is more concerned about its members than student achievement and outcomes.”

“A panel of three judges will meet in Topeka (today) to review whether the bill, signed into law by Brownback, meets the Supreme Court’s order for more equitable funding among districts,” the Daily News reports.

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