Hundreds of teachers show up at Statehouse to protest plan to repeal teacher tenure

? Hundreds of teachers gathered Saturday in the Statehouse to let legislators know they opposed a proposal to repeal tenure for teachers as part of a new school finance plan.

Ginny Williamson, of Lawrence, who is an autism specialist with the Olathe school district, said reducing job protections for teachers wasn’t fair.

“If you are an older teacher and possibly have a higher salary, you could be replaced with a younger teacher who doesn’t have as high a salary,” Williamson said.

David Petersen, a special education instructor with the Humboldt school district, was upset with the Legislature’s proposal.

“I’m very frustrated that the members of the House and Senate think they can take away rights from us. No one is coming after their rights as a citizen. That’s not what we do to people,” he said.

Legislators were considering a $129 million school finance plan in the wake of a Kansas Supreme Court order that the state has failed to provide enough funding to poor districts.

Included in the plan was a Senate Republican leadership proposal to repeal the teacher tenure law, which gives teachers with three or more years in a district the right to administrative due process hearings before they can be fired or non-renewed for the following year.

Several blocks from the Statehouse, the Kansas National Education Association was holding its annual state representative meeting. When those at the meeting heard about the legislative proposal, they walked to the Statehouse to talk with legislators and urge them to reject the measure.

Laura Caillouet-Weiner, a second-grade teacher from Iola, said it was “deplorable” that some legislators were trying to tie the tenure issue to more funding for schools.

Claudean McKellips, a special education teacher at Lawrence High School, said, “If teachers feel like they are supported, we can turn around and support our kids better.”

David Kirkbride, a KNEA official from Wichita, said before teachers had due process protections, they were fired for unfair reasons. He said a friend of his was fired when a school board member disagreed with the grade his friend had given the board member’s daughter.

“A lot of shenanigans happened before,” due process, he said.

Petersen, the Humboldt instructor, said school administrators already have the necessary authority to get rid of teachers who are not doing a good job.