Topeka The Kansas State Board of Education will officially receive a draft regulation this week that would eventually lead to all teachers having to submit fingerprint cards and undergo criminal background checks as a condition of renewing their licenses.
It's one of the first steps in a lengthy process that state agencies in Kansas go through when they enact new regulations, but the idea of requiring all teachers to undergo such checks is one that has already stirred controversy in the education community.
Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll told the state board last month that the proposal is already hurting morale among teachers, who view it as a personal affront.
But state board members have grown increasingly concerned about the relatively rare, but high-profile cases of teachers who've been convicted of serious offenses, including having illegal sexual relationships with their students.
They also have expressed concern that the Department of Education, which they oversee, never hears about other cases of criminal misconduct by teachers because local prosecutors, and sometimes local school districts themselves, fail to report them to the department.
Since 2002, Kansas has required all new teachers to submit fingerprint cards to the state and undergo background checks as a condition of receiving their initial licenses. But Department of Education officials estimate as many as 35,000 practicing teachers who began working before that time have never submitted fingerprint cards to the state.
And while many local school districts, including Lawrence, require fingerprints as part of their own hiring practices, officials say they are legally barred from getting access to those records because the information can only be released to the entity that requested the fingerprints in the first place.
The state board will meet Tuesday and Wednesday this week in Topeka.
Also during the two-day meeting the state board will hear an update from Kansas University's Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation about the development of new math and English language arts assessments.
In December, the board voted to contract with CETE to develop new tests, which will be aligned to the new Common Core standards in those subjects, rather than adopting tests being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of more than 20 states that have adopted similar standards.
Since then, the state of Alaska, which has adopted new standards similar to the Common Core, also agreed to contract with CETE. That contract, for $25 million over five years, is reportedly the largest outside contract ever secured by KU.
In other business, the state board will:
• Recognize the 2014 Kansas Teacher of the Year team.
• Hear a presentation from the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education.
• Receive an update on the status of developing a new model for accrediting school districts, instead of individual schools.
• Hear recommendations for changes in teacher licensing requirements for career and technical education teachers.
• And receive an update on the status of the state's federal waiver from the No Child Left Behind law.