Topeka — The Kansas State Board of Education is ready to move forward on new rules to require all teachers and school administrators to be fingerprinted, despite objections from teachers unions.
Since 2002, all new educators have had to submit fingerprints and undergo background checks as a condition of receiving their initial licenses. The proposed change would extend that requirement to the estimated 35,000 educators who were licensed before that rule took effect.
Officials from the Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, spoke against the proposal, saying among other things that it would impose a $50 cost on teachers. That includes a $35 fee charged by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, plus a $15 fee to enroll in the FBI's “rapback” program.
That program checks the person's fingerprints against a national database of criminal records. It can also alert the state of any subsequent arrests or convictions.
State board members said they saw no problem with requiring fingerprints and background checks for all teachers and administrators.
“Most large companies are now requiring employees to be fingerprinted,” said Sally Cauble, a Republican from Dodge City. “Times change. We do have some accountability for safety.”
Some board members suggested that university schools of education should require their students to submit fingerprint cards to the department before they graduate if they plan to teach in Kansas.
Scott Gordon, assistant general counsel in the state Department of Education, said he has been encouraging education schools to do just that for about the last 18 months.
The discussion Wednesday amounted to a kind of “first reading” of the proposed regulation. The board is expected to vote next month to begin the process of formally enacting the change. That includes publishing a notice of the proposed change in the Kansas Register, scheduling a public hearing, submitting the change for review by the Kansas Attorney General's office, and then voting on final adoption of the change – a process Gordon said normally takes about six months.
Meanwhile, Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation that would go even further by not only requiring all educators to undergo criminal background checks, but also authorizing school districts to require them to submit to random drug screening if probable cause exists to suspect them of illegal drug use.
The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on that bill Monday, but has not yet voted on whether to advance it to the full Senate.