Teacher due process bill revived in Kansas House

? A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Kansas House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would reinstate due process rights for K-12 public school teachers, despite the fact that the chairman of the Education Committee had refused to bring that bill to the floor.

By a vote of 66-59, the House agreed Tuesday to add the language of that bill onto a seemingly unrelated bill updating an obscure statute known as the Uniform Arbitration Act.

The bill had been bottled up in the House Education Committee, where Chairman Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, had refused to bring it up for a vote. That threatened to kill the bill for the session because Thursday is the deadline for most bills to pass out of the chamber where they originated.

The law establishing due process rights, also known as “tenure” rights, had been on the books in Kansas since the 1950s. In short, it said that in most cases, teachers who had passed their three-year probationary period with a district were entitled to a due process hearing with an independent hearing officer before they could be summarily fired or not renewed for the following year.

Conservatives had argued for years that the law was an example of what they viewed as the oversized power of teachers unions, and they argued that the law made it nearly impossible for school boards to fire substandard teachers.

They were finally able to repeal it in 2014, when, during a late-night session that extended into the early hours of the following morning, it was inserted into a school finance bill that was meant to respond to a Supreme Court decision earlier that year.

The House voted to advance the bill to final action, which is scheduled for Wednesday.