Kansas Supreme Court upholds repeal of teacher tenure rights

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas Supreme Court Justices take their seats to hear oral arguments in this file photo from Dec. 10, 2015.

TOPEKA — The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that state lawmakers did not violate the constitutional rights of public school teachers in 2014 when they repealed a law giving veteran teachers what are commonly known as tenure rights.

Prior to 2014, under a statute dating back to the 1950s, teachers with at least three years of experience in a district were considered tenured, meaning their contracts were automatically renewed for the following year unless the district gave written notice setting out the reasons for firing or nonrenewal and notifying the teacher of his or her right to a due process hearing.

Lawmakers repealed that statute as part of a school finance bill passed in the 2014 session. The tenure repeal was inserted into the bill as a floor amendment in the Senate, even though the issue had not been the subject of any committee hearings or public comment.

Two teachers from the Flint Hills school district in Butler County, Sallie A. Scribner and Mark E. McNemee, filed suit after they were notified in 2015 that they would not be renewed for the following year. The notices gave no reason for not renewing their contracts.

In the suit, Scribner and McNemee claimed the Legislature’s repeal of the law constituted a taking of their vested property right to future employment and that the taking was done without due process because of the way the amendment was inserted into the bill without public hearings.

In a unanimous ruling Friday, however, the Supreme Court rejected those claims.

The opinion, written by Justice Marla Luckert, the court said that whatever property right Scribner and McNemee may have had was always subject to repeal or amendment by the Legislature. The court also said committee hearings are not a due process requirement for the passage of legislation.

In 2017, the Supreme Court also rejected a different challenge to the law from the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, which said the bill containing the repeal violated the Kansas Constitution’s rule against bills containing more than one subject.


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