Politics & Government

Kansas House votes to restore teacher tenure

The Kansas House on Tuesday passed an amendment to restore guaranteed tenure for teachers.
The Kansas House on Tuesday passed an amendment to restore guaranteed tenure for teachers. File photo

Three years after Kansas conservatives repealed guaranteed public school teacher tenure as part of a broad school funding plan, the House took a step Tuesday to restore it.

The amendment that passed 66-59 requires due process when a teacher’s contract is terminated, which supporters say protects teachers from wrongful termination but does not shield bad teachers.

Rep. Brett Parker, D-Overland Park, called the measure a “first step toward making teachers feel valued.” Parker, who teaches in Olathe, said many of his colleagues feel undervalued.

Rep. Diana Dierks, R-Salina, said when she knocked on doors during her campaign, she was often pulled into long discussions with teachers about tenure. She said when the House voted to end tenure in 2014, teachers in the building for a Kansas National Education Association convention told her ending tenure as part of another bill was not good government. She told the House on Tuesday she agreed.

But opponents said tenure decisions should be made at the local level by school boards and districts, not mandated by the state.

Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, said the Olathe school board provides due process, negotiated with the district. He said mandating guaranteed tenure across the state undercuts school boards’ ability to negotiate their own agreements that might work better for their district.

Without guaranteed tenure, Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, whose daughter is a teacher, said making tenure decisions locally gives principals and school boards the power to ensure there are quality teachers.

The state’s largest teachers’ union tried to block the tenure removal with a lawsuit, saying it was passed unconstitutionally because it was added as part of the broader bill. But the Kansas Supreme Court sided with the Legislature, ruling last month that the two issues were related and could be included in the same bill.

How they voted

Here’s how south-central Kansas lawmakers voted on an amendment to HB 2186 to ensure statewide due process for teachers. The amendment was approved 66-59; the bill still must face final approval in the House and then go to the Senate.

Democrats voting yes: All south-central Democratic House members

Republicans voting yes: Roger Elliott, Wichita; Steven Becker, Buhler; Mary Martha Good, El Dorado; Anita Judd-Jenkins, Arkansas City

Republicans voting no: Leo Delperdang, Daniel Hawkins, Susan Humphries, Greg Lakin, Brenda Landwehr, Les Osterman, Chuck Weber, John Whitmer, Wichita; Doug Blex, Independence; Blake Carpenter, Derby; Pete DeGraaf, Mulvane; Kyle Hoffman, Coldwater; Steve Huebert, Valley Center; Les Mason, McPherson; Don Schroeder, Hesston; Joe Seiwert, Pretty Prairie; Jack Thimesch, Cunningham; Kristey Williams, Augusta