The Kansas House passed an amendment that would restore Due Process for teachers.
Restoring Due Process for teachers is closer to reality with the passing of an amendment by the Kansas House Feb. 22 to return that right to teachers. The House vote on amendment was 72 yes and 53 no.
Rep. Greg Lewis, House District 113, voted in favor of the amendment but saw it as part of a bigger issue.
"In the total picture, Due Process is not the true focus of the issues. I am currently in my third year in the Statehouse and in just those three years I have seen our education system receive blow after blow in Topeka," Lewis said. "Teachers and the educational field are beat up, feel unappreciated and undervalued.
"Their Due Process was not taken away in the "Light of Day" with a stand-up vote by the Legislature working through the committee process. It was done in the darkness of early morning by an amendment.
"Good teachers should not have to worry about Due Process. Like all of us, they need to be appreciated and valued for the work they do. My hope that in returning Due Process to them, teachers might once again begin to feel valued and appreciated by this Legislature as we go forward in creating a new funding formula for education in Kansas."
Suzan Patton, USD 382 superintendent, said she believes Boards of Education are interested in Due Process. If a Board thinks someone's contract should not be renewed, they want to be the last part of that procedure.
When Due Process was removed in 2012, it caused some confusion for administrators as well as Boards of Education and teachers, Patton said.
Having an established Due Process system will help clarify the action a Board can take. Under the old law, prior to offering a teacher a fourth contract, they could be non-renewed without a reason. Once they had the fourth contract they were afforded Due Process.
If a teacher wanted to contest a non-renewal before it was available, they could go through a third party and that third party decision was binding, Patton said.
Each school district has their own negotiated contract with different language. In some of those contracts, Due Process was written into the language so that if things were not working out with a teacher, they could challenge the ruling.
Going through a third part to make a decision on non-renewal, there is a substantial cost associated with the process. From an administrator's stand point, they are careful to consider any amount of money they have to spend on litigation.
"Funding is an issue every district takes seriously," Patton said.
Non-renewal is not something that is done lightly. If a teacher is considered for non-renewal, there has to be prior discussion and documentation before the action is taken. This is done so the action will not be malicious or unfair to the teacher.
"I think there are too many checks and balances between the teacher and administrator for it to be used unfairly," Patton said. "I think Due Process with the Board of Education serves as the opportunity for teachers to voice their concerns and argue against non-renewal. It's certainly fine."
While Due Process is available to a teacher, the final decision should be left to the Board of Education, Patton said.
Becca Flowers, USD 438 superintendent, said Due Process makes teachers feel more secure and like they are being treated and valued as professionals.
"It safeguards them from being treated unfairly," Flowers said.
If a district is doing their job with evaluations and professional development, it will help prevent the need for non-renewal, Flowers said.