TOPEKA — The Kansas House easily completed passage Thursday of legislation restoring employment due-process rights formerly held by Kansas public school teachers and expanding state government mandates for anti-bullying programs.
Debate on both bills touched on propriety of the 2018 Legislature micromanaging affairs of the 286 public school boards in Kansas, but also the deeply held views of lawmakers about deterring the damage resulting from student bullying and unjustifiable termination of educators.
Rep. Tory Arnberger, R-Great Bend, considered the due-process restoration bill of potential use in recruiting new teachers to districts across the state and removing the stain of a mistake made four years ago by the Legislature and former Gov. Sam Brownback.
“Although I do support local control, I also see our teachers are not valued in our great state, which is unfortunate,” she said.
Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita, voted against the bill because the state’s public school educators shouldn’t require special job protection.
“They should be held to the highest possible standards,” she said. “Good teachers do not need state-mandated extra protections.”
The due-process legislation, House Bill 2757, was sent to the Senate on a vote of 73-48. Gov. Jeff Colyer previously indicated he wouldn’t support imposition of a statewide due-process procedure that was stricken from law in 2014.
At this point, approximately 80 school boards have adopted in the past four years some form of independent review of administrative decisions to fire teachers.
Rep. John Whitmer, a Wichita Republican who tried to add thousands of other state employees to the bill during Wednesday’s floor debate in the House, said the legislation would undermine local school board control of employment policy.
“Local control should be more than a campaign slogan we all use on campaign postcards,” Whitmer said. “If we truly believe in it, we should stand by it.”
The anti-bulling legislation passed the House on a vote of 120-1.
The holdout was Rep. Michael Houser, who said he was opposed to perpetuation of bullying in schools, but couldn’t vote for a bill that violated the principle of local control. He voted against the teacher due-process bill for the same reason.
He said the bullying legislation would force school districts to comply with another unfunded mandate imposed by state lawmakers.
“You can’t have it both ways, just when it fits your agenda,” said Houser, a Columbus Republican.