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Teacher Tenure in Kansas
posted by: Alix | April 08, 2014, 08:22 PM   

This weekend, the Kansas Legislature passed HB 2506, a school funding bill that included policy changes to teacher tenure. Among the many education reform provisions, the state is expected to increase K-12 education spending by 129 million dollars and allow easier paths to the classroom for degreed professionals. Governor Brownback has expressed support for the bill and will most likely sign it into law.

We are aware of educator concerns about teacher rights and the elimination of tenure. As a member-driven organization, we only take positions on educational issues after our members are surveyed at a majority. AAE's Kansas chapter, the Kansas Association of American Educators (KANAAE), did not endorse the bill.

Based on member survey data, our members are split on eliminating tenure all together; however, opinions are shifting and AAE members do not see tenure as a necessity. An overwhelming majority (81%) of members believe that tenure is not necessary for an educator to properly perform his or her job effectively and a vast majority (80%) asserted that achieving tenure does not indicate that a teacher is, in fact, effective.

Teachers have come forward in praise of the bill. "I have personally been a victim of poor teachers who were not replaced due to tenure," remarked one Kansas teacher. Others are concerned about their rights and their status as seasoned teachers. "I fear the elimination of tenure may jeopardize the jobs of more expensive and experienced teachers," voiced another.

As an organization representing teachers in the state, we are sensitive to these concerns and will monitor the future law as it is implemented. We look forward to ensuring member feedback is carefully considered by policymakers and administrators during the transition.

It's also critical to understand that regardless of these policy changes, mass firings are not eminent in Kansas. While scare tactics and false claims about teachers being let go over their hair color or sexual orientation are rampant, educators must realize that there are federal and state laws in place meant to protect rights. Federal law prohibits discriminatory actions and the U.S. Constitution guarantees due process for all Americans.

According to AAE's Director of Legal Services Sharon Nelson, due process protections apply to teachers in the classroom. "Regardless of whether the state has collective bargaining, tenure statutes, or has right-to-work status, teachers are afforded due process relating to their employment." Teachers cannot be let go for frivolous reasons such as gender. The unions claim that without contracts and strict tenure statutes, teachers will be let go without just cause. This is simply not the case, and teachers should understand their civil rights.

While our members are supportive of many progressive changes, large bills like HB 2506 passed without compromise and teacher feedback, can be counterproductive to the education reform movement. Teachers deserve a seat at the policy table as professionals on the front lines.

Moving forward, AAE understands the confusion and fear that the elimination of tenure can cause. If you feel you are being unfairly targeted, or have concerns about your employment status, as an AAE/KANAAE member you have guaranteed access to legal counsel and should contact us immediately. In addition, please let your colleagues know the value of AAE membership and that state and federal laws still protect employment rights.

What do you think about this new bill in Kansas?
Comment below.

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