Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

State and Teachers Union to Face off at Supreme Court over Tenure

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

State and Teachers Union to Face off at Supreme Court over Tenure

Article excerpt

The state and a teachers union are gearing up for a Kansas Supreme Court showdown over a controversial 2014 law that ended teacher job protections.

Meanwhile, the union has filed two district court lawsuits on behalf of three teachers it says were let go from their positions without independent hearings -- despite having earned tenure before the 2014 repeal.

On Friday, the Kansas National Education Association -- the main teachers union in Kansas, affiliated with 361 local units -- submitted a reply brief in its Supreme Court claim that the 2014 legislation is unconstitutional.

Oral arguments aren't yet scheduled, but the state already filed its brief last month.

The court battle, which began a year and a half ago, hasn't drawn as much attention as the high-profile Gannon v. Kansas school finance lawsuit, but it, too, has potential for significant impact. Kansas has more than 36,000 school teachers. And this year, the Legislature is considering expanding its tenure repeal to community and technical colleges, which employ another 5,000 teachers.

Due process for schoolteachers and their counterparts at community and technical colleges was added to state law in the 1970s. The statute gave educators -- starting with the fourth year of their employment -- the right to an independent hearing when faced with dismissal. This system is commonly called "tenure" but formally known as "nonprobationary status."

The KNEA sued in August 2014 at Shawnee County District Court. It lost there and appealed.

A key argument in the case concerns the Kansas Constitution's one- subject rule, which is meant to counteract "logrolling." Logrolling involves lawmakers tying unrelated matters into a single bill in hopes of passing items that otherwise wouldn't attract enough votes to become law.

The KNEA argues the 2014 legislation, House Bill 2506, folded more than one subject into a single bill. …

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