Basehor educators say due process rights are essential
Basehor Kyla Dominick and Kathy Baughman wore red shirts along with hundreds of other Kansas teachers as they recently watched the Legislature debate due process rights for teachers in Topeka.
The school finance bill that made it through the Legislature included a policy change that would remove teachers' rights to due process and end teacher tenure rights. The protesting teachers, although they didn't get the bill they may have wanted, did feel that their voices were heard. The bill was ready to be signed by 2 p.m. that Saturday, but wasn’t passed until late Sunday night.
"Our presence made a difference," Baughman said.
Dominick is the president of the Association of Basehor-Linwood Educators and Baughman is the vice-president. Together, they are in line with the Kansas National Educators Association in saying that the removal of due process procedures is a violation of their basic rights as teachers.
"This is about the principle of it, we're not being treated as professionals," Dominick said. "Almost every company has a procedure they go through before they let someone go. If they take this away from us, what's next?"
Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday said he will sign into law the new school finance bill and said local school districts can now decide whether to offer tenure.
"It makes it a local issue, and I think that's a good place for it to be," Brownback said.
USD 458 Superintendent David Howard said at the most recent School Board meeting that he "isn't supportive of the way it was done."
"This is going to play out in court at some point," Howard predicted.
Last week, Howard said that the district will likely take a "wait and see" approach regarding due process and will maintain its current practices. He said the district plans on continuing its own due process procedure until the Kansas National Educators Associations challenges the new law in court.
Baughman is a reading teacher at Glenwood Ridge Elementary School in Basehor and said the bill already has teachers in the district expressing concern. She said more teachers have approached her interested in joining ABLE and other educator associations.
"It's a line of support, security and legal advice if needed," Baughman said.
Proponents of the new law argued that changing the due process rules would allow districts to remove bad teachers more easily from classrooms. But Baughman and Dominick say the opposite is true.
Baughman and Dominick said that without due process, teachers who are terminated without being given a reason can potentially now go straight to litigation, which would take much longer at a much higher cost for districts, rather than an internal due process procedure.
The due process procedure, as it has been for decades, requires that teachers in their first two years of teaching undergo a performance review each semester. In their third year, they are evaluated once before achieving tenure. After they have tenure, teachers are evaluated every three years unless administrators call for a special review of the teacher.
Baughman said the KNEA is preparing for numerous potential legal challenges against the proposed law, including some against the funding aspects of the bill.
"We needed the school finance bill, but they littered it with bad policy," Baughman said.