TOPEKA – Citing a need to treat teachers fairly and with greater respect, Rep. Brandon Whipple, D-Wichita, introduced a bill to reinstate due process rights for all Kansas teachers.
“Our public school teachers in Kansas are professionals who deserve to be treated with respect by school administrators and elected officials,” Whipple said.
In 2014, legislation passed allowing local school districts to opt out of due process. The provision, which passed by a single vote, was inserted as part of a larger school finance bill and was opposed by the state’s teachers’ union, KNEA, as well as moderate Republicans and Democrats.
“Since 1957, due process has allowed experienced educators the ability to stand up for what is right for students even when it isn’t popular with the administration,” Whipple said. “Restoring due process will ensure they receive an impartial hearing and are not wrongfully dismissed.”
Whipple cited an increase in the number of teachers leaving the profession as another reason to put in place a process for teachers to defend themselves and contest their dismissal. According to the Kansas Department of Education, 20 percent of Kansas teachers leave the profession within five years. Kansas is already facing a teacher shortage as schools of education are not producing the teachers to fill the hole left by retiring teachers.
All six Kansas Regents universities reported a decline in enrollment in their education programs this year. At Pittsburg State University alone, enrollment in education dropped by double digits. The effects of this are significant. This year elementary schools in Dodge City were forced to hire long-term substitute teachers to fill open teacher positions, which is the first time the district has been forced to take this action.
Additionally, the Kansas Department of Education reported that Kansas teacher salaries rank among the lowest in the nation at 42nd, even lower than Missouri.
“Teachers are the cornerstone of a strong public education system,” said Whipple. “Restoring due process rights and reaffirming a welcoming, supportive environment for teachers is a simple way we can show respect and incentivize more Kansans to enter the profession."
The full text of HB 2220 is available here.