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Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Law Ending Teacher Tenure

Kansas Supreme Court

In a blow to teachers in Kansas, the state Supreme Court Friday upheld a 2014 law that stripped educators of due process before being fired.

In a unanimous ruling the court rejected an appeal by the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) that argued the law violated the constitutional ban of one bill covering more than one subject. KNEA claimed since the bill covered both appropriations and policy the act was unconstitutional.

In an opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the court roundly rejected that argument because the constitution "does not forbid combining appropriations and general legislation into a single bill, so long as all provisions of that bill address the same subject." In this case, the subject of both was education.

The legislation in question was a massive bill lawmakers passed in response to the high court's ruling in the Gannon school funding case that the state had failed to equitably fund public schools. The bill pumped $130 million more into public education.

However, the Legislature also changed a decades old law that gave tenured teachers the right to a hearing before being fired.

“Today's decision is protective of the legislative power granted by the Kansas Constitution and respects the important constitutional principle of separation of powers," Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement.

KNEA said in a press release that the decision only applied to the one-subject rule. "In no way should today's decision be viewed as reflective of the court's opinion regarding the underlying due process protections formerly afforded non-probationary teachers."

The group still plans to pursue both legal and legislative actions to restore due process for tenured teachers.

Sam Zeff  is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend and covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.

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