Teacher due process? Kansas and North Carolina are leagues apart

NOT LIKE THE OTHER: While Kansas teachers union officials point to a recent North Carolina judical ruling while railing against local changes to due process laws, they neglect to mention the differences between the two laws.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — Kansas’ largest teachers union is suggesting a recent North Carolina court ruling supports a legal challenge against recent changes to due process rights for educators in the Sunflower State.

There’s just one problem. It’s not the same thing.

Last month, North Carolina Judge Robert Hobgood ordered a permanent injunction against legislation that completely upended the contract and negotiation process for Tar Heel State teachers. During the 2013 legislative session, officials in Raleigh enacted laws that completely abolished due process rights — where educators are granted a hearing before being fired — in favor of a new system where teachers were awarded one-, two- or four-year temporary contracts, among other changes.

It’s hardly comparable to shifts enacted by lawmakers in Topeka earlier this year.

In conjunction with a court-ordered school funding fix, Kansas elected officials eliminated a state-level requirement of due process for teachers. Lawmakers didn’t forbid or eliminate the process, but rather left the decision of whether to include due process measures up to local school boards.

But to listen to the Kansas National Education Association, you’d think the matter of due process was practically dead. Marcus Baltzell, KNEA director of communications, told Kansas Watchdog that according to a union survey of local UniServ directors — individuals who negotiate KNEA member contracts — only about 10 percent of Kansas’ 293 school districts have due process language at the local level.

The Kansas Association of School Boards, however, has slightly different figures on the issue.

Mark Tallman, KASB associate executive director, said more than 100 school districts already have some kind of due process measure in master agreements with faculty. But there is a caveat.

“That does not mean it would provide the same protection as the due process system repealed by the 2014 Legislature,” Tallman told Kansas Watchdog. “For example, the agreement might say simply that the district will follow state law (whatever it is) without specifying a particular system in law.”

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at @muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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