New Prairie Village state rep spearheads effort to restore due process rights for all Kansas teachers

Rep. Jerry Stogsdill.
Rep. Jerry Stogsdill.

Prairie Village Rep. Jerry Stogsdill and fellow Democratic Rep. Steven Crum of Haysville submitted a bill on Thursday they co-authored that would reinstate guaranteed due process rights for all Kansas K-12 teachers.

Stogsdill, who spent part of his early career in the classroom as a Shawnee Mission School District teacher, said restoring those rights, which were removed as part of a controversial 2014 school funding bill, would be an important step toward making Kansas an attractive place for teachers to have long careers.

“We’re having trouble attracting and retaining top quality teachers in Kansas. Hopefully it will encourage them to stay,” Stogsdill said. “Right now, teachers looking at Kansas see a job market where they have low merit pay and no job security. That’s not a good situation.”

(See this KCUR piece from last summer on the jump in the number of Kansas teachers leaving the state or quitting the profession.)

The 2014 bill, which prompted hundreds of teachers to flood the capitol in protest, removed a protection Kansas teachers had held since the late 1950s as part of legislation that injected $129 million into public schools to meet the requirement of a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on equity. The due process rights guaranteed teachers who have at least three years experience the right to a written explanation for their dismissal if they are fired as well as a hearing to appeal the firing. Proponents of removing the due process provision said it would make it easier for school districts to fire teachers who weren’t performing. But opponents argued that it opened the door for teachers to be let go for reasons that have nothing to do with the classroom, like their political views.

“Due process is not tenure, and it does not protect bad teachers from getting fired,” Stogsdill said. “It protects good teachers.”

Since the passage of the 2014 bill, many school districts have continued to negotiate due process rights as part of their contracts with the local teachers union. Shawnee Mission, for example, has continued to include due process provisions in its contract with the National Education Association — Shawnee Mission. But districts are no longer required by state law to grant those rights. Stogsdill said that needs to change if Kansas is going to be able to attract talented educators.

“It’s a good thing for Shawnee Mission teachers that the district has kept due process,” Stogsdill said. “But we want to guarantee it for every teacher.”

Speaker Ron Ryckman will assign Stogsdill and Crum’s bill to a committee for review. Stogsdill, who is in his first term, said he thinks the bill has a good chance of making it through the House and Senate. Whether Gov. Sam Brownback would allow it to go into law is another matter.

“It will be a test of whether he’s a friend of public education or not,” Stogsdill said.

Gov. Brownback’s office did not respond to a request for comment sent at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Teachers packed the gallery in the Kansas House in 2014 to protest the education bill that stripped them of some of their due process rights. Photo via Twitter, Devin Brick Wilson (@ksucats96).
Teachers packed the gallery in the Kansas House in 2014 to protest the education bill that stripped them of some of their due process rights. Photo via Twitter, Devin Brick Wilson (@ksucats96).