Freshman Rep. Jerry Stogsdill of Prairie Village has made restoring due process rights for Kansas public school teachers one of his top campaign priorities. And after introducing a bill with Rep. Steven Crum last month, he was cautiously optimistic that the legislation would make its way to the House floor for a vote. Tuesday evening, Stogsdill’s hopes were dashed.
The House Education Committee heard testimony on the bill starting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, with public education proponents from the Kansas National Education Association, Kansas Families for Education, and representatives of other groups voicing support for the bill. After the hearing testimony had concluded, Rep. Jim Ward requested that the committee rules be suspended to allow for a vote on the bill the same day the hearing took place.
Committee chair Rep. Clay Aurand, a Republican from Belleville who has previously served as the House majority leader, rejected that request, and chose instead to adjourn the meeting. With Turnaround Day, the final day a bill can be approved by an originating chamber and delivered to the other body, coming this Thursday, it appears likely the due process bill will never be allowed out of committee for a full vote of the House. Aurand did not respond to requests made Tuesday evening for comment on the situation, but Stogsdill said he believes Aurand will simply refrain from calling the committee back into session, preventing a committee vote on the bill before Turnaround.
Stogsdill, a Democrat, said the bill easily had the votes needed to move out of committee and to the full House.
“He dismissed the will of the committee and the interest of teachers without even bringing it to a vote,” Stogsdill said of Aurand.
Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker of Fairway, who sits on the committee as well, said that while she supported due process rights for teachers, it was unorthodox to call for a suspension of the rules to request a vote on the same day as a public hearing on a bill. That rule is in place to ensure committee members have time to craft amendments to a bill before it’s voted on.
“The only tactic that surprised me — because of its irregularity — was the motion to suspend the rules to force a vote on the same day as the bill hearing,” Rooker said.
She indicated that she and other legislators were focused on crafting bills to address two of the state’s most contentious issues — its tax plan and the K-12 funding formula.
But Stogsdill said that with the restoration of due process rights among the absolute top priorities for educators in the state, he was dismayed that the bill didn’t appear to be headed to the full House for a vote. He said he was particularly galled that Aurand declined to allow a vote on the bill after using the committee’s time to hear testimony.
“If you’re not going to work the bill, why waste people’s time with a hearing?” Stogsdill said. “[The bill that rescinded due process rights for teachers in 2014] was tacked on at the last minute without any hearings, with no committee inputs, thrown onto a bill at 4 a.m. That is bad legislation and bad process. We were trying to follow a process for good government.”
Freshman Democrat Rep. Brett Parker, who is a teacher in the Olathe School District, said that as an educator he was disappointed by the development.
“I am disappointed, both as a teacher and a legislator, that the Teacher Due Process Rights bill is being denied a vote,” he said. “I believe a bipartisan majority of the committee and whole House support this bill.”
UPDATED 1:25 p.m.: Just after noon today, Rep. Aurand posted the following message about the committee’s proceedings Tuesday on his Facebook page:
Yesterday in Education committee, we had a hearing on HB 2179, which would restore due process for teachers in Kansas. This is a very controversial bill. I went into the committee intending to hear the concerns of all sides involved. A representative on the committee attempted to force a vote on the bill, but his motion to do so was not within the parameters of the committee rules. He wanted to send the bill to the House floor, which I believe was hasty. Instead of ruling his motion as out of order as I should have done, I adjourned the meeting. I did not want to vote on the bill without the opportunity for the other members to offer amendments and have time to research the bill.
I believe a new school funding formula should take priority over due process.
I want the people of the 106th District to know that I am working with the two organizations on different sides of the debate, the Kansas Association of School Boards and the Kansas National Educators Association, to find a compromise by Monday. I will attempt to keep you all updated on this bill.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.