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Kansas, Union Prepare For Supreme Court Hearing On Tenure

A union representing Kansas teachers has filed two district court lawsuits, alleging that three teachers were removed from their positions without independent hearings, even though they earned tenure before the Kansas Legislature repealed teacher protections in 2014.

The lawsuits against school districts in Wyandotte and Butler counties come as the union and the state prepare for a showdown before the state Supreme Court over the law. The union contends in a brief submitted Friday that the decision to remove the teacher protections is unconstitutional. Oral arguments have not been scheduled.

The lawsuits, filed by the Kansas National Education Association, say three teachers were incorrectly denied due process, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Kansas has more than 36,000 school teachers. The Legislature is considering expanding its tenure repeal to community and technical colleges, which employ another 5,000 teachers.

Due process for K-12 teachers and those at community and technical colleges became state law in the 1970s, giving them right to an independent hearing when faced with dismissal, starting with the fourth year of their employment.

The KNEA lost a lawsuit filed in 2014 in Shawnee County District Court and has appealed. It argues the 2014 legislation addressed more than one subject, which is not allowed under the Kansas Constitution's one-subject ruling.

The state contends all the provisions in the bill relate to education and that the Constitution requires courts to "liberally construe" the one-subject rule in the Legislature's favor.

The law included provisions on K-12 funding; appropriations for other entities, such as state universities, the Department of Administration and the Department for Aging and Disability Services; and a number of contentious changes to state education policy, including the tenure repeal and creation of a tax credit program that helps low-income families pay for private school.

The state law does not affect university faculty, as tenure for those schools is a separate system predating the 1970s.