Kansas teachers' union files lawsuit to block anti-tenure law, citing technical grounds

Associated Press

The largest teachers' union in Kansas filed a lawsuit Monday against a new state law that ended guaranteed tenure for public school teachers, arguing that legislators violated the state constitution by folding the new policy into a larger education funding measure.

The legal challenge filed in Shawnee County District Court by the Kansas National Education Association alleges that the Republican-dominated Legislature violated a provision of the state constitution requiring most bills to contain only one subject. The 23,000-member union is asking a judge block only the anti-tenure provision.

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The measure approved by legislators in April boosted state aid to poor school districts by $129 million for the new school year to meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate in an education funding lawsuit filed in 2010 by parents and school districts. But conservative GOP legislators insisted on tying the new funding to other, policy provisions, including the one on tenure.

"We cannot in good conscience allow extremists to wilfully bypass the constitution without challenge," union President Mark Farr said in a statement issued as the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit names the state and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback as defendants.

The anti-tenure measure took effect July 1. It repealed a law that gave teachers who faced dismissal after three years in the classroom the right to an independent review of their cases.

The KNEA argues in the lawsuit that the former policy protected teachers from arbitrary or unjust firings. Union officials said such protections allowed teachers to be strong advocates for their students.

But conservative GOP legislators argued that ending guaranteed tenure makes it easier to fire incompetent or abusive teachers. They also said the change left decisions about tenure to locally elected school boards.

The KNEA has said repeatedly that it supported the additional funding for poor school districts, which is designed to end unconstitutional gaps in aid between poor and wealthier districts.

The education funding measure also provides tax credits to corporations bankrolling private-school scholarships for at-risk children and permits professionals with science, math or technology expertise to become teachers without completing college teacher-preparation programs. But the KNEA's lawsuit doesn't seek to block those provisions.

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Online:

Kansas National Education Association: http://www.knea.org/

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