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Law Diminishing Kansas Labor Protections Challenged by Teachers' Union

The Kansas National Education Association is filing a legal challenge to a law approved by state officials this year that eliminated due-process rights for Kansas teachers

The law in question grew out of last-minute negotiations among legislators who were seeking ways to boost certain portions of the state's K-12 budget in response to a ruling from the state Supreme Court. That ruling dealt with a complaint from districts in Gannon v. Kansas that the state made unconstitutional cuts to school aid after the economic downturn in 2008.

The specific language in the new law states that any employee required to be licensed to teach in a school district doesn't have "due process" protections—in other words, the definition of "teacher" as it's generally understood no longer applies to most actual teachers in Kansas.

Interestingly, the teachers' union in Wichita seems to have a contract with the district that exempts those teachers from the new restrictions on labor protections.

A news report from a June 9 KNEA press conference about the lawsuit said the union alleges that the new provision about due process was passed through "improper procedure," a reference to the deal-making behind the school-finance changes that some say wasn't conducted by the rules of the legislature.

In addition, the new school-finance law eliminated licensing requirements for teachers in certain subjects, another change that's angered the KNEA. However, according to the Topeka Capital Journal report from the press conference, the union (an NEA affiliate) isn't challenging that portion of the law, at least not yet.

(A lawsuit seems like the most obvious if not the only major way the union can push back against the new law, particularly since teachers in Kansas are legally prohibited from going on strike.)

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