Unintended consequences

The state legislature showed this weekend, on a Sunday night no less, how important it was to them to get school funding in compliance with the state Supreme Court’s ruling as quickly as possible.

They did what they needed to do — add funding to make the playing field for large and small schools closer to level — and so much more. The biggest piece of the legislation was also the biggest surprise, repealing due process guarantees for teachers, librarians, and counselors. That change, if the bill is signed by the governor, will set off ripples of unintended consequences.

For starters, it is bound to get the state back in court over schools. Due process for teachers was put into place in 1957 after a state Supreme Court case, and a court challenge to the repeal is almost guaranteed.

More importantly, it may have the opposite effect of its stated purpose, which is to ensure Kansas students have the best teachers available. It may be a short-term positive, making it easier for districts to part ways with teachers who don’t live up to the high standards we should set for teachers. In the long run, though, it will likely mean fewer high quality teachers in the state. If a talented, enthusiastic new teacher has the credentials to teach in a state that guarantees teachers due process and one that doesn’t, if all other things are equal, where will that teacher want to go?

It also gives teachers associations cause to fight hard for higher salaries. Teachers trade in market value for some security — to be clear, due process doesn’t guarantee a teacher a job, it guarantees them written notice why they’re being let go and an opportunity to appeal termination. Without that little bit of security, negotiators for teachers associations will have every reason to negotiate for as high of salaries and as many other monetary benefits as they can.

It all seems like a really high risk to take in order to not have to tell teachers why they’re terminated and be able to defend the decision.

— ADAM STEWART

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