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District court dismisses union's lawsuit over Kansas law that changed teacher tenure

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TOPEKA, Kansas — A lawsuit filed by the state's largest teachers' union over a Kansas law that ended guaranteed tenure for public school teachers has been dismissed by the Shawnee County District Court.

The law, passed in April 2014, folded the anti-tenure measure into a larger education funding measure. The Kansas National Education Association sued the state and Gov. Sam Brownback in August, alleging the law violated a provision of the Kansas Constitution requiring most bills to contain only one subject.

In an order dated June 4, the Shawnee County Court dismissed the lawsuit, saying it could not determine that the new law was only an appropriations bill, which meant the tenure provision could be included, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1HZgICy ). The court said in its ruling that that both the appropriations and anti-tenure provisions are related to schools.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that a law should be upheld unless there's no reasonable way to see "any legitimate connection" between different sections.

The measure increased state aid to poor school districts by $129 million to meet a Kansas Supreme Court order in a funding lawsuit. But conservative GOP legislators included other education policy provisions, including the one ending tenure.

The anti-tenure measure, which took effect last July 1, repealed a law that gave teachers in their fourth year the right to an independent review of their cases if they faced termination. The KNEA argued in the lawsuit that the former policy protected teachers from unfair firings.

Proponents of the change said the former procedure made it difficult to fire incompetent teachers. They said the change gave locally elected school boards more freedom to decide procedures for firing teachers.

Education Association president Mark Farr said in a statement the union would review the decision.

"We believe that student-learning conditions are inextricably linked to the working conditions of our state's education professionals," the statement said, adding that teachers perform best "when permitted to teach without fear of unfair or unjust dismissal."


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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