Kansas legislators advance bill to restore teacher tenure

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bipartisan group of Kansas lawmakers is pushing to restore job protections for public school teachers that conservative legislators stripped from them four years ago.

The House gave first-round approval Wednesday to a bill that would guarantee tenure for thousands of teachers statewide. The 72-48 vote advances the measure to a final House vote Thursday to determine whether it passes and goes to the Senate.

The bill would require school districts that do not want to renew a teacher's contract to allow the teacher to have the matter decided by an independent hearing officer. Teachers would be entitled to such a review if they had worked in a single district for three years or in multiple districts for a total of five years.

Supporters of the bill said it would show respect for teachers and allow them to advocate for their students and each other without fear of retribution from administrators.

Teachers statewide had the right to independent reviews of contract decisions for decades before conservative Republicans enacted a 2014 law leaving the issue to local school boards. Lobbyists for education groups said a third or less of the state's 286 school districts have some form of "due process" protections.

GOP conservatives argued in 2014 that the change made firing bad teachers easier and that tenure policies should be set locally. And several argued Wednesday that restoring tenure would protect teachers who sexually harass or abuse their students.

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