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USD 489 teachers part of rally in Topeka

4/7/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Several area teachers were among those who rallied in the Capitol during the weekend as state legislators considered the school finance bill.

It wasn’t the finance component that troubled the educators. It was the proposed reforms — including eliminating due process rights and making it easier to fire teachers — they were responding to.

Altogether, 15 Kansas-NEA representatives from the Cottonwood Uniserve in northwest Kansas were in Topeka for the organization’s representative assembly during the weekend, said Kathy Rome, Cottonwood Uniserve director.

Six of those were Hays USD 489 teachers — Kim Schneweis, Hays-NEA president and bargaining unit co-chairwoman; Kathy Wagoner, bargaining unit co-chairwoman; Ted Foster, Suzanne Leikam, Lacey Kee and Rhonda Lee.

The teachers went to the Capitol from their meeting Saturday afternoon after learning some “troubling changes” were tacked onto the bill, Schneweis said.

Rome said she was surprised at the addition to eliminate due process.

“This year, there hasn’t been as many attacks” on teachers and unions, she said.

“Saturday, I felt I was watching democracy in action,” Schneweis said.

The teachers were enthusiastic, well-behaved, professional and respectful, she said.

“That respect was not returned,” by the legislators, she said.

Legislators told the teachers that by upholding due process, the union was protecting bad teachers.

“KNEA doesn’t want poor teachers,” Rome said.

“Teachers don’t want to keep bad teachers,” Schneweis said. “Getting rid of due process will lead to erroneous dismissal of teachers.”

Due process means a teacher can “prove to a third party they should be retained,” Rome said.

It allows teachers to do their job without fear of reprisal from parents, administrators or board of education members, Schneweis said.

“It’s not a job guarantee. It’s a right to fair dismissal,” she said.

With classes the next day, the Hays teachers left Topeka for Hays at approximately 6 p.m. Sunday, but Rome said she stayed for the final outcome, which came at approximately 10 p.m.

On its website, KNEA is encouraging members to contact Gov. Sam Brownback and ask him to veto the bill.

Neither Rome nor Schneweis hold much hope the bill will be vetoed.