The Kansas National Education Association plans to file a lawsuit against the state over the school finance bill by the end of June.
KNEA did not release specific details during its news conference Monday morning in Topeka. David Schauner, General Counsel for KNEA, said the suit was not about merits of the bill or specific funding portions of HB 2506 but about 'improper procedure' and the way the bill was enacted.
Schauner said the lawsuit would cover how some aspects of the bill were passed and how the union believes lawmakers violated the Kansas constitution. He said the school finance bill deprived teachers of basic employment fairness.
"Certain pieces of HB 2506 essentially take that process, that 35 year, well worn process, and (have) thrown it out the door," said David Schauner, KNEA General Counsel. "The real losers in this not only are teachers in Kansas but also students in Kansas who will, unfortunately, have to deal with some of the stresses that go with dismissals in public schools."
The constitution provides an exception for emergency situations, but Schauner said the only emergency in this case was the school funding itself. The 'improper procedure' includes everything from lack of open meetings to other changes.
"What started out as one thing, ended up as something else entirely," said Schauner. "Some of our legislators believe whatever they do is constitutional. We take umbrage with that."
Schauner said, KNEA found also found number of issues not related to appropriations added to the bill.
"I don't know what their motive is. I know the result has done a great disservice to 35,000 people who work their rear ends off every day of the year educating kids," he said.
KNEA filed an amicus brief in the original school funding fight, Gannon vs. the State of Kansas, but said it does not have an active role in that case.
"We think the focus of the Gannon three judge panel is very different then the lawsuit that we intend to file," said Schauner. "I don't think that that is the proper venue for our concerns." He also pointed out that more lawsuits could be coming as a result of HB 2056.
The NEA team that just won a similar lawsuit in North Carolina will assist with the Kansas case.
Kansas Rep. Ray Merrick, House Speaker, said the the state is confident 2506 is constitutional.
"The legislature passed the education bill because we want our students to have the best opportunities and the best school system," Merrick said. "We stand by that goal, even when faced with opposition from those who do not have that as their priority."
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said, "Research has clearly proven that teacher effectiveness is one of the most important elements associated with student success, and we passed this reform measure with the welfare of Kansas students in mind. However, with the filing of this lawsuit, it is apparent that the KNEA is more concerned about it's members than student achievement and outcomes."
But Wichita Representative Jim Ward said he thought the way the bill was passed was "done in an odd way" and that it "should be litigated.
The Governor's office has told Eyewitness News it cannot comment until it sees the actual lawsuit filing. The KNEA expects to file the case before the end of the month.