Jessica Larson
KU Statehouse Wire Service
The Senate this week passed a bill requiring public school and community college teachers to vote every three years in elections held by professional organizations to maintain representation with their unions.
Supporters of Senate Bill 469, which passed the full Senate with 22-18 vote, argued it would give teachers more choice over who represents them. Opponents saw the bill as an attack on unions.
The bill passed with an amendment by Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg. It changed the frequency of elections from one year to three. It also requires a majority vote from only those teachers casting ballots, as opposed to a majority of all teachers within a union.
If a union fails to win the majority vote, it would lose its recognition in a school district, and the employees within would lose their representation. A new union could then take its place.
Baumgardner said most teachers in Kansas have never voted on whether they would like to be represented by a union.
“It is an issue (in) that faculty in almost all of the different school districts and the 19 community colleges have not had a vote about their representation in more than 40 years,” said Baumgardner, who serves on the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, where the bill originated.
Sen. Tom Holland, D–Baldwin City, also on the commerce committee, pushed back against the bill, calling it a “union-busting” attack stemming from those outside the Capitol who do not support public education. He said the bill could weaken teachers’ ability to bargain.
“I understand the Koch brothers and the (Kansas) Policy Institute and Americans for Prosperity. They don’t like public education. They’re trying to tear down our teachers. This bill’s perfect for their suitable needs,” Holland said.
“I did not see one teacher as a proponent come before our committee and say this is why we need to have this bill,” Holland said.
But Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, said he, as a Shawnee Mission West High School teacher, favors the bill.
“Teachers unions, at times, have historically achieved some productive measures for teachers,” Smith said. “However, more often than not, teachers unions — or to be more specific, the leaders of those unions — have blocked meaningful and urgently needed change in education.”
The bill goes to the House for consideration when the legislature returns in April after its month-long recess.
Edited by Leah Sitz