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Kansas Senate rejects bill on teacher contracts

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Lawrence Journal World.com
By Associated Press   
March 25, 2015, 3:41 p.m. Updated March 26, 2015, 7:47 a.m.
Topeka — The Kansas Senate rejected a bill that would make it easier for teachers to be fired, marking a rare defeat for a conservative bill in the GOP-dominated chamber as legislators churned through a loaded agenda Wednesday.
The measure, defeated on a 13-27 vote, would have automatically terminated all teacher contracts at the end of their current term, narrowed salary talks to setting the minimum pay and made it more difficult for teachers to appeal firings and benefit cuts.
Republican Sen. Jeff Melcher from Leawood proposed the changes and said they would help schools reward good teachers and fire underperformers.
He later appeared to refer to the bill's defeat when speaking on the Senate floor. "We keep seeing good bills go down, we're seeing amendments to make sure we protect inefficiency in government and I'm really having a hard time understanding what may have happened over the weekend that caused the Republican Party to dissolve," Melcher said.
Republicans hold 32 of the chamber's 40 seats, with Democrats holding the rest.
Opponents said the bill would result in worse job security and lower base salaries for the state's teachers.
Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly called the legislation "one more attack on our public school teachers" who have already seen their jobs made more difficult by conservative education reforms.
"Who is going to want to teach in Kansas? Certainly not the best and brightest," Kelly said.
Both chambers have passed bills narrowing collective bargaining between school boards and teachers unions that reflect a compromise the two sides reached in January.

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