Major Kansas Papers Ignore Koch Connection To Anti-Teachers' Rights Legislation
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Three major newspapers in Kansas have ignored the role of funding from the Koch brothers in the passage of legislation that strips teachers in the state of their right to due process before they are fired, a longstanding right that gives teachers the ability to challenge dismissals.
Kansas State Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Teachers' Right To Due Process
MSNBC.com: "Kansas Bill Kills Long-Held Teacher Rights." Following a heated debate, the Kansas State Legislature passed a bill, HB2506, on Sunday, April 6, that "kills long-held teacher rights" to due process. According to MSNBC.com, the bill passed "over the objections of hundreds of teachers and activists" protesting the bill (emphasis added):
Despite huge majorities in the state House and Senate, the bills passed narrowly over the objections of hundreds of teachers and activists who packed the galleries to protest the bill.
Until now, a teacher with three years of experience was guaranteed the right to receive a written reason for possible termination and the right to appeal the decision. Teachers in Kansas have had the right to due process since 1957. Without it, a teacher could be fired for being gay, or disagreeing politically with an administrator, and have no recourse. [MSNBC.com, 4/7/14]
Legislation Was Pushed By Group Connected To Billionaire Koch Brothers
Washington Post's Valerie Strauss: Group Pushing Legislation Backed By "Extreme Conservative Billionaires Charles And David Koch." Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss, citing an Associated Press story, noted how teachers' rights "go away" under the new legislation, as well as the Koch funding tied to Americans for Prosperity, the group pushing the bill:
According to this Associated Press story, Kansas teachers who have been on the job for at least three years have certain rights when they are being fired. They must be told in writing why the action was taken and they have the right to request a review of the decision. Under the new law, those rights go away.
Pushing the effort to end teacher tenure, the AP reported, was a group called Americans for Prosperity, backed by the extreme conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, who have funded other anti-union measures around the country. [Washington Post, Answer Sheet Blog, 4/8/14]
Chair Of The Committee That Introduced Legislation Has Ties To Koch Brothers, ALEC. According to the Kansas State Legislature webpage for the legislation, the bill was introduced by the Committee on General Government Budget, chaired by Republican Representative Pete DeGraaf. SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, lists DeGraaf as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force. The Nation previously reported that "untold sums of cash" have been poured into ALEC by the Koch brothers. [Kansas State Legislature HB2506, accessed 4/9/14; Kansas State Legislature House Standing Committee on General Government Budget, accessed 4/9/14; SourceWatch, accessed 4/9/14, The Nation, 7/12/11]
Original Reporting From Major Kansas Newspapers Ignores Koch Connection To Legislation
Kansas City Star Briefly Mentioned Americans For Prosperity, Ignores Koch Connection. In its original news reports on the House and Senate's passage of HB2506, The Kansas City Star made one passing mention of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded group pushing the bill, without noting its Koch connections:
Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers. [The Kansas City Star, 4/6/14]
Wichita Eagle Mentioned Americans For Prosperity, Ignores Koch Connection. The Wichita Eagle mentioned Americans for Prosperity in two of its news articles on HB2506, neither of which acknowledged the Koch funding:
One of the organizations calling for the reform was Americans for Prosperity.
Jeff Glendening, state director for the organization, said it would ensure that every Kansas classroom is led by a capable teacher, and that would benefit children across the state. [The Wichita Eagle, 4/6/14]
Advocates of the bill said it would allow districts to get rid of bad or under-performing teachers.
"It's exciting reform in our eyes because we see this as being a win for the kids in Kansas," said Jeff Glendening, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Kansas. [The Wichita Eagle, 4/7/14]
Topeka Capital-Journal Mentioned Neither Americans For Prosperity Nor Koch Funding. In its original news reporting on HB2506, The Topeka Capital-Journal never mentioned Americans for Prosperity or the Koch connection to the bill.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search and a search of the websites for The Kansas City Star, The Wichita Eagle, and The Topeka Capital-Journal for "teach," "teacher," "teachers," "teaching," or "tenure" or "due process."
Researcher Salvatore Colleluori contributed to this report.