This article was updated on Dec. 10, 2021.
The State Board for Educator Certification gave final approval at its December meeting to amend rules related to contract abandonment and the circumstances under which teachers may resign from an employment contract without penalty.
According to the existing rule,
teachers who resign later than 45 days prior to the first day of instruction
without good cause and without the consent of the school district are subject
to certification sanction. The mandatory minimum sanction for contract
abandonment is typically a one-year suspension. There are certain exceptions,
called "good cause," that allow a teacher to resign from the contract
without penalty and other circumstances, called "mitigating factors,"
that could justify a reduced sanction. For the full text of the current rule, which includes a list of
what constitutes good cause and mitigating factors, click here.
During the 2021 legislative session, HB 2519 was passed. This legislation was designed to give the board more flexibility when it imposed sanctions for contract abandonment and to allow for less severe sanctions for teachers who resign 30 to 45 days prior to the first day of instruction.
Implementation of this legislation required SBEC to revise its rules.
During this amendment period, the board also took the opportunity to examine the circumstances that it would consider to be good cause and mitigating factors to resign from the contract.
The board conducted a work session this summer and invited
four stakeholder participants to serve as a panel to engage in discussions
about the kinds of circumstances that would justify a teacher resigning from
the contract. TCTA served on the panel and engaged board members on robust discussion
on the reasons a teacher might resign from a contract.
As a result of this work session, the board proposed rule changes that were considered at SBEC's October meeting. TCTA testified in favor of the proposed rule changes, saying that we believe that keeping experienced teachers in the classroom promotes student growth and helps close learning gaps. However, forcing teachers to remain in an employment situation in which the teacher feels unsafe or experiences unsatisfactory working conditions does not accomplish this goal. Rather, it forces the teacher to choose between remaining in these conditions or to abandon the contract, and potentially the profession.
Multiple entities representing administrator groups appeared at the October meeting and submitted written testimony to oppose the proposed rule changes, arguing that adopting the rules would result in staffing and budgetary complications for school district administration.
After considering the written testimony, the rule changes were presented to the board for final approval at the December meeting. Over 80 written comments were submitted regarding the proposed rule and entities representing administrator groups again appeared to voice their objections to the proposed changes at the December meeting. TCTA presented written comments in support of the proposed rule during the comment period and live testimony at the December meeting.
TCTA attorney Julie Leahy urged flexibility with regard to sanctions when a change in the teacher’s personal situation or workplace occurs in which the teacher feels unsafe or experiences unsatisfactory working conditions.
After vigorous discussion, the SBEC board voted at its December meeting to adopt the proposed rule changes. Teachers serving on SBEC's board, including TCTA's Jean Streepey, led the charge in defending the need to give educators grace in leaving districts. Citizen member Tommy Coleman was also instrumental in advocating for the proposed changes.
With the amendments, in addition to the previous factors, an educator will be considered to have good cause to resign from his/her contract when the educator had a reasonable belief that the educator had written permission from the school district administration to resign.
Additionally, the board approved the following new factors that may mitigate a possible sanction (including, in some circumstances, a determination that no sanction is appropriate):
The proposed rules do not become final until they have been approved by the State Board of Education.
TCTA will continue to advocate for these and other rules that improve the professional opportunities and working conditions of its members and appreciate the policy makers that listen to our concerns.
In other action at the December meeting, SBEC considered teacher training requirements and a proposal to change the performance assessment for teacher certification. Click here to read more.
For more coverage of SBEC's October meeting, click here.