Members are invited to join TCTA staff attorneys on March 1 at 6 p.m. CST to learn more and ask questions about contracts. Register for this 30-minute webinar here.
The State Board of Education gave final approval at its January meeting to amend rules of the State Board for Educator Certification 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 and adopted at the December meeting. TCTA testified in favor of the proposed rule changes at both meetings, 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 opposed the proposed rule changes before the State Board for Educator Certification, arguing that adopting the rules would result in staffing and budgetary complications for school district administration. Individual superintendents and the Texas Association of School Boards also opposed approval of the rule before the SBOE.
On Jan. 25, TCTA staff attorney Julie Leahy presented live testimony before the committee of the State Board of Education that approves proposed SBEC rules. 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. Committee members voiced concern regarding the rule, citing the superintendents that had reached out to them to voice opposition. Although the committee vote to allow the rule to proceed to the full SBOE was close, at 3-2, the final vote before the full State Board of Education was 12-3.
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 amended rules become effective on March 2, 2022. TCTA members who are considering resigning from their contracts before the end of the year and believe that the new rule may apply to their situation should contact the TCTA Legal Department to speak with one of our staff attorneys prior to tendering a resignation from the district.
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.