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Texas Public School Employee Contracts

Your contract is the single most important determiner of your rights within your employment. It is critically important to know what your contract says as it governs and defines what you can expect or demand from your district and what your district can expect or demand from you.

You are entitled to a contract if you are employed as a:
• Classroom teacher
• Counselor
• Principal
• Librarian
• Nurse
• Full-time professional employee who is required by the state or the school district to hold a certificate from the State Board for Educator Certification. (All other employees are entitled to contracts only at the discretion of local districts.)

Types of contracts:
• Probationary
• Term
• Continuing

Probationary contracts

  • Must be given during the first year of employment in public education.
  • May be given in the first year of employment by a school district unless the person is returning to a district after having been previously employed by the district for two consecutive years.
  • May not extend beyond one year for a person who has been employed as a teacher in public education for at least five of the eight years immediately preceding employment with the district. Otherwise, the probationary period may last up to three years or, in some circumstances, four years.
  • Can be terminated at the end of the contract period by giving the teacher proper notice of termination. (No reasons or hearing are required for termination at the end of probationary contracts.)
  • Give teachers all the same rights and responsibilities as nonprobationary contracts, with the exception of due process at the end of the contract period.

VideoBasic information that can be helpful if you are asked to return to a probationary contract.

Term contracts

  • Run for a specified length of time that can be no more than five years.
  • Are automatically renewed unless the school board votes to "nonrenew" the contract.
  • Require that teachers be given proper notice of renewal or nonrenewal of the contract; if teachers do not receive notice, the contract is considered to be renewed for the following year. The Legislature recently changed the notice deadline from 45 days before the last instructional day to 10 days before the last instructional day. It is unclear whether this new deadline applies to the 2011-12 school year.
  • Can be nonrenewed at the end of the contract term for “sufficient cause.” Districts must have policies in place that state the reasons that constitute sufficient cause for nonrenewal. Almost any reason can be sufficient as long as districts include it in their policies so teachers have advance notice of district expectations.
  • Entitle teachers to a hearing and the opportunity to present evidence prior to a final decision regarding nonrenewal.
  • May be terminated during the school year only for good cause, or the teacher may be suspended without pay only for good cause. (The teacher is entitled to a hearing in either situation.)

Continuing contracts

  • Continue in effect from year to year until the teacher resigns, retires, is terminated or released from employment, or is returned to probationary status by the district for good cause.
  • Entitle teachers to a hearing prior to a final decision regarding termination.

FAQ

What are my rights regarding my assignments?

  • Read your contract carefully to determine which duties are specifically included. 
  • Supplemental duties, such as coaching, may not be specified. If they are included, your district might have to provide you with due process before taking the compensation for the duty away. If these supplemental duties are not included in your contract, and you do not have a separate contract for these duties, then you may have neither a right nor an obligation to continue in these duties, and they may be terminated or you may resign from them at any time.
  • Most contracts give districts the leeway to assign additional duties, including lunch or bus duty, ticket-taking at athletic events, or attendance at parent-teacher meetings. As long as the additional duties are within the general expectations of what may be expected of an educator and fall within the time period covered by the contract, they are probably valid assignments.
  • Specific work assignments are usually not protected by contract. If your contract says that you are employed as a "teacher," you do not have a contractual right to a specific teaching assignment; your district may assign you to any teaching position for which you are certified. But if your contract has a more narrow description of your employment position, your district may be more restricted in the reassignments that it can make. (Also see Reassignments.)

How do I resign from my contract?
When you signed your contract, you agreed to work in your district for the entire school year. If you ask to be released from your contract during the school year and your request is denied, you must continue to work or risk a suspension of your certificate for contract abandonment. However, if you wish to resign for the next school year, you must simply notify your district in writing no later than 45 days before the first day of instruction of the following school year. The local school board must approve resignations after that date or any requests to resign during the school year.

What is a contract release?
If it is past the 45-day resignation deadline, then you must ask the district to release you. If the district refuses to do so and you leave anyway, the district may submit a complaint to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). The common sanction for “contract abandonment” is a one-year suspension of teaching credentials, but milder sanctions are sometimes given, depending on the individual situation. SBEC does take mitigating circumstances into consideration. It is important to be able to show that:

(1) You were compelled to leave, such as in cases of serious health or family circumstances. (A better job is not good cause.)
(2) You gave the district as much notice as you could.
(3) You did what you could to find and/or assist your replacement.

Will my contract be the same each year?
The district can legally change many of your contract’s terms each time you are required to sign a new one, but some terms cannot be changed without your agreement. (Continuing contracts do not change without the consent of the employee.) So, you must read it. Don’t assume your new contract is the same as your last one. The most important parts to review are the employment position listed on the contract and the type of contract—whether it is probationary, term or continuing. Contracts rarely provide information regarding starting or ending dates, hours or even salary. This information must be found in local policy, which is incorporated into the contract.

How will I know what my salary will be next year?
Your salary will likely not be listed on your contract. If it’s not, don’t rely on administrators’ “expectations” of what your salary will be. You aren’t guaranteed to make more money, or even the same amount of money, until your school board sets next year’s salary schedule. However, if the last day for unilateral resignation from your contract comes and goes, and the district hasn’t informed you of your salary or indicated that it might decrease next year, you can expect to make at least as much as you made last year.

Can I be fired if I have a contract?
A contract employee may be terminated during the contract for "good cause." "Good cause" may be based on the individual educator's performance or a reduction in force (RIF). The district is required to establish that good cause actually exists. This is done through a due process hearing.

Termination of employment at the end of the contract is referred to as a "nonrenewal." Districts must give notice of the school board's decision to propose to nonrenew no later than the date set in state law. If you haven’t heard from your district by that date, your contract has been renewed for next year whether you’ve signed a new contract or not.

A district is not required to prove that good cause exists to nonrenew a probationary contract, but the district is required to establish that good cause exists to nonrenew a term contract. Again, a due process hearing is required.

When can my contract be "voided"?
If you do not obtain or retain mandatory certification for your assignment, your contract may be "voided" or automatically terminated without due process unless you have applied for a renewal of your certificate.

Can I be returned to a probationary contract?
You can be returned to a probationary contract only if you agree in writing after receiving written notice that your district has proposed or intends to propose your termination or nonrenewal. You must be given at least three days to consider such a proposal. If you agree to accept the probationary contract, you will serve a new probationary period as if employed by the district for the first time. If you do not agree to accept the probationary contract, then the district can proceed with termination or nonrenewal.

VideoBasic information that can be helpful if you are asked to return to a probationary contract.

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The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online system, MLSIS.
 

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