If an educator leaves employment without a release at a time that he cannot simply resign, the district cannot force the educator to remain working for the district, but the district board can vote that the educator left without good cause and can submit a complaint requesting that the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) sanction the educator for “abandoning” his contract.
The board must authorize the complaint within 30 days of the date the educator quit working for SBEC to pursue sanctions. If a timely complaint is filed, TEA staff will investigate to determine independently whether the educator had good cause to leave. If the TEA staff members determine that good cause existed, they can simply dismiss the complaint. If, however, they determine that good cause did not exist, they can pursue sanctions through the normal hearing procedures that apply to SBEC disciplinary due process.
Over the years, through previous cases, a body of law has developed defining what is and what is not considered good cause. SBEC has incorporated many of these informal considerations into official guidelines. The SBEC rules now provide that there are several specific situations that would be considered good cause for contract abandonment:
- Serious illness or health condition of the educator or close family member of the educator.
- Relocation to a new city as a result of change in employer of the educator’s spouse or partner who resides with the educator.
- Significant change in the educator’s family needs that require the educator to relocate or devote more time than allowed by current employment.
The rules now also include mitigating factors that may be considered in determining whether an educator should be sanctioned for abandonment or whether the sanction should be reduced. Included in these factors are:
- The educator gave written notice to the district 30 days or more in advance of the first day of instruction for which the educator will not be present.
- The educator assisted the school district in finding a replacement educator to fill the position.
- The educator continued to work until the school district hired a replacement educator.
- The educator assisted in training the replacement educator.
- The educator showed good faith in communications and negotiations with the school district.
- The educator provided lesson plans for classes following the educator’s resignation.
The rules finally codified what had been common practice by providing that an educator who abandons his contract without good cause and without mitigating the harm as provided for will normally have his certification suspended for a year, either from the date of the abandonment or the date of the SBEC ruling, depending on the circumstances.
As has always been the case, SBEC does not consider a promotion or an offer of a better-paying position as good cause to abandon a contract. While an individual school district might, by local policy or practice, allow an educator to resign without filing a complaint with SBEC, if the district does, SBEC is not sympathetic to such situations. Nor does SBEC consider a significant change in employment, such as an unwanted reassignment or demotion as good cause to abandon a contract.