February 2016

HR Extras

TASB Legal Services updates information on firearms at schools

Several firearms laws passed during the 2015 legislative session have prompted district questions regarding where and when are firearms prohibited, what notices are required, and where they should be posted. TASB Legal Services has published two papers in its School Law eSource to help districts understand the issues involved.
 
Firearms on School District Propertyupdated in October 2015, provides an in-depth discussion of the complex state and federal regulations related to the presence of firearms in or around a district building.
 
In January 2016, Legal Services added a second paper, Update on Firearms at Schools, that answers some of the common questions that have surfaced as districts implement the new laws. These frequently asked questions address the steps districts should take if they choose to restrict open or concealed carry on school grounds and the nuances of the posting requirements.
 
Districts that choose to prohibit concealed and openly carried handguns should ensure that up-to-date posters are displayed at each building entrance. Districts can purchase the required posters through the TASB Store.

ACA reporting deadlines extended

Employers subject to the reporting requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have extra time to distribute forms to employees and file them with the government, courtesy of an Internal Revenue Service extension of the reporting deadlines.
 
Previous IRS Due Date New IRS Due Date
Forms 1095-B and 1095-C were due to employees by Feb. 1, 2016 March 31, 2016
If filing on paper, forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C and 1095-C were required to be filed by Feb. 29, 2016 May 31, 2016
If filing electronically, forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C and 1095-C were required to be filed by March 31, 2016 June 30, 2016
Source: ADP
 
Employer groups sought filing extensions because instructions for filing forms were released late in the year, leaving employers with little time to gather all the required information. “The ACA reporting forms require specific information on each employee’s insurance coverage—and their spouse’s and dependents’, if applicable—such as employer identification number, taxpayer identification number, addresses, employee’s full-time status and length of full-time status, proof of minimal essential coverage offered, coverage dates, and employees’ share of coverage premium costs. Collecting required information to ensure accurate reporting is an administrative burden for employers,” said Chatrane Birbal, the senior advisor for governmental relations for the Society for Human Resource Management.

Texas teachers earn more than their counterparts in neighboring states

Texas teachers earn more than teachers in neighboring states, and that disparity appears to be contributing to teacher shortages in those states.
 
Oklahoma began the 2016‒17 school year with more than 1,000 teacher vacancies across the state. In an effort to help districts, the state has approved 948 emergency certificates since July. Oklahoma’s starting teacher salaries are much lower than those in Texas. For example, Ardmore City Schools starts teachers at $32,632 compared to Gainesville ISD’s starting salary of $39,600. Gainesville is only a 40-mile drive south on Interstate 35.
 
Oklahoma isn’t the only neighboring state with the problem. New Mexico public schools are lobbying for an increase in teacher salaries to compete with Texas and other neighboring states.
 
The request to state lawmakers was for a $2,000 increase to raise the starting salary for teachers to $36,000. This increase would impact 3,700 new teachers in fall 2017 if approved by the legislature. The proposal would also provide a $10,000 stipend to the state’s 50 most effective teachers. In an effort to attract highly qualified graduates into the profession, college students with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and a minimum ACT score of 26 could qualify for a $15,000 stipend.

One-time stipend offered to encourage teachers to earn Computer Science certificates

The lack of computer science education in Texas schools is leaving today’s students sadly underprepared to take advantage of some of the fastest growing, highest paying jobs in Texas and the nation. The University of Texas at Austin Center for STEM Education is helping to bridge that gap by offering a one-time stipend for a Computer Science 812 Certification Incentive program.
 
Funds are limited, so interested teachers are encouraged to apply early. The participation incentive is a $1,000 stipend for successful completion of Computer Science 8–12 certification.
 
Candidates are required to:
  • Pursue certification in Computer Science 8–12
  • Be currently certified to teach in Texas or enrolled in an approved teacher certification program
  • Not already hold a Computer Science 8–12 or Computer Information Systems (any level) certificate
  • Submit an application and required documentation by applicable deadlines
  • Receive approval prior to testing (exceptions will be made for those who tested between Aug. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2015)
  • Apply for a test window by the deadline
  • Register for the approved test date and pay fees
  • Complete certification requirements and pay fees
  • Provide proof of success on the exam and proof of certification by the applicable deadline
  • Participate and provide required information in a post-program survey during August 2016

TFA Military Veteran Initiative brings diverse teachers to classrooms

Teach For America began recruiting high-performing college graduates to teach in high-need urban and rural schools 25 years ago. As the program has grown, TFA has worked on creating a more diverse teaching force. It now has nine different initiatives to increase their diversity, including the Military Veteran Initiative.
 
In the past decade, TFA has seen a rise in the number of military veterans applying for teaching jobs. Realizing veterans still had a desire to serve, TFA launched the Military Veterans Initiative in 2012. The first cohort had 75 veterans. To date, almost 300 veterans have participated in this program. TFA has teamed up with several veterans’ organizations, including the nonprofit Got Your 6, the Troops to Teachers (TTT) transition program, and the Student Veterans of America. TTT has helped more than 17,000 veterans transfer their military skills to be successful in the classroom.
 
Veterans may have a leg-up on traditional teachers. They have desire to serve and are willing to go where they are needed. The program has been led by veterans and former TFA alumnus. The current director, Sid Ellington, former Navy SEAL and TFA 2010 alumnus, said, “Students will greatly benefit from a veteran’s depth of experience, strength in leadership, and desire to serve their country.”