Identifying probationary contract year limits

by Patti Ellis

As districts begin renewal processes, the question of how long someone can be employed by probationary contract arises.

Familiarity with the limits also is important when hiring new staff.

A probationary contract may not last for a term greater than one school year. A contract for individuals with fewer than five years of experience can be renewed for two additional one-year periods for a maximum of three school years. A fourth probationary year may be added in circumstances where the board determines it is unlikely the teacher should be given a continuing or term contract.

A person who has been employed as a teacher in public education for at least five of the previous eight years at the time of hire may only serve on a probationary contract for one school year. This is often referred to as the five-of-eight rule.

Employees must complete one full school year under a probationary contract. A partial year doesn’t meet this minimum requirement, so employees hired for a partial year will need to complete a full year under a probationary contract after their initial partial year.

While probationary contracts are required for certified professionals and nurses hired by the district for the first time or who have not been employed by the district for two or more consecutive school years, there are two exceptions to this requirement.

  1. If the certified professional or nurse previously was employed by the district with less than a two-year gap, he or she must be rehired under a term or continuing contract.
  2. If the individual has prior public school experience as a principal or classroom teacher, the district may choose to hire under a term contract.

District human resources staff should be aware of any contract exemptions included in the district’s innovation plan. You can read more about probationary limits in the Employment Contracts section of the HR Library (myTASB login required). Detailed information on all types of employment contracts can be found in the TASB Legal Services’ Guide to Educator Contracts, which is available for purchase in the TASB Store.

Recruiting and preparing teachers and principals

by Karen Dooley

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently announced the opening of competitive grant opportunities issued for 2018–2019. These grants are for recruiting teacher candidates within districts (students and paraprofessionals) and providing avenues for future certification as well as supporting the preparation of future principals through campus-based leadership residencies.

Principal preparation

The Principal Preparation grant program was opened for application on January 12, 2018, and will close on March 13, 2018, at 5:00 p.m. This grant provides an opportunity for school districts to build strong campus leaders through principal residencies.

A total of $4,677,876 is available for approximately 120 grants expected to range from $13,000 to $130,000. The grant period is from April 13, 2018, to June 30, 2019. Local education agencies (LEAs) eligible for Title II, Part A funding may apply. Education service centers (ESCs) may apply as fiscal agents. The grant seeks to support the leadership pipeline within a school district by identifying potential leaders among existing staff. Teachers who have demonstrated instructional success and strong leadership skills would be the most likely candidates selected for the program.

Once a district identifies strong principal candidates, it will partner with a preparation program that provides training focused on best practices in campus leadership. A campus-based leadership experience with a concentrated focus on instructional leadership will be offered to the candidates throughout the residency year. The grant may be used for tuition reimbursement for teachers seeking administrative certification and for certification and testing costs for new principal exams.

Grow your own teachers

The second competitive grant opportunity available through TEA is the Grow Your Own grant program. This grant application also opened on January 12, 2018, and will close on March 13, 2018, at 5:00 p.m.

If you’re a school district wanting to increase the quality and diversity of your teaching force, this grant could be for you. The grant consists of three pathways. Pathway 1 focuses on the recruitment of current high school students who have an interest in pursuing a career in education. Teachers for this program would be required to have a master’s degree because the program includes dual credit opportunities. As a freshman, the high school student would take Principles of Education and Training, followed by Human Growth and Development taken during the student’s sophomore year. Instructional Practices would follow for the junior year and during their senior year, the student would complete the Practicum in Education and Training.

Pathway 2 targets paraprofessionals, instructional aides, and substitutes currently employed in the school district. Individuals in those jobs who have an interest in future employment as a certified teacher may benefit from this grant. The grant could be used to pay tuition stipends. Pathway 3 entails a year-long paid clinical teaching assignment for student teachers.

The grant is open to all districts with “priority points” awarded in the selection process. The smaller the district, the more priority points will be given.

The funding totals $3,043,400 for approximately 100 grants. The grant period for Pathway 1 and 2 will be April 13, 2018, through May 31, 2020. Pathway 3 will run from April 13, 2018, through June 30, 2019. Eligibility is for all LEAs. ESCs may apply as the fiscal agent for districts participating in Pathway 1 and 2. Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) may apply for Pathway 3.

Detailed information and applications can be found on the TEA Grant Opportunities website. A recorded webinar was presented on February 1 and is available for viewing. An FAQ is also scheduled to be released this month. You also can read the letter on competitive grant opportunities from the Deputy Commissioner of Educator Support here.

Teacher salaries, pay raises stagnant for 2017–2018

by Troy Bryant

The median Texas teacher average salary rose to $47,898, a slight increase of 1 percent over last year’s median of $47,283, according to the 2017‒2018 TASB Salary Survey. Median teacher salaries have risen steadily over the past few years.

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The median salary for new Texas teachers is $40,074—43 percent above the starting 2017‒2018 state minimum teacher salary. Last year, the statewide teacher starting salary rose above $40,000 for the first time. Fifty-four percent of responding districts (299) have an entry-level salary of $40,000 or greater, similar to last year. Sixteen percent of districts have an entry-level salary of $50,000 or more, up two percentage points from last year.

For the 2017‒2018 school year, average teacher pay increases in Texas were nearly unchanged from last year, according to results from the annual TASB salary survey of teacher compensation in public schools. In districts that gave raises (including experience-based step increases), the median average pay increase for returning teachers was 2.3 percent.

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Looking at pay increases by district community type as classified by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), districts in major suburban, non-metropolitan fast growing, other central city, and other central city suburban communities gave teachers the largest increase (median 2.5 percent). Rural districts—the largest group in the state—gave a 2.2 percent pay raise. Major urban districts provided their teachers with a 2.1 percent raise, the lowest among the community types.

Of the teacher shortage stipends surveyed, districts pay math and science stipends most frequently. The median stipend amounts for math and science is $2,500. Among shortage stipends, the highest median stipend amount is in the area of bilingual education ($3,000), unchanged from 2016‒2017.

In addition, nearly 80 percent of districts indicated they pay an incentive to teachers with a master’s degree. Twenty-eight districts pay for any type of master’s degree but pay a larger stipend to teachers with advanced degrees in their subject area. The median stipend paid for a master’s degree in any area of study is $1,000, identical to last year. The median stipend paid for a master’s degree in a specific teaching field is $1,500.

For 2017‒2018, 558 Texas school districts, representing nearly 90 percent of the estimated total population of teachers in Texas public schools, are reported in the survey data.

For more teacher salary survey results, view the summary report (PDF) available on our website. HR Services members can also access the full survey data in DataCentral. Subscribers can use the data to create their own custom comparison reports for teacher average salaries, starting teacher pay, teaching shortage stipends and incentives, and more.

HR Extras

Discrimination charges in Texas hit 9-year low

The number of discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Texas is lower than it’s been since 2009, according to an EEOC news release.

The state experienced a decrease of 481 charges over last year, the largest decrease since 2011–2012. Still, the 8,827 charges in Texas account for 10.5 percent of the nation’s total—by far the most by any state in the country. Florida had the second-most discrimination charges filed in 2017 with 6,858.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the 2017 discrimination charges statistics in Texas (note that the percentage will add up to more than 100 because individuals often file charges claiming multiple types of discrimination):

  • 53 percent—retaliation
  • 34 percent—race
  • 31 percent—sex
  • 30 percent—disability
  • 22 percent—age
  • 13 percent—origin
  • 3 percent—religion

Nationally, the country reported 84,254 discrimination charges, down from 91,503 in 2016. Retaliation charges decreased slightly from last year but still accounted for 48.8 percent of all charges in 2017.

Once again, California proved it’s not all about state population size when considering the factors for the number of charges filed. Though it has 12 million more residents, California (5,423) had just 61 percent of charges Texas did.

For more on the statistics, visit the EEOC website.

Salaries in the United States are up from last year

A news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) detailed the wages of the nation's 113.3 million full-time and salaried workers in 2017. The report stated median weekly earnings were $860, up from $832 last year.

For a full report on salaries and wage earnings from the fourth quarter of 2017, visit the BLS website

Inside HR Services

No changes to TASB Model Contracts

There will not be any changes to the TASB Model Contracts in 2018. The 2017 TASB Model Contracts and related documents are available in the HR Library.

Take our new Dual Credit Teacher Pay survey

Participate in our newest HR survey in DataCentral: Dual Credit Teacher Pay. Our survey covers source of funds, location of courses, basis of payment (e.g., per class, per semester), and annual pay amounts.

Visit DataCentral and go to the HR Data page to take the survey. Results will be available in late February to participating districts.

Extra-Duty stipend, superintendent total compensation available 

New 2017–2018 Extra-Duty Stipend Survey data is available in DataCentral for all member districts. Access the data to create your own custom market reports on more than 75 athletic, academic, and performing arts stipends. This year you’ll find two new stipends in DataCentral: lead counselor high school and lead diagnostician/LSSP/SLP.

It’s the time of year when you may need to review superintendent compensation market data. Remember to visit DataCentral to research the most current data on total compensation, including common allowances and benefits in Texas public schools. You can find the 2017–2018 Superintendent Salary Survey data in DataCentral.