Contract Abandonment

October 22, 2021 • Karen Dooley

Contract Abandonment

Public comment is open October 22 through November 22 on proposed rule changes to Chapter 19 of the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §249.17 regarding contract abandonment.

When an educator abandons a contract, the school board must find that an educator lacked good cause to leave the district prior to filing a complaint with the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC).

Details

Rules must change to implement House Bill (HB) 2519 from the 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. HB 2519 prohibits SBEC from suspending or revoking a teacher’s certificate for contract abandonment if a written resignation is submitted after the penalty-free resignation deadline (i.e., 45 days before the first day of instruction), but not later than the 30th day prior to the first day of instruction. The proposed rule states the teacher will receive an inscribed reprimand but doesn’t eliminate the mitigating factor of written notice to the school district for 30–45 days in advance of the first day of instruction.

The proposed rule also adds the educator’s reasonable belief that they had written permission from the school district administration to resign as good cause.

Additionally, the following four mitigating factors are being proposed:

  • The educator changed careers within the field of education to a position that required a different class of educator certification as defined in TAC §230.33(b) to a position with a higher level of authority within the principal class of certificate.
  • The educator has a reduction in base pay, excluding stipends, as compared to the educator’s base pay for the prior year at the same school district.
  • There was a change in the educator’s campus assignment that caused a significant adverse impact on the educator’s health condition or family needs.
  • The educator resigned due to working conditions that reasonably posed an immediate threat of significant physical harm to the educator.

Concerns

Chapter 21 contracts are required by law and bind both the school district and the educator, to employment for the term of the contract. Contracts serve to protect both educators and the district. School districts must follow specific statutory procedures to end a Chapter 21 contract. Likewise, educators should be contractually obligated to the school district. Additionally, districts make hiring decisions relying on an educator remaining in the position for the entire school year and most often work with the educator when a mid-year resignation occurs.

The penalty-free resignation period runs from the end of the instructional year through the 45th day before the first day of instruction and provides ample opportunity for an educator to make employment decisions for the coming year. Expanding good cause and adding additional mitigating factors limits a school district’s ability to support students through staffing decisions and could cause a student to have multiple teachers per school year or unqualified substitutes.

Process

The HRX article Reporting Contract Abandonment identifies specific steps in the process to file a complaint against an educator who abandons a contract.

SBEC will review a complaint submitted by the school district and consider if good cause exists for the abandonment. If the educator did not have good cause, SBEC must then consider mitigating factors in its discipline determination.

Additional opportunities

In addition to filing the proposed rules in the Texas Register for public comment, SBEC will take oral and written comments on the proposed rules at their December 10 meeting.


Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at karen.dooley@tasb.org.


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Tagged: "Educator contracts", "Employment law", "Teacher contracts", Termination