Several bills related to general personnel issues were passed during the 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature.
This article describes new requirements, including posting of employment policies, counselor work time, pre-employment procedures for law enforcement, administration of unclaimed property, and public information.
Internet posting of district employment policy (HB 750)
Districts are required to post the employment policy adopted by the school board under Texas Education Code (TEC) §11.1513(a) and the full text of any regulations referenced in the policy on its internet website, if the district has a website.
If the district maintains an intranet website that is accessible to employees, it must make available any forms referenced in the policy on the website. If a district does not have an intranet website maintained by the district and accessible to district employees, the district must make any forms referenced in the policy available at an administrative office designated by the district.
Policies required by TEC §11.1513(a) include the following topics:
- Employment and evaluation of the superintendent
- Superintendent authority to make hiring recommendations
- Delegation to the superintendent for final hiring authority
- Principal approval of campus staff assignments
Districts that subscribe to TASB Policy On Line have met the requirement of posting of policies on the internet. (Effective 9/1/2021)
Counselor work time (SB 179)
School boards must adopt a policy requiring school counselors spend at least 80 percent of the counselor’s total work time on duties that are components of a school counseling program. Time spent administering assessment instruments does not count toward the 80 percent, but time spent interpreting data from the assessment does count.
If a board determines that it can’t comply with the 80 percent requirement because of staffing needs, the policy must:
- Include the reasons why the counselor must spend less than 80 percent of work time on components of the counseling program.
- List the counselor’s duties that are not components of the counseling program.
- Set a percentage of time the counselor must spend on components of the counseling program.
A counselor’s employment contract can’t conflict with district policy or require a counselor to perform duties not related to counseling unless policy provides for an exception from the 80 percent requirement.
Districts must annually assess compliance with the policy and be ready to provide a written copy of the assessment to the commissioner upon request.
Each district must implement a policy providing for counselor duties. Each school must follow the policy and maintain a copy to be made available upon request during regular school hours. The counselor model job description (myTASB login required) has been updated to align with the components of a school counseling program. An alternative job description (myTASB login required) has been added for districts not able to comply with the 80 percent requirement. (Effective 9/1/2021)
Teacher Incentive Allotment eligibility (HB 1525)
The Texas School for the Deaf and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired are now eligible for the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA). The bill adds clarification about how the rural and high needs factors can be calculated for these schools.
The bill also allows districts to designate uncertified teachers as part of their local optional teacher designation system. (Effective 9/1/2021)
Pre-employment procedure for law enforcement (SB 24)
This bill creates pre-employment procedures law enforcement agencies must follow before hiring a licensed officer. The new procedures create uniform hiring practices and avoid situations where peace officers accused of misconduct continue to serve.
The bill provides an exception for release of any information in a police officer’s personnel file and entitles a law enforcement agency hiring a police officer to view the contents of the officer’s file maintained by a police department.
Prior to hiring a licensed officer, a law enforcement agency must get the candidate’s written consent for the agency to review background check information on a consent form from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) and request such information from TCOLE and any other relevant entity. The agency must then confirm to TCOLE that it attempted to obtain the required information and reviewed it, via a confirmation form signed by the head of the law enforcement agency or designee. If an entity refuses to provide information or fails to respond, the agency should document the request and the refusal or lack of response on the confirmation to TCOLE.
TCOLE and law enforcement agencies are required to respond to a request for this information under this section and making information available does not create civil liability. The information required under this section includes personnel files and records, termination reports, service records, proof of qualifications, military discharge records, criminal history record information, pending warrants, evidence of financial responsibility, driving records, proof of citizenship, and employment references.
TCOLE is responsible for creating rules, establishing forms and procedures, making employment records available electronically, privacy and security measures, confidentiality, website access to the forms, and records retention. TCOLE must adopt rules to implement the new procedures by January 1, 2022, and the amended hiring procedures will apply to hires after the effective date of the rules. (Effective 9/1/2021)
Administration of unclaimed property (HB 1514)
This bill revises laws relating to the process for reporting, delivering, and claiming unclaimed property. The changes are relevant to employers if a deceased employee has unclaimed wages and personal items. This bill amends the provision related to the disposition of unclaimed property valued at more than $250. Under this bill, the holder of the property must email or mail the owner notice about the property before delivering the property to the comptroller. (Effective 5/18/2021)
Suspension of the PIA due to catastrophe (SB 1225)
Existing law allows a governmental body, including a school district, that is impacted by a catastrophe to elect a seven-day suspension period (with the choice of an additional, consecutive seven-day extension period) during which compliance with the Public Information Act (PIA) is not required, if the governmental body complies with specific procedures. SB 1225 limits a governmental body’s ability to elect a suspension period (and a single extension period) to only one time for each catastrophe. The combined suspension period for a governmental body may not exceed a total of 14 consecutive calendar days with respect to any single catastrophe. Upon conclusion of any suspension period, the governmental body must immediately resume compliance with all requirements of the PIA.
The bill also narrows the application only to a governmental body that is “significantly” impacted by a catastrophe such that the catastrophe directly causes the inability of a governmental body to comply with the requirements of the PIA. The definition of catastrophe is amended to mean a condition or occurrence that directly interferes with the ability of a governmental body to comply with the PIA and expressly excludes a period when staff is required to work remotely and, even though the physical office of the governmental body is closed, can still access information responsive to an application for information electronically.
Additionally, the bill requires a governmental body that closes its physical offices but requires staff to work, including remotely, to make a good faith effort to continue responding to applications for information subject to the PIA. This is required even while administrative offices are closed, to the extent staff have access to responsive information. A failure to respond to requests under such conditions may constitute either a refusal to request an attorney general’s decision as provided by the PIA or a refusal to supply public information or information that the attorney general has determined is public information and not excepted from disclosure under the PIA. This requirement wouldn’t apply during a temporary PIA suspension period. (Effective 9/1/2021)
Certain personal information of elected public officers (HB 1082)
HB 1082 amends two different PIA provisions that allow a district to withhold certain personal information of an elected public officer under different circumstances. Personal information that may be protected include home address, home telephone number, emergency contact information, social security number, or information that reveals whether an individual has family members. If an elected official chooses to restrict public access to personal information and completes the applicable form, the district is required to maintain the confidentiality and withhold the information when requested in accordance with procedures required by the PIA. (Effective 5/19/2021)
April Mabry is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send April an email at email@example.com.
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