The following was included in TCTA's 2017-18 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2017 but is subject to change.

Employees with contracts

Teacher contracts are governed by Chapter 21 of the Texas Education Code. The definition of “teacher” for purposes of Chapter 21 is a principal, supervisor, classroom teacher, counselor or other full-time professional employee who is required to hold a certificate issued by the State Board for Educator Certification (as well as educational diagnosticians and nurses). Superintendents may receive term contracts, but not probationary or continuing contracts.

Types of contracts

Teachers must know which type of contract they have before they can determine their statutory rights. The Texas Education Code provides for three basic types of teacher contracts:

Type of Contract/Duration Discharge During Term (Year) or Suspension Without Pay Discharge - End of Term (Year)

Probationary

A probationary contract is for one year only; it may be renewed for two additional one-year periods. (A local school board may authorize a fourth probationary year for an individual employee.) Teachers transferring to a new district who have been employed in public schools for at least five of the previous eight years are probationary for only one year, although the district has the option to offer a nonprobationary contract. A teacher who returns to a district after a two-year lapse in employment receives a probationary contract.

 

The action must be taken for good cause as determined by the school district. Good cause is defined as failure to meet the accepted standards of conduct for the profession as generally recognized and applied in similarly situated districts. The teacher has a right to request a hearing before an independent hearing officer, unless the district has declared a financial exigency, in which case the procedures applicable to an end-of-term discharge for a term contract can be used by the district. The request for a hearing must be received by the commissioner of education within 15 days.

 

The discharge must be in the best interest of the district, as determined by the board; it is not appealable. A teacher must receive district notice of the discharge at least 10 days before the last day of instruction. State law does not entitle a probationary teacher whose contract is not being renewed to a hearing before the local board.

Continuing

This contract has an indefinite duration. The contractual rights last until the teacher resigns, retires or is discharged for good cause. There is no need for annual nomination or reappointment.

 

The action must be taken for good cause as determined by the school district. Good cause is defined as failure to meet the accepted standards of conduct for the profession as generally recognized and applied in similarly situated districts. The teacher has a right to request a hearing before an independent hearing officer. The local school board must be given notice of appeal within 10 days and the commissioner of education must be notified within 15 days.

 

The action must be for good cause. The same standards and rights apply as outlined for discharges during the year. Releases may be allowed for necessary reduction of personnel, with those reductions primarily based on teacher appraisals. If the district has declared a financial exigency, the procedures applicable to an end-of-term discharge for a term contract can be used by the district.

Term

A term contract may not exceed five school years; it is usually for one or two years. In term contract districts, teacher contracts are regularly considered for renewal by the local school board.

 

The action must be taken for good cause as determined by the school district, or as a result of a financial exigency that requires a reduction in personnel. The teacher has a right to request a hearing before an independent hearing officer, unless the district has declared a financial exigency, in which case the procedures applicable to an end-of-term discharge can be used by the district. The request for a hearing must be received by the commissioner of education within 15 days.

 

The discharge must be for reasons contained in the district policy. Teachers must receive district notice of renewal or nonrenewal at least 10 days before the last day of instruction. A teacher’s appraisal must be considered if it is relevant to the discharge. The teacher is entitled to a school board hearing, except that school districts with more than 5,000 students may use an attorney who does not represent districts or school employees to hold the hearing. The decision is appealable only if it is arbitrary, capricious, unlawful or not supported by substantial evidence. The teacher has 15 days to request a hearing.

Resignation

A teacher wishing to resign must do so prior to 45 days before the first instructional day of the school year or obtain permission from the district. Failure to comply could be considered contract abandonment and result in certification sanctions.

Return to probationary contract

A teacher may be returned to probationary status in lieu of discharge only if he/she agrees. A certified employee also may be placed on a probationary contract if he/she accepts an assignment in a new position that requires a different class of certification, such as administrator, counselor or librarian.

Void contract

A contract is void and can be terminated without a hearing if the teacher does not hold a valid certificate or permit or fails to fulfill the requirements for renewal or extension of a certificate or permit, including failure to comply with a criminal background check or conviction of certain felonies where the victim is younger than 18. Pursuant to legislation initiated by TCTA, a certificate does not lapse if there is a delay in processing by SBEC. A district may not terminate a teacher’s contract that is void if, not later than the 10th day after it is void, the teacher takes necessary measures to renew, extend or validate the permit with SBEC (see Educator Certification). A contract may also be voided if a district becomes aware that the teacher is convicted of any felony other than one that is grounds for automatic certificate revocation.

Hearing officer

The hearing officer in covered hearings is an attorney appointed from a list compiled by the commissioner of education. The attorney may not also represent districts, school employees and/or employee associations. The hearing officer’s fact-finding may be overturned by the school board or on appeal only if deemed to be arbitrary and capricious. The determination of whether there is good cause to terminate a teacher’s contract is a conclusion of law that can be changed by the school board, but is subject to appeal.

See also:

Teacher contract provisions and their meanings