Reductions In Force

1. Reductions in force (RIFs) are the equivalent of what might be referred to as layoffs in the private sector, and are job losses resulting from school district financial difficulties. They’re not inevitable. Though many districts are talking about reducing staff, there are also districts and superintendents who are indicating that they can cut everything they need to without cutting staff.

2. What you’re hearing now in the media, at the legislature, and in your local district, is likely a worst-case scenario. It is entirely likely that public education and individual school districts are going to experience painful budget cuts over the upcoming two years. Those budget cuts, however, may not be as severe as the scenarios being discussed now. Legislators may choose to use part or all of the Rainy Day Fund, use some accounting gimmicks, and/or identify other sources of revenue to reduce the level of cuts needed.

3. If you are a probationary contract teacher (generally new teachers within their first three years of employment in a district or experienced teachers within their first year of employment in a new district), you are more vulnerable to being let go as a result of budget cuts because the district is not required to formally declare a reduction in force or grant you a hearing if your contract is not renewed at the end of the school year. Non-contractual personnel may also, in most districts, be let go at any time without the right to a hearing, unless otherwise provided by district policy. As a result, many districts are also considering job cuts in support personnel categories.

4. Districts must follow their local policies in any reduction in force. In most districts, the policies adopted by your local board are posted online. If your district uses the Texas Association of School Boards policy service (as most do), the policy will likely be found under the DFF(Local) heading. You should become familiar with it now. In most districts, factors considered in whose position or employment will be eliminated pursuant to local policies include proper certification, performance appraisals, and seniority.

5. If you are on a probationary or term contract with your district, the district is required to notify you of the proposed nonrenewal of your contract no later than 45 days prior to the last day of instruction. For most people, that’s early to mid-April. The fact that districts are not likely to know how much revenue to expect from the state by that deadline means that many districts may “over-notify” by telling more people than will actually need to be let go that their contracts have been proposed for nonrenewal. In prior years it has been our experience that after attrition (normal resignations and retirements) has been factored in, the number of actual contract nonrenewals is often considerably lower than the number of people who receive notice. Some districts are offering incentives for early notification of planned resignations and retirements in order to more accurately predict what cuts will be needed to their workforce.

6. If your principal tells you that you are “on the list” or that the nonrenewal of your contract will be proposed, contact the TCTA Legal Department immediately. Though some individuals may choose to resign, there are implications to that decision, including the potential “over-notification” issue discussed in #5 and your eligibility for unemployment compensation. A resignation can potentially disqualify you for unemployment compensation, so talk to a TCTA attorney before making the decision to submit a resignation unless you are sure you want to resign regardless.

7. Some district policies provide preferential “rehiring” policies for those who have been subject to a reduction in force. If your contract is proposed for nonrenewal, check Policy DFF(Local) to determine whether this provision is in place in your district, and be diligent about checking job postings (districts are required to post job notices via a law initiated by TCTA)  and applying for other positions in which you are interested.

8. Although the legislature will ultimately determine how much money districts are going to receive for the next two school years, most of the decisions regarding what programs and positions are going to be cut, if any, will be made at the local school board level. Now is the time to be monitoring your school board’s actions closely, and proposing alternatives to cutting instructional personnel. The Feb. 18 issue of the TCTA e-update provided information from a couple of Texas districts that may generate some ideas in yours.

9. Legislators are expected to discuss providing districts with flexibility, on at least a temporary basis, to consider alternatives to cutting jobs, such as furloughs (involuntary, unpaid days off that you would normally have worked) or salary reductions (prohibited by current law for teachers). TCTA will vigorously oppose permanent harmful changes to employee legal protections. We will keep you posted through our publications, website and e-updates as these discussions develop.

10. If the worst happens and you find that your contract is, indeed, proposed for contract nonrenewal (termination for continuing contracts) and you are a current TCTA member, contact the TCTA Legal Department immediately. You will have the opportunity to speak with an attorney who can help review the issues in your case, determine whether district procedures were properly applied, and request a hearing at which an attorney can represent you if you are not on a probationary contract and wish to contest the district’s decision.  Timelines are short, though, so call immediately if you receive notice of a proposed contract nonrenewal. In the meantime, try not to be unduly alarmed by rumors. The legal process only begins when you, as an individual, receive a notice of proposed contract nonrenewal. An actual notice of proposed nonrenewal must come from the Board or designee, be in writing, and be provided at least 45 calendar days prior to the last day of student instruction for the 2010-11 school year.

 

For more information on reductions in force, you may wish to read these articles appearing in previous TCTA publications:
What is a RIF and how can it be used?

A reduction in force has been announced - now what?

What to do if your district is considering a RIF

TCTA efforts lead to favorable results

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For general questions, TCTA members can always use the TCTA Ask-a-Lawyer email service accessible from the homepage. (If you have a specific legal problem or complex situation, you should call instead so the facts can be fully explored.)

This document is intended to provide general information only, and does not constitute or substitute for individual advice from an attorney.