TCTA scored a major victory at Friday’s State Board for Educator Certification meeting by successfully persuading the board to reverse course on a highly problematic proposal to require board review of disciplinary settlement agreements between educators and TEA staff. TCTA’s Julie Leahy presented persuasive testimony cautioning the board that such a move would result in less incentive for educators to enter into agreements with staff, more expensive formal hearings, inefficiency, and diversion of resources away from other certification matters. See TCTA's written testimony here.

SBEC has long had a practice of delegating authority to TEA staff to enter into settlement agreements with educators without necessitating board review of those agreements, much as local school district grievance policies encourage resolution of grievances at the lowest possible level without having to go to the school board. However, recently the board's attorney called the practice into question, noting that there was no explicit statutory authority for the board to do so. In response, the board began reviewing agreed orders until the issue could be resolved. Fortunately, the Texas legislature was in session and passed legislation in May of this year explicitly authorizing SBEC to delegate the authority back to TEA staff. However, after having had the experience of reviewing agreed orders for some months, some SBEC board members were reluctant to delegate the duty back to staff, in part because of what some members viewed as major inconsistencies in the way the cases were resolved. Accordingly, one of the agenda items for Friday’s meeting was to establish a permanent subcommittee of the board to review selected agreed orders and to make recommendations to the full board for resolution of these cases. 

Alarmed by this, TCTA contacted key board members and offered testimony pointing out that each of these cases involved unique fact situations that necessitated individualized resolutions, and that a move in this direction would be tantamount to micromanagement by the board, much as if a school board of trustees reviewed every decision made by a grade placement committee regarding whether a particular student should be promoted or retained. TCTA additionally pointed out that if educators and their attorneys were put in the situation where a settlement agreement negotiated with TEA staff was not final, but subject to board review, educators would have little if no incentive to agree to a settlement, but would instead elect to proceed straight to a full, formal hearing with the State Office of Hearing Examiners. This, in turn, would incur much more expense, time and energy by TEA and educators alike.

SBEC took TCTA’s concerns to heart and declined to form a permanent board subcommittee to review settlement agreements, instead opting for the formation of a temporary, ad hoc committee of the board to devise broad guidelines and a structure for disciplinary cases, with the involvement of staff and stakeholders, to make recommendations to the board as part of a plan to transition authority back to TEA staff to enter into agreed orders without the necessity of board review.  SBEC and TCTA member Suzanne Garcia McCall will serve on the subcommittee and TCTA plans to be actively involved in the committee’s formulation of guidelines and recommendations.