This article appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of The Classroom Teacher.

Educators generally resign before the summer resignation date, with the consent of the district, or for cause and possibly without the district’s consent. This article applies to educators who hold probationary, term or continuing contracts working in Texas public school districts.

Resigning by not signing new contract

A probationary or term contract teacher can effectively resign by declining to sign and return a new contract by the deadline listed on the contract.

Resigning before the summer resignation date

Chapter 21 of the Education Code allows those who have signed contracts to unilaterally resign no later than the 45th calendar day before the first day of instruction. For 2016-2017, many districts will start school on Aug. 22, 2016. Teachers employed in districts with that start date would need to resign by July 8. 

The Education Code describes the resignation process: educators can resign unilaterally by sending resignations addressed to the board at the district’s post office address by registered or certified mail (preferably certified, return receipt requested) postmarked on or before the deadline. 

Whether an educator resigns on or before the deadline by mail or by turning in a resignation to a superintendent (keeping a copy to show receipt by the district), the act of submitting the resignation completes the process. A district need not “accept” a resignation for it to become effective at the end of the year or before the deadline, and, because submitting the resignation completes the process, an educator cannot unilaterally rescind the resignation and require the district to re-employ the educator.

Resigning with consent

After the resignation date, an employee can legally resign from a contract with the board’s consent or, in most districts, with the superintendent’s consent. Without a board delegation of authority, a principal cannot lawfully consent to an employee’s request to resign. Most districts will allow professionals to resign from a contract after the district hires a qualified replacement. That districts have become more reluctant to allow educators to resign before the district locates or hires a replacement may reflect the fact that districts now find it more difficult to attract and retain good teachers.

Resigning without consent; possible sanction

A certified educator who resigns after the deadline and without consent may face sanction by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). A board can determine that an educator abandoned a contract without cause and, within 30 days of the date the employee does not show up for work, send notice to the Texas Education Agency requesting sanctions. The standard sanction, a one-year suspension of an educator’s credentials, prevents an educator from working in a public school during the suspension.

If SBEC suspends an educator’s credentials, a notice of the sanction appears on the educator’s online credentials. The notice remains after the educator completes the process for reinstatement.

Resignations with good cause

If an educator “abandons” a contract for good cause, SBEC will not sanction the educator’s credentials. Newly adopted SBEC rules related to good cause become effective on May 15, 2016, upon State Board of Education approval. The rules define good cause as: a serious illness or health condition of the educator or an educator’s family member; the educator’s relocation to a new city following the change in employer of the educator’s spouse or partner; or a change in the educator’s “family needs” that require the educator to relocate or “devote more time than allowed by current employment.”

SBEC also adopted a rule relating to factors that it may consider in “seeking, proposing, or making a decision” related to contract abandonment. Educators can present evidence that they gave sufficient notice, helped a district hire a replacement, worked until a replacement took over, helped train a replacement, communicated with the district in good faith, and provided instructional support such as lesson plans. SBEC recently voted to suspend the credentials of a bilingual teacher who left a district without consent. Although the teacher may have had good reasons for resigning and experienced stress due to working conditions, the teacher had not determined if she had any other options, such as additional medical leave, and had not communicated with the district to ask for consent. 

This information is not intended to provide or substitute for legal advice. TCTA members can call the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney regarding the law and their options.