These are some of the most frequently asked questions here at UEA.
Can a school district hire a permanent substitute instead of a certified teacher who applied for the same position?
Pursuant to Section 21.003 of the Texas Education Code, school districts must follow the state certification rules when hiring teachers and other professional personnel. The rules governing certification requirements can be found in the 19 TAC Chapters 227 through 245 of the Texas Administrative Code, and the rule governing assignment of public school personnel is 19 TAC 231.1. A school district may employ a teacher under an emergency permit if they have been unable to secure a certified and qualified person for the position. To activate a permit, the district must follow the procedures set forth in 19 TAC Section 230.501 – 230.512 (subchapter Q). However, if an uncertified individual is assigned for a certified teacher that will be absent for more than 30 consecutive instructional days due to documented health related reasons and has expressed the intention to return to the assignment, a permit is not required. 19 TAC 501(g). In any event, if a person who is uncertified or serving under an emergency certificate is assigned to the same classroom for more than 30 days, the superintendent must provide written notice of the assignment to parents of students in the classroom per Section 21.057, Texas Education Code. For more information, contact the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC).
Can a school district hire someone for a teaching position who does not have a teacher certification?
Under a very narrow set of circumstances, a school district may issue a “school district teaching permit” pursuant to Section 21.055. Although all other certification matters are handled by SBEC, the school district teaching permit is coordinated through the Texas Education Agency (TEA). More information can be obtained through the above links or by calling TEA’s contact person for school district teaching permits at (512) 463-3941. (Revised 06/2010)
What are the legal requirements regarding hiring procedures, such as posting a position?
The requirements regarding posting a position for which a certificate or license is required are in TEC § 11.1513(d) and (e). Also, school districts must comply with the state and federal laws that require employers to have nondiscriminatory hiring practices. Employers are prohibited from discrimination against applicants and employees based on race, sex, religion, age, national origin, or disability. The equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws are administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at the federal level. Information about the EEO laws and how to file a complaint can be found at the EEOC web site.
The TEC addresses the authority of superintendents to make recommendations regarding the selection or personnel, in Section 11.201 and 11.1513, and the approval authority of principals in Section 11.202.
Are school districts required to do criminal background checks on teachers and other employees or applicants for employment?
Pursuant to TEC Section 22.082, criminal background checks are made by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) as part of the certification process. In 2007, Sections 22.831 through 22.0836 were enacted, which require all certified educators (by September 1, 2011) and every other person hired by a school district after January 1, 2008 to have a fingerprint-based national criminal history review. All other district employees are required to have a name-based criminal history review. Pursuant to TEC Section 22.083, a school district, private school, regional education service center, or open-enrollment charter school may have access to the criminal history of any employee.
May a school district employ a person who is convicted of a criminal offense?
School districts generally make their own policies as to what hiring criteria to use. However, Section 22.085 of the Texas Education Code prohibits district from hiring persons convicted of certain serious offenses (Title 5 felonies) or who are registered sex offenders against persons under 18.
Are teachers allowed to leave campus for a 30-minute lunch break?
According to an Attorney General opinion, JM-481 (1986), a district may not require teacher to remain on campus during their duty-free lunch break.
How many staff development days are required for teachers in Texas? Are there any rules regarding scheduling staff development days? Are there any rules regarding planned activities during this preparation time?
Under Section 21.401 of the Texas Education Code, teacher contracts must be for a minimum of 187 days of service. Under Section 25.081, a school district must provide 180 days of instruction for students. How many of the remaining seven days are used for staff development is determined locally. There are not any state laws or rules regarding the days on which staff development is scheduled. The schedule is determined locally. There are certain requirements and guidelines for the content and delivery of staff development in TEC Section 21.451.
How many hours may a district require a teacher to be at school each school day? Is a district required to compensate teachers for required attendance at functions outside of the school day, such as an after-school student activity or an open house in the evening?
State law establishes a minimum salary for teachers. Compensation issues other than minimum salaries are determined by local policies and contracts. For further information, a teacher may wish to contact a teacher organization or private attorney to discuss the district’s policies or contract provision.
Can the day’s total of 45 minutes for planning and preparation be divided into one period of 15 minutes and one period of 30 minutes?
A single planning and preparation period must be at least 45 minutes long. The 450- minute statute was written to allow districts that use block scheduling to have longer periods on fewer days. More information can be found in Section 21.404 of the Texas Education Code.
Can a principal require teachers to use one planning period per week for a departmental meeting?
A classroom teacher, defined in Section 5.001of the Education Code as an educator who teaches an average of four hours a day, is entitled to 450 minutes in each two-week period for planning and preparation in blocks of not less than 45 minutes. Educators who teach less than an average of four hours a day are not entitled to a planning and preparation period under Section 21.404 of the Education Code. Planning and preparation period are typically 45 minutes every day or 90 minutes every other day. If the district provides more than 450 minutes of planning and preparation time in two weeks, the excess time could be allocated to meetings. However, the district may not require attendance at meeting during the minimum 450 minutes. A Commissioner’s decision on that issue is Chaffin v. Los Fresnos I.S.D., Docket No.128-R10-1290 (November 4, 1991).
What happens if a teacher resigns a teaching position before the end of his/her contract?
Teachers are required to resign a contract no later than 45 days before the first day of instruction. A district may release a teacher voluntarily after that date, but is not compelled to do so. A teacher who is found to have abandoned a contract without good cause may have his/her certificate suspended by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). More information can be found in Section 21.160, Section 21.210, and Section 21.105 in the Texas Education Code and 19 TAC 249.15(b)(5).
Can my district make me pay for my district-issued IPad if it is lost or stolen?
Tex. Educ. Code 31.104(e) states: The board of trustees of a school district may not require an employee of the district who acts in good faith to pay for instructional materials or technological equipment that is damaged, stolen, misplaced, or not returned. A school district employee may not waive this provision by contract or any other means, except that a district may enter into a written agreement with a school employee whereby the employee assumes financial responsibility for electronic instructional material or technological equipment usage off school property or outside of a school-sponsored event in consideration for the ability of the school employee to use the electronic instructional material or technological for personal business. Such a written agreement shall be separate from the employee’s contract of employment if applicable, and shall clearly inform the employee of the amount of the financial responsibility and advise the employee to consider obtaining appropriate insurance. An employee may not be required to agree to such an agreement as a condition of employment.
Can a school board or superintendent dictate whether and when you have to use local or state days? For example: if you are sick, can the district force you to use state personal days first instead of local sick days?
State minimum personal leave is addressed by Texas Education Code Section 22.003(a). School districts have the option of providing additional local leave days beyond the minimum. The provision of and use of local leave days are matters within the discretion of the local school district.