Teachers' Employment Contract Rights

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The teaching contract is a binding agreement that specifies the rights and responsibilities of those under its protection. While all teachers retain the basic employment rights granted by state and federal government, teachers’ contracts may add additional employment rights and benefits.

History of Teachers' Contracts

  • Until the start of the 20th century, teachers had always negotiated contracts individually with the school board and were hired for a single term at a time. This practice began to change first in the urban areas, where teachers began to work together as a unit. After unions formed, contract negotiations became the function of the union, and not of the individual teachers.

Types of contracts

  • Teachers’ employment contracts essentially have two forms, though both are covered in the single contract that is signed by the individual school district. These two forms relate to tenured and non-tenured teachers.

    Tenure is a policy that prohibits the firing of teachers after a certain probationary period of employment except for serious cause, such as a felony conviction. Teachers who have completed the probationary time are said to be tenured. Most districts establish tenure at four or five years of teaching within the district.

    Non-tenured teachers can be rehired for the next school term and continue to work under the existing contract, but they can sometimes be dismissed without giving a reason. A teacher can still request the union's help if he feels the dismissal was unfair. A tenured teacher simply works under the union contract, and if there is a problem, the union addresses it.

Contract Features

  • Teachers' contracts are negotiated by the teachers union which delineates salary, benefits and additional matters, which vary from district to district. These specific terms of the contract are in addition to the rights conferred by state law. The contract can never take away from rights under state law.

    Most teachers’ contracts specify the right for teachers to move into open positions in their district before the school can hire from outside. If an algebra teacher who is qualified to teach calculus wishes to move into a newly opened calculus position, she has that right.

Union Negotiation Benefits

  • Having the union negotiate certain aspects of the contract gives the teachers more collective leverage. The ability to bid into jobs, salaries, sick days, personal days and various other district-specific contract items in these contracts effectively takes on the status of rights to the teachers as individuals. Teachers work under those rules, and if the school doesn't abide by the contract, the union steps in on their behalf.

Other Considerations

  • Teachers' contracts are individual to each school district, so a teacher should examine the contract of any district she's considering during the job hunt. Beyond salary and benefits, a prospective teacher will want to ascertain the strength of the union, the relationship of the union with the school board and the tenure policy.

References

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