Act now: You can stop much of SB 8 at the school board level

Although Senate Bill 8 is a bad bill and bitter pill to swallow, this fight is far from over. In fact it is just beginning, but now it moves to a different venue — your local school board. Most of the provisions in SB 8 require action by the local school board to be implemented, and that means your local school board can choose to supersede them. Many of the SB 8 provisions will be considered with the 2012-13 budgets next year, but now is the time to start getting organized to impact those decisions as well as the ones that will be made this year regarding contracts and due process.

The passage of SB 8 opens a Pandora’s Box of bad policies and makes your involvement in local school board politics more important and more critical than ever before. If there is any silver lining in this bill, it is the recognition that sometimes it takes a crystallizing moment like SB 8 to focus everyone’s energy and attention on how vital being actively engaged in the political process is to the interests of students and public school employees. The folks who passed the budget and SB 8 ignored the interests of students, parents and employees because they believe there will no consequences from doing so. Until we prove otherwise, things will only get worse.

We must go to work immediately to organize public school employees to become more involved in local and state political races. How can anyone who watched what happened to public schools this session not understand that elections have consequences? This was a session where legislators ignored the adequate funding of our schools and an expanding student population, refused to fix a broken school finance system and gave school boards and superintendents everything they asked for to reduce compensation and due process rights for teachers. They did it because they think they can get away with it. We must show them they can’t.

Summary of SB 8

The bill makes the following changes in contract language:

  • For non-renewals, the notice of termination date changes from 45 days before the last day of instruction to 10 days before the last day of instruction
  • Adds suspension without pay for the current school year in lieu of pending discharge
  • The RIF language pertaining to continuing contracts eliminates the seniority provision and makes them primarily based on teacher appraisals or criteria as determined by the board
  • If termination or non-renewal is for a RIF due to financial exigency, it allows the board in a district with over 5,000 students to designate an attorney to hold a hearing on behalf of the board and create a hearing record for consideration and action by the board and to recommend an action to the board. The attorney must be a neutral party not employed by the district or be an agent of a district. The board may accept, reject or modify the recommendation of the hearing officer
  • May alter or amend the terms of the contract of the superintendent if a financial exigency is declared
  • Allows for a determination by a hearing examiner which may be adopted, changed, or rejected by the school board

The bill proposes to reduce teacher salaries in two ways:

The bill allows school districts to implement furloughs for up to six non-instructional days and to accordingly reduce salaries. In order to implement this provision or to reduce salaries the district must:

  • Apply the reduction to all professional staff
  • Involve the professional staff in the development of the furlough process
  • Hold a public hearing before the school board and provide professional staff and the public with the opportunity to have input
  • Provide information regarding the options considered for managing the district’s available resources, including consideration of a tax rate increase, the district’s optional homestead exemption and use of the district’s available fund balance
  • Provide information on how implementing the furlough will save positions in the district

Other provisions relating to furloughs:

  • Cannot furlough an instructional day
  • Cannot use personal, sick or any other paid leave while on furlough
  • A furlough does not constitute a break in service for TRS purposes
  • The district cannot increase the number of required work days to offset a furlough
  • If a board of trustees adopts a furlough program after the date by which a teacher must give notice of resignation, a teacher who subsequently resigns is not subject to sanctions imposed by the State Board for Educator Certification as otherwise authorized by those sections
  • The furloughs remain in place until funding for school districts reaches the 2010-2011 level or they are removed by the school board
  • Salary reductions must be equally distributed over the course of the employee’s current contract

Salaries

  • The bill eliminates the language that prohibits a district from paying someone on the minimum salary schedule that was employed by the district less than they received in 2009-2010 school year
  • The percentage reduction must be applied to the salaries of all professional staff
  • This provision is permanent

Financial Exigency

  • Board may declare one at any time and it expires at the end of the year unless they terminate it sooner
  • Most notify the commissioner
  • Gives the commissioner emergency rule-making authority to create rules regarding what constitutes a financial exigency

Other Provisions

  • Establishes field based experience for certification of future teachers
  • Requires the commissioner to study the minimum salary schedule and make a recommendation to the legislature in 2013 on the best way to determine the schedule