The Texas Education Agency has issued a notice that it needs more time to come up with a final version of its proposed standards for district declarations of financial exigency. A school district, by declaring such a financial emergency and citing it as the reason for terminations, can break its contractual commitment to teachers and other educators, fire them in the middle of their contractual term, and set aside procedural safeguards (e.g., the provision of an independent hearing examiner to hold the hearing on a contested termination).
Texas AFT strongly opposed the legislation last year that gave school districts this broad authority. The legislature gave the commissioner of education the task of setting the rules determining when districts could take this extreme measure to abrogate contracts. More than 570 individual comments were submitted by Texas AFT members urging the commissioner to set a higher threshold than he initially proposed for districts seeking to use this authority. (For the full text of Texas AFT’s formal comment to the commissioner, see Texas AFT Legislative Hotline for January 12, 2012, ‘Time to Comment on “Financial Exigency”: How It’s Defined Will Affect Your Contract.’)
TEA’s notice of delayed action on a permanent version of the financial-exigency rule gives the commissioner until May 18 to act. We continue to urge the commissioner to make sure this authority for school districts to abrogate teachers’ contracts in the middle of the school year can only be used in genuine, extreme emergencies.