Update: Application of New Tenure Rules Under PERA
As we discussed in an alert in December, with PERA’s full implementation on September 1, 2016, new tenure rules are in effect in Illinois. ISBE guidance suggests that for those districts with a PERA implementation date of September 1, 2016, the new tenure laws related to PERA became effective for the 2016–2017 school year. While acknowledging this was the intent of the law, we have learned that ISBE reads the statute literally as applying the new tenure laws only to those “first employed” after September 1, 2016. This literal reading may lead to confusing inconsistencies and uncertainty for school districts implementing the law.
As an initial point, it is unclear whether “first employed” refers to the date the board signs a contract or the date the teacher begins work. Either way, inconsistencies may result of which districts should be mindful.
For example, a teacher first employed at the beginning of the school year in August 2016 would not be eligible for accelerated tenure, but a teacher first employed in September 2016 (perhaps to fill a late vacancy) would.
A literal reading also could have an impact on teachers subject to the four-year tenure track. Under the new tenure law, a teacher on the four-year tenure track must receive overall annual evaluation ratings of at least “Proficient” in the last school term and at least “Proficient” in either the second or third school term in order to obtain tenure. Thus, a teacher who receives a needs improvement or unsatisfactory rating in her last school term or who receives a needs improvement or unsatisfactory rating in her second and third year of teaching must be dismissed at the end of four years. The old tenure law does not include this same mandate. A literal reading of the law applying the new law to only to those first employed after September 1, 2016, would mean a teacher hired in August of 2016 who received a needs improvement or unsatisfactory rating could still acquire tenure, while a teacher hired in September 2016 would be subject to mandatory dismissal.
Because of these and other potential inconsistencies, we are likely to see a proposed legislative fix to align the statutory language with the original intent. We will keep you updated as we learn of further developments.