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The Teacher Tenure Act for elementary and secondary teachers is found in the School Code. Those provisions provide a comprehensive procedure for becoming tenured and the protections which attach once that status is attained. The Tenure Act covers all school district employees regularly required to be certified under the provisions of the School Code (i.e., teachers, administrators, counselors, etc.). It provides that a “teacher,” who was employed full-time by a school district prior to January 1, 1998, attains tenure by serving two consecutive years as a full-time “teacher” in that district. It further provides that a “teacher” who is first employed full-time by a school district on or after January 1, 1998, attains tenure by serving four consecutive years as a full-time “teacher” in that district. Temporary employment, even if it is full time or part-time, will not qualify toward the completion of the probationary period.
The Community College Tenure is governed by the Public Community College Act. It covers “faculty members” who are defined to include full-time employees of the community college who are engaged in teaching or academic support services. Supervisors, administrators, and clerical personnel are excluded. A faculty member becomes tenured after being employed at the community college for a period for a period of three consecutive school years. The board may extend the probation for an additional year by giving the faculty member notice at least 60 days before the end of the school term, which notice must include the corrective actions that need to be taken. The probationary period may be shortened by local board rule or collective bargaining agreement.
A tenured teacher who is dismissed for cause has a number of protections by statute. Causes for dismissal are classified as either remediable or irremediable. If a cause is remediable, the teacher must be given notice in writing stating specific cause which, if not removed, may result in dismissal. The teacher must be given an opportunity to correct the deficiency. If a charge is considered to be irremediable, no prior warning need be given. A charge is deemed to be irremediable if it causes damage to the students, faculty, or school which could not be corrected if prior notice and an opportunity to correct were given.
If the board decides to dismiss a teacher for cause, written notice of the change must be served upon the teacher. The teacher has ten days in which to request that a hearing be scheduled. If no hearing is requested, the teacher is considered to be discharged.
If the teacher requests a hearing, the State Board of Education is notified and provides to both the board and the teacher a list of five impartial hearing officers. Both parties alternately strike the names to arrive at the person who will serve as the hearing officer, or may request a second list from the State Board. The parties may also mutually agree to select a hearing officer who is not on a list provided by the State Board of Education.
A hearing is then scheduled, at which time the board has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that cause exists for dismissal (and, if appropriate, that the cause is irremediable). Each side has the right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence. Both sides have a right to be represented by counsel and to cross-examine each other’s witnesses. All testimony is taken under oath and transcribed.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer is required to issue a written decision. This decision may be appealed to the courts, but the scope of review is very limited. No new testimony is taken, and the courts may only reverse the decision of the hearing officer are against the manifest weight of the evidence of if a procedural error exists.
Tenured teachers also have certain rights when there is a reduction in force. On or before February 1 of each year the board is required to post a seniority list. This allows a teacher to check his or her relative seniority position. If there is an error in the seniority list, it must be challenged and brought to the school district’s attention immediately.
If the number of honorable dismissals based upon economic necessity in a district exceeds five or 150% of the average number of teachers honorably dismissed in the past three years, the board is required to hold a public hearing on the dismissals prior to making the reductions. Only tenured teachers are counted for purposes of determining whether such a hearing is required.
If the board decides to proceed with the reductions, written notice must be given to the teachers being dismissed at least 60 days prior to the end of the school term together with a statement of honorable dismissal. The board must first dismiss the non-tenured teachers and proceed in reverse order of seniority in any tenured teacher dismissals. Seniority is determined by continuing service with the district unless otherwise specified by a collective bargaining agreement.
A tenured teacher who is retained must be legally qualified to fill the position of the less-senior teacher whom he or she wishes to “bump.” In order to be legally qualified, a teacher must have an appropriate teaching certificate and have fulfilled the requirements established by the State Board of Education for teaching every course in the position into which he/she wishes to “bump.”
A tenured teacher who is honorably dismissed also has recall rights. If a position that a teacher is legally qualified to teach becomes vacant within one calendar year from the beginning of the following school term, he or she is entitled to be recalled in order of seniority. These recall rights extend to two years if the number of honorable dismissals based on economic necessity that occurred at the time the teacher was honorably dismissed for economic reasons exceeds 15% of the number of full-time equivalent positions filled by teachers and other non-supervisory certified staff during the preceding school year.
If you feel that your right of teacher tenure has been violated, please contact us for a Free Teacher Tenure Consultation.