JFC Budget: Teacher and Administrator Contract Renewal Timelines Altered

A provision in the JFC K-12 education package modifies the date by which a school board must give a teacher or administrator written notice of renewal /non-renewal of his or her contract in odd-numbered years in which the biennial state budget is adopted and modify the date for administrators in all years.  It is not clear what problem this provision was intended to fix; however, it is very clear that the provision will cause significant problems for school boards and school districts and could adversely affect Wisconsin’s labor market for recent college graduates.

We think that the large numbers of non-renewal notices that were issued this year were an artifact of the fact that the budget, as originally proposed, would have cut next year’s school budgets statewide by $127 million ($150 per pupil).  We hope and expect this situation will not be repeated and that future state budgets will not propose similar cuts to school district budgets.

The dates of budget passage over the past decade have varied widely.[1]  The provisions as we understand them would drag out the hiring process until July and August, leaving schools with little time to fill positions before the school term begins on September 1, leading to chaotic personnel situations in many school districts.

The present teacher contract law is well aligned to the college graduation cycle of students with education degrees.[2] The current timeline allows school boards to offer positions to new college graduates as they are coming out of teacher preparation programs.  If this provision becomes law and teaching position openings cannot be confirmed and we can’t offer these new graduates until later due to having to await passage of the state budget, we may lose them to neighboring states (e.g., Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, etc.) that are in a position to offer the recent graduate the job earlier. These provisions could also have the effect of exacerbating the flight of highly qualified teachers to other states who desire more certainty with respect to their job status at an earlier time.

We believe this provision will harm smaller and rural districts which typically pay less than suburban and urban districts.  Pushing the hiring timeline back will create “feeding frenzy” competition among districts for available candidates, in which smaller and rural districts will not be able to compete for teaching candidates in this narrow window.  The same situation will apply for administrators.

Further, pushing the timeline back into the summer will make it more difficult for schools to reach many teachers to provide them with written notifications, because they are no longer at school each day. Many take summer jobs as camp counselors or other seasonal positions or attend college courses that take them away from the communities in which they teach.  Pushing the teacher contract renewal/non-renewal timeline back into the summer months will also make it harder for school boards to convene the private conferences to which teachers are entitled under the law because school board members typically take family vacations during the summer and school boards typically hold fewer meetings during the summer months.

The WASB also seriously questions why school administrators are lumped together with teachers in this provision, given that due to their vital role and that there are lower numbers of such employees school districts non-renew administrators for budgetary reasons on a less frequent basis.   Currently, the statutes provide a different timeline for administrator contract renewals than for teacher contract renewals for good reasons.[3]  Administrators implement district personnel decisions.  Changing the deadlines for administrator non-renewal decisions will affect the contracts of school principals, which could put school districts in a dilemma.  Typically, the principal plays a key role in hiring teachers.  Under the JFC provisions, would a district wait during a budget year until the principal is hired to begin hiring teachers or would it hire teachers simultaneously?

District administrators, often referred to as school superintendents, play a major role in assembling school district budgets, which is often a more difficult and complicated task during a year in which a biennial state budget is enacted.  We are concerned the timeline proposed in the JFC provisions may make it difficult to get a new superintendent in place with enough time before the school district’s annual meeting and /or budget hearing.

[1]  It should be noted that:

  • The 2003-05 State Budget was signed on July 24, 2003.
  • The 2005-07 State Budget was signed on July 25, 2005.
  • The 2007-09 State Budget was signed on October 26, 2007.
  • The 2009-11 State Budget was signed on June 29, 2009.
  • The 2011-13 State Budget was signed on June 26, 2011.
  • The 2013-15 State Budget was signed on June 30, 2013.

[2]  Under current law, every teacher has a written contract for a period of one year. A teacher must be given written notice of termination or renewal of his or her contract for the ensuing year on or before May 15.  If this notice is not given, the contract then in force continues for the next school year. In either case, the teacher must accept or reject the contract, in writing, not later than June 15.

If a school board contemplates non-renewal of a teacher’s contract, it must, at least 15 days prior to giving the teacher written notice of non-renewal, give the teacher a preliminary notice that it is contemplating non-renewal of the contract. The teacher has the right to a private conference with the school board after receiving the preliminary notice.  In practice, this means that any teacher whose contract is being considered for non-renewal must be so advised, in writing, no later than April 30.  If the board fails to give the required preliminary written notice that it is contemplating non-renewal of a teacher’s contract, it may not later refuse to renew the contract.

[3]  A similar contract renewal process operates for administrators, who are given two-year written contracts that typically expire on June 30.  At least 4 months prior to the expiration of the employment contract (i.e., by February 28), the employing school board shall give notice in writing of either renewal of the contract or of refusal to renew the administrator’s contract. If no such notice is given, the contract then in force continues in force for 2 years.  Any such person who receives notice of renewal or who does not receive notice of renewal or refusal to renew the person’s contract at least 4 months before the contract expiration shall accept or reject the contract in writing on or before a date 3 months prior to the contract expiration (i.e., by March 31).

If a school board contemplates non-renewal of an administrator’s contract, it must give a preliminary written notice that it is considering non-renewal of the contract by registered mail at least 5 months prior to the expiration of such contract (i.e., by January 31), and that if the administrator files a written request with the board within 7 days after receiving such notice, the administrator has the right to a hearing before the board prior to being given written notice of refusal to renew the contract.