PAGE Legal Alert: Charter Schools Waive Employee Tenure
Monday, November 23, 2015
Posted by: Meg Thornton
Georgia Court of Appeals: All Charter School Systems and Charter Schools Have Waived Employee Tenure under Fair Dismissal Law
In July, the GA Court of Appeals ruled that Georgia charter school systems and charter schools have waived the Fair Dismissal Act, commonly referred to as “teacher tenure,” unless the system’s or school’s charter affirmatively incorporates the Fair Dismissal Act (FDA) or allows FDA rules or policies. The ruling means that unless charter school systems and charter schools affirmatively state that they intend to extend tenure to employees, then tenure protections do not exist in the charter system or charter school.
What Tenure Means
Once a teacher has signed a fourth contract by the same employer, he or she enjoys a standing commonly known as "tenure." Acquiring tenure rights simply means that one has a right to expect continuous employment in that school system. In other words, the school system must renew your contract year after year unless good cause to non-renew can be shown in a hearing that is afforded to the teacher under the FDA.
The Court of Appeals case involved a Floyd County guidance counselor whose employment contract was non-renewed due to a Reduction in Force (RIF). The local school board voted in favor of Day’s nonrenewal, Day objected, and the case wound through the State Board of Education, Superior Court, and the Georgia Court of Appeals.
The ruling by judges on Georgia’s Court of Appeals was not favorable to tenured teachers employed in charter systems or charter schools. The Court held that “[u]nder the Charter Schools Act, systems are granted a general waiver exempting them from most state statutory and regulatory schemes that apply to non-charter public schools under Title 20.” Id. at 147. It went on to state that “[b]ecause FDA, OCGA sections 20-2-940 through 20-2-948, is among the provisions of Title 20 generally waived, a charter system is not subject to the FDA unless the system’s charter so provides.” Id. Day argued to the Court that teacher tenure is a vested property right and that due process is a civil right that could not be waived by charter systems and charter schools. The Court disagreed.
Recent Legal Action by the GA Supreme Court
Day appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court has denied the Writ of Certiorari, in other words--the court has refused to hear her case. Therefore, last week, the original decision of the local school board to non-renew Day’s contract was reinstated.
What Georgia Educators Should Know & What Charters Should Do
PAGE is disappointed with this legal decision. Its implications are widespread given the large number of charter systems and charter schools in Georgia. It is important for educators in those systems or schools to understand that tenure is waived unless the charter affirmatively incorporates the FDA or the local school board initiates policies to allow for employee fair dismissal. Appropriately, tenure does not prevent school districts from dismissing poorly performing employees, but it does protect employees who may be unfairly treated.
In the wake of the Day decision, PAGE hopes that charter school districts will amend their charter contracts to affirmatively add tenure protections for their valued employees.
Is my School District a Charter System?
33 Approved Charter Systems
1 Atlanta Public Schools 18 Gilmer County Schools
2 Banks County Schools 19 Glascock County Schools
3 Barrow County Schools 20 Gordon County Schools
4 Calhoun City Schools 21 Haralson County Schools
5 Candler County Schools 22 Hart County Schools
6 Carrollton City Schools 23 Lumpkin County School
7 Cartersville City Schools 24 Liberty County Schools
8 City Schools of Decatur 25 Madison County Schools
9 Coffee County Schools 26 Marietta City Schools
10 Colquitt County Schools 27 Morgan County Schools
11 Commerce City Schools 28 Putnam County Schools
12 Dawson County Schools 29 Stephens County Schools
13 Dublin City Schools 30 Union County Schools
14 Fannin County Schools 31 Vidalia City Schools
15 Floyd County Schools 32 Warren County Schools
16 Fulton County Schools 33 White County Schools
17 Gainesville City Schools
14 Charter System Letters of Intent
1 Baldwin County Schools 8 Jasper County Schools
2 Catoosa County Schools 9 Jefferson City Schools
3 Clarke County Schools 10 Peach County Schools
4 Decatur County Schools 11 Randolph County Schools
5 DeKalb County Schools 12 Seminole County Schools
6 Dougherty County Schools 13 Terrell County Schools
7 Grady County Schools 14 Tift County Schools
 Day v. Floyd County Board of Education, 333 Ga.App. 144 (2015)