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Tenure for K-12 Georgia Public School Educators


By Leonard Williams

Staff Attorney


The assurance of job security during turbulent economic times provides comfort and reduces anxiety. Tenure protections, for that reason, have become increasingly important to educators. With that in mind, let’s review the current status of tenure for public school educators in Georgia.


What Is Tenure?


The Georgia Fair Dismissal Act (FDA) establishes and sets the parameters for tenure rights for K-12 public school educators. A tenured employee is one who has the right to expect continuous employment by their school system. Tenure, or fair dismissal rights as it is also commonly known, does not guarantee lifetime employment. Rather, under the FDA, in the event of a non-renewal or demotion, a tenured employee has the right to a formal due process hearing to contest that adverse employment action. The school system must show cause at that hearing to sustain the non-renewal or demotion. Cause includes, but is not limited to, such grounds as incompetence, insubordination, willful neglect of duties, and failure to secure and maintain necessary educational training.


How To Acquire Tenure


In Georgia, an educator establishes tenure by accepting four consecutive, full-year, full-time employment contracts with the same public school system. All those elements must be fulfilled. Once an educator has established tenure in one Georgia system, he or she can establish tenure in another system by accepting two consecutive, full-year, full-time contracts with that new system.


Who Can Establish Tenure?


Teachers, counselors, media specialists, social workers, school psychologists, and other teacher-level employees can establish tenure in Georgia. Classified staff and the vast majority of administrators are not entitled to tenure protections under state law. Tenure for administrators was eliminated in 1995.


Where Tenure May Not Exist


Tenure may not exist in some charter systems or Strategic Waiver School Systems (SWSS). A charter system is one that has received a broad waiver from most state laws and rules, including the FDA. Tenure rights exist in a charter system only if the charter, board policy manual, contract, or some other writing from the system indicates it applies. A SWSS is a public school system that operates under a contract with the Georgia State Board of Education. It may or may not have waived the FDA as part of that contract with the state. Educators should be aware and keep abreast of the types of systems they are in and if the FDA is applicable, as their school systems’ statuses may change. Therefore, it is imperative to review your system’s board policy manual, employment contract, employee handbook and related documents, and, if applicable, its charter or Strategic Waiver contract. Tenure protections rarely, if ever, exist for educators employed by private schools in Georgia.


Contact PAGE


As a PAGE member, you have access to one-on-one, privileged, and confidential guidance from a legal team with more than 75 years combined education and labor law experience. If you would like to discuss your tenure status, have questions about the FDA and related laws, or would like input from a PAGE attorney on any legal matter, please contact us for assistance. You can reach the PAGE legal department by calling 770-216-8555 or 800-334-6861 and selecting option 1, or by sending an email to legal@pageinc.org.


 

Leonard Williams is a staff attorney with PAGE. A graduate of Georgia State University College of Law, Leonard has a wealth of knowledge in and experience with education and employment law. Leonard has served PAGE members since 2002.

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