The Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General's recent filing gives us some insight into the thought processes moving forward into the RP 25 hearing on June 11, 2018. The AG’s Office declares that RP 25 is clear enough to move onto the November, 2018 ballot if the signatures are collected. Two groups that do not believe the ballot initiative is written clearly enough will present their arguments to the Supreme Court on June 11, 2018.
The secondary issue is that the AG’s Office also states they believe the conditions for HB 1023XX to be law have been met, and the teacher pay raise should go forward as scheduled regardless of the state of HB 1010XX. While this isn’t the official AG’s opinion that the OSDE requested, it does inform what the AG’s position is on the salary increase. There was a part of the opinion that did request the Supreme Court to clarify this issue.
Contracts between a board of education and district employees are very important in how they are fulfilled. Employment contracts must be examined this year to ensure that the district’s calendar, instructional time and professional development schedule accurately portray within the contracts the employment expectations for employees. It is the district's responsibility to hold the employees responsible for completing their contracts. However, it is also important that the employees receive a contract that is correctly constructed that reflects the board of education's expectations and that the publicly approved contract is accurate. The overall goal must be that the contract is representative of the salary and the contracted professional services that are agreed to by the district and the employee.
We received a call a few weeks ago that questioned the length of a school district’s year. A district was using the same contract that had been used prior to the Hours-to-Days law. The contract actually stated that the instructional year is for 180 days with no allowance for the Hours-to-Days law that the legislatures enacted. While districts are able to declare the intention of using 1050 hours of instruction and 30 hours of professional development, language may not be present in employment contracts to allow for the use of the Hours-to-Days law.
Administrators and boards have the option to use Hours-to-Days to accommodate inclement weather days, a change to the instructional calendar or even a four day week. The contract needs to represent the actual requirements of the employees to meet their obligations; a district can’t pay employees for services that are not rendered according to a contract. It is important that the employment conditions between the district and the employee reflect the board’s calendar and the required work time for district employees.
Our recommendation is to take some time this summer to examine the contracts that your district presents to teachers and support personnel. The change in certified and support staff salaries does give districts the opportunity to examine if support personnel salaries are calculated based on hours, evaluate the language in certified contracts and make any necessary corrections. This is an issue that should be examined carefully with the help of the board's retained legal counsel. There may not be an issue, but due diligence is an act that will keep contracts from being problematic in the future.