What Happens If I Break My Teaching Contract in Arizona?
What happens if a teacher breaks their employment contract? I’m speaking about educators K-12 in the public school setting here in Arizona. Normally, you are given your employment contract before the school year starts, even sometimes, before February. You’ll sign the Arizona teacher contract, and then you’re locked in for the next school year. So, what happens after you sign it if you need to break it? If you need to break that contract, there’s normally no way out of it. There’s no without cause termination, you are required to provide services for the following school year because there’s such a mass exodus of educators right now. And there’s a lot of tension between educators and the school district.
It’s very hard to break your contract without getting any type of consequences. The consequences I’m talking about could be at the school district level, which means that sometimes teacher employment contracts have a liquidated damage clause, which means that if you do break your agreement, you leave or choose not to fulfill your contract after you’ve signed it, you may be required to pay back a portion or like a percentage of what your salary would be. Sometimes there’s a specified amount and it can even be about $10,000. Always read your employment contracts very carefully to make sure that those types of clauses aren’t in there. So, one, there could be financial consequences, two, your school board, or governing board may report or file a complaint against you with the state board of education.
A teacher breaking their contract mid-year can be considered an act of unprofessional conduct and there may be consequences against your license. There are some exceptions, some school districts do specify that if a family member has become ill or you yourself need to take a family leave, sometimes if you move out of the state, they give examples in there. And if you fall within one of those categories, you may be able to break your contract. If not, you are at the mercy of your school district, they must release you from your contract. Otherwise, it would be something that would be reportable to the state board of education. And therefore, there could be action against your license to teach. Other topics of interest include:
- Can I Quit a Teaching Job Mid-Year in Arizona?
- What Does an Arizona Teacher’s Contract of Employment Include?
Now, again, I’m speaking in general about the public school district. Sometimes charter schools are a little bit different or private schools, but it just depends on the contract that you sign. It also depends on when you break your contract. If you sign it and they have plenty of time to fill your position or offer to stay until they fill your position, sometimes that can be a little bit different. It’s called mitigating damages. You’re helping the school district so that they are not out, and you’re not abandoning their classroom. There are lots of different factors and things in play. Timing is very important. Also, if the school district is breaching their contract, so they’re not providing services that they agreed for you, they’re making you do things that you’re not contracted to do, or they’re not paying you, things like that may be considered a breach of contract.
And that’s another way you may be able to end your employment with them mid-school year. But again, these things are very fact sensitive. And there’s a lot of tension right now between educators and school districts. I always recommend that you advise an attorney who is familiar with these types of situations, just to prevent yourself from having any restrictions on your license, so that you’re able to continue being an educator.
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