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.
Usually, the school hands you your employment contract before the school year starts or 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?
There’s usually no way out if you need to break that contract. There’s no without cause termination. You must provide services for the following school year because there’s a mass exodus of educators. And there’s a lot of tension between educators and the school district.
Legal Consequences of Breaking Teacher’s Contracts
It’s tough to break your contract without getting any consequences. The consequences I’m talking about could be at the school district level. It means that sometimes teacher employment contracts have a liquidated damage clause.
If you break your agreement and leave or choose not to fulfill your contract after signing it, you may be required to pay back a portion or a percentage of your salary. Sometimes there’s a specified amount, which can even be about $10,000. Always read your employment contracts carefully to ensure those clauses aren’t 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 unprofessional conduct, and there may be consequences against your license. There are some exceptions. Some school districts specify that you must take a family leave if a family member has become ill.
Then, sometimes if you move out of the state, they give examples. 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 reportable to the State Board of Education. And therefore, there could be action against your license to teach.
Mitigating Damages Information
Now, again, I’m speaking in general about the public school district. Sometimes charter or private schools are a little different, depending on your contract. 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 it, sometimes that can be slightly different. It’s called mitigating damages. You’re helping the school district, so they are not out, and you’re not abandoning their classroom.
There are lots of different factors and things in play. Timing is essential.
Also, if the school district is breaching its contract, they’re not providing the services it agreed for you. They’re making you do things you’re not contracted to do or not paying you—stuff like that may be considered a breach of contract. And that’s another way you may be able to end your employment with them during a mid-school year. But again, these things are very fact sensitive.
There’s a lot of tension between educators and school districts. I always recommend that you advise an attorney familiar with these situations to prevent yourself from having any restrictions on your license so that you can continue being an educator.
Other topics of interest:
- Can I Quit a Teaching Job Mid-Year in Arizona?
- What Does an Arizona Teacher’s Contract of Employment Include?
How Long Are Teacher Contracts in Arizona?
How long is a teacher’s contract?
It varies. It depends on what type of teacher you are and what environment you’re in. Are you in a public school, district K-12? Are you in a charter school, a private school, or is it higher education? It just varies.
But, for an Arizona educator who teaches anywhere between K-12 grade, typically, they’re for one year. Sometimes if you’re on a tenure track, it can be a little bit different, but generally, they’re for one specific school year. It’s less than one year.
It will have a start date and an actual specific date. Usually, it’s in August. Sometimes a couple of days or a week before the students come in. There will be a date there, which ends at the very end of May. It will have a specific date. And again, it’s going to be for one school year. You can stretch pay over 12 months if you prefer or do it just through the school year. And so, you wouldn’t get paid from the end of May until next August.
Usually, teachers’ contracts come up for renewal and normally start within February of the next school year. So, you’ll receive a new contract offer, or they’ll renew your old one. And like I said, that usually starts in February. But if they decide not to continue it, you end your contract at the end of May. You guys go your separate ways. You also can not renew it, which is the best way for an educator to end their employment with the school district.
Contract Termination for Teacher
If you do decide to terminate your contract, most of the time, there isn’t a way to do that during the school year. The school would consider you in breach. So, you always want to try your best to fulfill your contract unless the school district is breaching the contract. Or there are some unforeseen circumstances where you can’t meet them. And then I would always advise speaking with attorneys to handle this.
There can be severe consequences if you do not complete the whole school year. For instance, your school district can report you to the State Board of Education. And that is your licensing board. It can be considered an act of unprofessional conduct. So, you want to be very careful with that. You want to ensure that the school board or the governing board releases you from your contract so you’re not in breach.
Charter schools are usually the same. It’s for a specified school year, with a renewal starting in February. I also want to mention that since they’re only for one or one school year, we should say that one school year.
You want to make sure that you sit and think about it before you sign because if you’re signing in in February or March for the next year, it’s a big commitment. And like I said, it’s tough to get out of and stressful. So, make sure you fully consider what is in your foreseeable future for that next school year before you sign that contract.
What Does an Arizona Teacher’s Employment Contract Include?
What does a teacher employment contract in Arizona include?
In general, they’re slim. Usually, they’re only a couple of pages long and bare-bones, but I will go over the basics and what I have seen from educators who have been my clients.
First, typically your salary is outlined there. Now, wages are generally not negotiable with districts. They’re standardized. They offer you a specific amount, which your contract will outline.
Then it will go into how you receive that salary. Are you paid over 12 months? Or are you paid throughout the school year as a teacher in Arizona? And in the summer, you wouldn’t receive any funds, so you’ll want to double-check that so you know, and you can adequately budget for those funds over the year.
Signing Bonus or Relocation Expenses
Especially if you’re coming from out of state to Arizona, sometimes the school district will pay you a signing bonus or relocation expenses. It’s usually not too much. It’s around a thousand; that’s what I’ve been seeing.
But if you are coming in, they may offer you a bonus. Now, if you receive that bonus, there are always some types of repercussions. If you terminate your contract, you will likely have to pay it back, sometimes with interest. So, you’ll want to read your agreement very carefully.
Then the contract itself will state how long it’s for. It’s generally for the entire school year. It’ll have a start date, which would be some time, usually in August if you’re in the Phoenix or valley area. And it typically ends at the end of May and has a specific date on there, and you are required to provide services within those dates. You cannot break your contract.
How Can the District Terminate the Contract?
The next thing you want to look out for is that the school district has some for-cause termination. It means, and it’s customarily listed, there are examples. If you are under investigation or lose your license with the state of Arizona, they may be able to terminate the contract.
If you harm a student or do something very egregious, or you are convicted of a crime, they may be able to terminate the contract immediately. You’ll want to read those through very carefully.
However, one thing missing from teachers’ contracts is a without-cause termination, which means you may not terminate your contracts for any reason. You must fulfill your contract for the remaining school year.
And if you don’t, there are consequences outlined in your contract as well. Commonly, those are called liquidated damages, which are a specific amount of money you owe to the district if you leave mid-year.
Those amounts of money are calculated differently. Sometimes it’s a percentage of how much your salary, and you’ll have to pay that back. Other times it’s just a specific amount, and I’ve seen even up to $10,000.
So, you want to read that very carefully to know what the consequences are if you leave.
How Can You Terminate the Contract?
Also included in a teacher’s contract, sometimes exceptions would allow you to terminate your contract. They’re very slim, and there’s a narrow category of things.
It’s normal to take a leave of absence for your health or a family member. I’ve seen one if you move out of state, they’ll allow you to break your contract, which is odd. But really, that’s about it.
Also, if the school district breaches its contract, let’s say they’re not providing services that they agree to, not paying you properly, or offering things you both agreed upon in your contract, you may be able to break it.
But again, you want to be careful.
What Services Are You Going to Provide?
So, we have your salary, how the district can terminate the contract, and how you can terminate the agreement. Typically, it’s what services you’re going to be providing. And by that, I mean, what grade are you teaching? What are you teaching?
There’s usually a language that says you would adhere to all the school district’s policies. That’s important. You want to ensure you’re reading all the employee handbooks and policies. I have seen this come up when it’s talking about the discipline of students.
You want to ensure you know the school’s policy on how they prefer to discipline the students. Among other things, that’s just one that I’ve seen come up often.
There’s also language that you must adhere to all the State Board of Education regulations. Again, it’s slim. But usually, it’s just how and what they pay you, how you cannot get out of it, how the school district can get out of it, and how long they contract you for.
I always recommend reading your contract very carefully and considering the consequences if you cannot fulfill this contract before you sign it.
I’ve even had clients bring me contracts I’ve gone over with them so that they fully understand what they’re signing. Because this time, with the friction between educators, school districts, and the State Board of Education here in Arizona, they must fully understand what they’re signing as they will be contracted for the whole school year.
And it’s complicated and stressful to get out of if you change your mind later.
Can an Arizona Teacher Break Their Contract Mid-Year? | Breaking Contracts
Can a teacher break their employment contract during the school year here in Arizona?
The answer is they can, but they may open themselves up to paying damages to the school district.
Liquidated Damages Clause Could Follow a Teacher After Breaking a Contract
Some employment agreements for teachers in their school district have a “liquidated damages clause.”
It states that if teachers break their employment agreement during the school year, they will have to pay that district thousands of dollars. The contract includes this because if a teacher leaves mid-year, the school district is left without a teacher. So, they will have to recruit to find someone to start immediately. If not, they’ll have to pay the substitute for those costs and if they need to advertise a position within a short period. That’s kind of what covers that.
You should always look first in your employment agreement to see if there is a liquidated damage clause in your employment agreement.
Laws About Arizona Teachers Unprofessional Act
Also, the teacher should know that Arizona law states that a certified teacher shall not resign after signing and returning their contract. Unless the governing board first approves the resignation.
A teacher who leaves contrary to this section shall be deemed to commit an unprofessional act. And upon request of the governing board, shall be subject to such disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of the certificate as a State Board of Education deems appropriate.
It means you are not only subject to potentially paying the school district thousands of dollars. The school district can also report that teacher to the State Board of Education, and the board could investigate their license. This situation is serious. And it’s becoming more and more of a concern just because of the pandemic, the shortage of teachers, and the teacher’s salary is low.
In Education, 12% Involve Teachers in Breaching Contracts.
And so, suppose you find a district willing to pay you more and closer to home. In that case, there could be various reasons you would consider an offer at a different location.
However, you must ensure you do it properly by referring to your employment agreement to see if there are any sort of damages like financially that you would have to be paying.
You would also want to be released by the school board because they can report you. It is a growing trend. The Arizona State Board of Education has said that up to 12% of their current investigations involve teachers breaching their contracts.
And it’s a pressing thing. So, you want to make sure, I know I said this before, that you want to do it properly. Refer to your employment first. And then, you want to get the board’s approval. I know it’s a tough decision and a hard time for educators.
Everything with COVID puts more stress on teachers. They’re understaffed, underpaid, and could be in a difficult position, and you want to leave, but you can’t.
Arizona Teacher License Defense Attorney | Education Licensing Lawyers
In a shocking and precedent-setting case, a New York City elementary school teacher was fined $7,500 by his school district after it came to light that he was detained for having sex with a prostitute.
The Arizona teacher, in this case, sued the school district over the fine, and he won his case! The judge ruled that the teacher’s conduct had no connection to his official duties as an educator and that the arrest occurred on a Saturday when the teacher was off-duty.
That said, educators are often under some of the tightest surveillance of any profession.
Today, we want to examine why an educator must reach out to defense attorneys as soon as possible when confronted with the possibility of having their certification to teach put in jeopardy. At Chelle Law, we stand up for our educators and ensure we give them their fair day in court. We also help those educators ensure that they have their contracts set up appropriately.
We Assist Educators
Chelle Law has represented over 1000 licensed professionals in Arizona before licensing Boards and school districts. It has the professional license defense experience needed to defend the rights of teachers and educators with the Arizona State Board of Education and individual school districts.
We assist educators with the following:
- Contract Issues (breaking a contract mid-year)
- Educator Misconduct Investigations
- Arizona Board of Education Complaints
- Personal Misconduct Problems (DUI, assault, etc.)
- Criminal Reporting
Arizona Teacher Contract Issues
Before new educators begin their work, they must sign a contract with the school district outlining their specific responsibilities and privileges. This contract will include details such as:
- Their rate of pay
- Their schedule
- Their obligations outside of teaching their students
- The length of their contract (for most teachers, this is just one year)
- Any other details that may be relevant to the educator’s job
The contracts that educators sign are significant to their ability to get their work done correctly and to protect them from the risk of an employer taking advantage of them. It is best to contact the attorneys who can help you look at the contract to ensure it works in your favor.
Chelle Law attorney can help you examine your contract line by line to determine if your contract elements are ideal.
Arizona Educator Misconduct Investigation
The average citizen would be shocked to learn about the potential allegations against an Arizona educator. Due to their profession, educators’ private lives are frequently made public. They spend time around other people’s children, and it is undoubtedly essential to keep those children safe.
Some educators may feel their rights are violated if they are penalized for certain personal behaviors that have nothing to do with their teaching responsibilities.
In recent years, many educators have found themselves in hot water for various things they have posted on social media. They may share a piece of their life that others find objectionable. If someone else had done this, there wouldn’t be much of a problem. Still, many people are hasty to judge the actions of educators.
Thus, a misconduct investigation may occur after an unfortunate social media post. If that is the case, you should immediately obtain an education attorney from Chelle Law to help you fight against such accusations.
Arizona Board of Education Complaints
The Arizona Board of Education is open to accepting complaints from the public regarding how educators conduct themselves professionally. Thus, it is often the criminal case that educators find themselves backed up into a corner and have to defend themselves against the accusations made by people on the Board.
Chelle Law will provide you with the attorneys you need to make your case to the Board and ensure you get a fair hearing. Our team has worked on these cases before, so we know what to do during each process step. Please put your trust in us to protect you during this process.
Fight Back Against Arizona Teacher Personal Misconduct Accusations
Arizona teachers are frequently the target of misconduct allegations, as mentioned here. People who send their children to a particular school district will always keep an eye on the behavior of the educators that work there. In some cases, those parents may take things a little too far and pay attention to behaviors that have no real impact on the educator’s job.
When an educator finds themselves in a situation where they have accusations of misconduct put against them, it is necessary to establish a solid legal criminal defense against those accusations. It means getting great attorneys to help you make the case.
You are not guilty of the allegations, and the charges made against you are not a violation of the law in any way. Sometimes a combination of the two is necessary. Teachers in Arizona must ensure they have the resources to protect their legal status and reputation from the claims occasionally made against them.
Arizona Teacher Criminal Reporting
Finally, all educators fall under the list of “mandatory reporters.” That is to say that they have a legal obligation to report the neglect or abuse that they witness or hear about from anyone. Failure to follow through with their commitment on this account could put the educator in a position where they are in legal trouble for not following through on their obligation.
Chelle Law Attorneys
Chelle Law attorneys are on standby to help any educator accused of not meeting their professional and legal obligations to report the neglect or abuse of a child that they are legally obligated to report.
Suppose you find yourself in any of the above situations or any other legal jeopardy for an educator. In that case, we ask that you contact us.
Let us start working with you to build your criminal defense and help you make wise decisions regarding how you will stand up to the accusations against you. Let us do what we do best so that you can get back to doing what you do best.
Arizona Teacher License Defense Questions?
Complaints, Investigations, Appeals and more!