(AP) — A county judge has ruled that a state-pushed standard teacher
contract form that would have allowed Indiana school districts to change or
increase their hours without paying them more is illegal.
Judge Patrick McCarty permanently barred the Indiana Department of Education
and state Superintendent Tony Bennett from using the standard forms, which
all school districts would have been required to use. He said the department
doesn't have any legal authority to unilaterally contradict existing
teacher's contract form drafted by Dr. Bennett is unconscionable in that it
gives school corporations the authority to unilaterally modify the number of
days and hours that a teacher must work, but it does not require the school
corporation to pay for the additional labor or any other additional
consideration," McCarty wrote in the nine-page ruling issued Sept. 11.
He said the
contract form was unenforceable because it didn't set any term of
employment. Establishing a minimum number of days wasn't enough, McCarty
said. He also said the standard contract would have allowed districts to
fire teachers at will, which violates Indiana law. He called the terms of
the contract form "contradictory and vague."
A spokesman for
the state education department said Tuesday that the purpose of the teacher
contract form was to provide school districts with "flexibility."
"The intent of
the form at issue in this case was to provide local school corporations
flexibility to meet the needs of all their students," spokesman Adam Baker
said. He added state education officials were considering whether to appeal
Teachers Association Vice President Teresa Meredith, who filed the suit
along with the union, said that under the standard contract the state wanted
to impose, school districts could have called teachers into work any time
they desired — even if they were at another job or on vacation — and fired
them if they didn't show up.
agreed that it's reasonable to know the amount of days you're required to
work," Meredith said Tuesday. ISTA represents about 45,000 teachers across
the state on contract issues.
The order also
requires Bennett to notify all Indiana school districts not to use the new
regular teacher's contract form and to forward a copy of the order to all
districts as well.