Attack On Teacher Contracts Will Impact All Of Us.

Ending continuing contracts will damage our profession, and cost us all in the long run.


From an SAISD high school teacher.


At the end of the day on August 7 , quietly, and in stark contrast to the proud announcements of the convocation ceremony, principals at schools throughout San Antonio ISD communicated a message from district leadership to the faculties in their schools. “On Monday, August 19th the school board will decide either to stop offering continuing contracts or to continue doing so.” (the quote is not exact, but matches the spirit of the script principals read).


This is an odd announcement for a number of reasons. (which we will get to

dear reader, but first) The announcement continued, “Teachers who already have contracts will be grandfathered into continuing contracts. This will not affect you”—two truths and a lie.


We cannot allow this change. Term contracts have been suggested before in SAISD and turned down because teachers said no. By acting together, teachers can protect themselves and those who take up the torch and become next generation of teachers. More importantly, teachers can protect their students and communities by ensuring that they have the access they deserve to a quality education and not wave after wave of teacher turnover with a few overworked, burnt out martyrs who somehow continue on.

The reasons it is odd to announce that the board will be considering this change in contracts are as follows: first, the district already offers continuing contracts. This is their current policy, and it is their policy because in the past, teachers who knew what was best for themselves and their students joined together and fought for it through the union. That is why SAISD, the only school district in San Antonio with a strong union, is also the only district that offers continuing contracts. (Second) If the district were starting something completely new and considering two equal options, then this announcement wouldn’t at all be odd. However, because the district is considering a change from one policy to another, there are not two equal options. It would make much more sense to say “District leaders

want to stop offering continuing contracts (they must, or else there would have been no decision to announce) and are going to do so unless someone stops them.”





Still, credit where credit is due; they did announce their intentions, oddly phrased but plain for anyone who listened closely.


Similarly, one must assume that principals were directed to tell the truth about the proposed

policy change when letting teachers know about the grandfather clause. To out and out lie about that would be unreasonable when they didn’t have to tell anyone in the first place. However, to say that teachers with current contracts with the district will not be affected—a point that was emphasized by principals—is misleading to the point that it ought to be considered a lie. Current SAISD contracts will not be affected by a change in policy. The SAISD teachers who hold those contracts absolutely will be affected and not for the better.


Continuing contracts are a standard workplace protection. They ensure that in order for an

employer to fire an employee, there must be a just cause. That is one of the reasons contracts exist in the first place, to explicitly spell out expectations such as what work will be done, how much will it pay, and how long will it continue. A continuing contract lets teachers decide for themselves how to answer that last question while a term contract, which the district wants to switch to, takes that decision away, giving the district a chance to fire anyone for any reason once per year (or per term as defined in the contract) by not renewing their contract.


This part of the change would only affect new hires.


Continuing contracts are a standard workplace protection. They ensure that in order for an employer to fire an employee, there must be a just cause. That is one of the reasons contracts exist in the first place, to explicitly spell out expectations such as what work will be done, how much will it pay, and how long will it continue. A continuing contract lets teachers decide for themselves how to answer that last question while a term contract, which the district wants to switch to, takes that decision away, giving the district a chance to fire anyone for any reason once per year (or per term as defined in the contract) by not renewing their contract.

Grandfathered or not, current teachers would also be affected. For one, continuing contracts are the mark of a professional job. Teachers are difficult to replace, and so they can afford to make themselves difficult to get rid of. By stripping them of this protection, the district would be stripping some of the professionalism from teaching and devaluing the work of teaching. This would make it harder to find and keep good teachers, and as fewer and less qualified people want to go into teaching, the remaining teachers will have to take up the slack.


The effects of this can be seen more clearly in colleges and universities, where tenure has

become more and more rare and as a result, there are more and more associate professors who regularly have to move long distances for work, get paid far less that professors who still have tenure, and often have to work far more so that they aren’t replaced. Unsurprisingly, many associate professors quit and find work elsewhere, producing Starbucks baristas with bachelors degrees and custodians with PhDs.


It would make much more sense to say “District leaders want to stop offering continuing contracts and are going to do so unless someone stops them.”

While current teachers wouldn’t face this fate, they have no reason to inflict this upon future generations of teachers when it can be prevented.


Another less obvious way this would affect current teachers is best understood from a budgetary point of view and requires a series of observations. First, SAISD has limited resources. Second, SAISD wants what is best for its students. Third, limited resources often prevent us from doing what is best for our students. From a budgetary point of view, this problem is solved by cutting costs.


Using term contracts, there will come a point where the cost (in terms of knowledge and skills) of hiring a new teacher is less than the cost (in terms of money) of keeping an experienced teacher. With each successive year, experienced teachers will cost the district more, and the incentive of replacing them will go up. This has nothing to do with whether the decision-maker is a good or a bad person; term contracts make firing teachers a logical choice.



Instead of celebrating SAISD's unparalleled respect for teachers compared with other Texas districts, District leaders are moving to end modest worker protections in one of the most fiercely anti-worker states in the country.

This budgetary logic will also incentivize the district, and principals themselves, to drive the

expensive teachers with continuing contracts out. At its worst, this might look like the RIF, when unfair T-TESS scores were given to teachers who admin wanted out. At it’s best, it would look like teachers being given excessive preps or being asked to take on extra duties beyond what they can manage. At some point it becomes easier to quit than to fight, and so we have to fight together and start early. (Please also note that if the state of Texas increased school funding to match inflation instead of cutting it, then this would be less of a problem, though a problem nonetheless).


Continuing contracts are also the better policy for students. Education is a social process, and it is relationship based. When a school has the same group of teachers, who know and care for their students year after year, student outcomes improve. When teachers have the time and stability to form long lasting PLCs and build off of one another’s practices, student outcomes improve.



Even as SAISD becomes a "B" rated (bee - get it, LOL, these guys) district, the board moves jovially to end continuing contracts for teachers - allegedly an impediment to the district's transformation.

When teachers are able to form relationships with parents and communities - because they’ve taught cousins, brothers, and sisters - student outcomes improve. Term contracts would enable one year’s bad STAAR scores (which research shows have very little to do with teacher ability and everything to do with things like poverty, moving schools, and access to early education) to force a teacher out of the district, no matter how hard they work or how much they love their students.


We cannot allow this change. Term contracts have been suggested before in SAISD and turned down because teachers said no. By acting together, teachers can protect themselves and those who take up the torch and become next generation of teachers. More importantly, teachers can protect their students and communities by ensuring that they have the access they deserve to a quality education and not wave after wave of teacher turnover with a few overworked, burnt out martyrs who somehow continue on.


Teachers are called to do what is best for their students.


It is clear what is best. All that remains is to do it.

F O R   P U B L I C   E D U C A T I O N 

Public education should aim to transform social reality. Educación Popular is a space for all those who seek to ensure that public schools and universities fulfill their potential for transformative social change.