Proposed Bill Would Compel Schools to Rehire Teachers Who Quit Due to COVID-19 Concerns

Teachers that quit their jobs due to COVID-19 concerns would get the chance to return to their old desks with benefits and all if a newly filed bill in the Texas Legislature sees the light of day.

Under Senate Bill (SB) 256, filed by state Senator José Menéndez (D-San Antonio), school districts would have to rehire teachers who quit for fear of the coronavirus if those teachers were to seek their old jobs again.

“Beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, an educator employed by a school district for the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year who resigned or retired from the educator’s position… solely because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is entitled to: reinstatement to the educator’s former position or an equivalent position; and reinstatement of any fringe benefits and seniority rights that the educator was entitled to before the educator’s resignation or retirement,” the text reads.

While coronavirus concerns certainly spurred flight from the classroom in flocks from Dallas to Georgetown, the whole picture of widespread teacher shortages has yet to come into focus.

Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports show more teachers in the 2019-2020 school year than the year before, but a significant spike in the use of emergency or provisional certifications hints at teacher strain. Those emergency credentials can go to teachers coming to Texas from another state, taking on a new subject, or entering the classroom with some education in the material while lacking a traditional certificate to teach. State numbers show about a five-point leap in teachers working outside their fields to the 2019-2020 school year from the 2018-2019 school year, but a similar leap from the normal 2017-2018 year before.

However, districts vary widely, and overall numbers for this school year won’t be available for some time. TEA reports for educator data only reach last year at the latest, depending on the material.

Historic student shortages and the unknowable figure — the full number of public school teachers working in Texas this year — further muddy the waters. As a number of school associations lamented in a letter to state officials, student bodies across Texas have shrunk as more and more parents pull their children out of public schools. This steep enrollment decline can counterbalance teacher shortages which themselves may be scattered at worst: fewer students need fewer teachers.

Menéndez’s office did not respond for comment.

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