When does PTS begin? A case worth fighting

Greetings from the MTA Division of Legal Services!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. With all the really big battles playing out in the education world these days, it’s easy to forget that some of the old battles continue. For example, you would think that by now, we all would have agreed on how and when a teacher acquires “professional teacher status,” or what used to be called “tenure.” Alas, this is not the case.

The most interesting — and troubling — legal fight in this area concerns an MTA member in a large district south of Boston who took a maternity leave in her first year of employment and again in her fourth year. At the end of her fifth year, the school district decided not to renew her for another year. The district claims that the teacher did not have PTS and therefore could just be let go. Why no PTS? The district asserts that the “three consecutive school years” of service that a teacher needs to acquire PTS were broken by her short maternity leaves. So off we go to court!

Does this seem right to you? Does this seem fair? When MTA lawyers look at cases, we are often motivated both by what the law is and by what the law should be. This one qualifies on both counts: A teacher in the first three years of teaching who takes a paid maternity leave (or any other employer-approved paid leave) should not be set back in her career by losing the year for PTS purposes. And we don’t think the law permits it.

That is a case worth fighting! It is also not the only one of its kind. We have seen an uptick in disputes involving newer teachers and their right to PTS.

If you want to see the briefs we have filed at the Massachusetts Appeals Court, go here and here. The case won’t be heard for several months, but we will let you know how it turns out.

Ira Fader

MTA General Counsel