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  • Writer's pictureCindy Copich

Don't Sign: What teachers need to know about "intent to return" requests

Attention teachers! This is the time every year where most districts ask you to indicate and sign your "intent to return" the following school year. While legally districts can ASK, this does not always mean you are under any obligation to sign (yet!). Check your state's teacher contract laws or ask your local union representative for the specifics. Here in Nebraska, teachers may be required to indicate and sign their intent to return by March 15. Some districts allow an extension of that date to April or May given that most district jobs aren't posted.

The purpose of the "intent to return" law is to allow districts the ability to identify future vacancies and start working to fill them early enough to avoid an unfilled position when school starts the following school year. The problem is, ALL the power and control resides with the district and little is given to the teacher that may want to leave their district for a position elsewhere. Essentially for a teacher to find a position in another district, they need to go through a period of time where they are without a job.

Let's say I want to leave my teaching position, and I start looking for a new job. There may be some job postings in other districts in January and February due to pending retirements, but most Nebraska school districts won't know their actual openings until sometime after March 15. If my current school district follows the Nebraska statute, they can ask me to indicate my intent to return by March 15. Once I indicate I may not return to my teaching position the following year, my current district can start looking to fill my teaching position and are under no obligation to hire me back if I don't find a new job in another district. This can leave me in employment limbo. The district holds all the cards.

I understand the signficant impact on children of having a teaching position unfilled, but there needs to be a better balance in employment laws that allow teachers the opportunity to seek employment elsewhere. What other career field does this happen? I understand the importance of adhering to the terms of your employment contract and fullfilling your duties, but is there another profession that has their terms of employment so specifically defined in state statute? Are there similar laws for other public employees? It's time to update this law for a more balanced approach. Teachers deserve to have more power over their employment decisions, and frankly students deserve to have a teacher that WANTS to work in there.


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