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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Amendment to Indiana Teacher Tenure Law Violates Contract Rights

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down an Indiana law that amended the state's teacher tenure law. Elliott v. Board of School Trustees of Madison Consolidated Schools (7th Cir. Dec. 4, 2017).

In 2012, the Indiana legislature amended its teacher tenure law to eliminate a right of tenured teachers to be retained over non-tenured teachers and to require school districts to base layoffs on performance reviews rather than tenure. In reliance on the new law, the Madison School Board laid off Elliot, a teacher who had earned tenure 14 years before the new law took effect. Elliot sued, claiming the new law violated the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it affected his contractual rights to tenure under Indiana's teacher tenure law adopted in 1927.

The Seventh Circuit first determined that Indiana's teacher tenure law created certain enforceable contractual rights. Those contractual rights, the court determined, were "substantially impaired" by the 2012 law because it had retroactive affect on teachers who were tenured prior to its enactment. In finding the retroactive impairment to be a violation of contractual rights, the court held that the "impairment is substantial, the contract is an express commitment between the State and the teachers, and the State's self-interest is at state." 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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