Personnel Series – Setting Salary Schedules and the District Calendar

This blog post is the eighth in our series of posts on Spring Personnel Decisions and will cover the importance of setting and approving both a salary schedule and the District calendar prior to May 15. This post will focus specifically on the timing of these matters, and how that interacts with the Teacher Tenure Act (“TTA”).

Setting Salary Schedules

If you were to delve into Missouri’s statutes, you might be surprised to discover that there is no specific requirement for school districts to adopt a salary schedule for teachers. Instead, § 163.172, RSMo., provides a minimum salary for all teachers in Missouri, and also mentions “the local school district’s basic salary schedule …” Salary schedules are again mentioned in § 168.110, RSMo., of the TTA in reference to modifying a permanent teacher contract. Neither of these statutes provide a requirement that school districts adopt a salary schedule in the first place though, and there is no guidance on when a salary schedule must be adopted. However, as you know, most if not all school districts in Missouri do at least adopt a salary schedule for teachers. One issue that arises then is when the salary schedule for teachers for the next year should be adopted.

At first glance you would probably think that the schedule should be adopted once the next year’s budget is approved. While this would be somewhat correct, and important first step is missing – districts should adopt the next year’s salary schedule for all teachers prior to May 15. The reason for this is found in the TTA and involves the modification of permanent teacher contracts. Specifically, § 168.110, RSMo., gives districts the ability to modify permanent teacher contracts in two ways: 1) “[d]etermination of the date of beginning and length of the next school year”; and 2) “[f]ixing the amount of annual compensation for the following school year as provided by the salary schedule adopted by the board of education applicable to all teachers.” The timing of this becomes important though, because the statute also provides these modifications can only be made annually on or before May 15, and they don’t become effective until the next school year.

As you can see then, if a district wants to modify its salary schedule for the coming year, it would need to do so on or prior to May 15 in order for those modifications to apply to permanent teachers. Section 168.110, RSMo., would then require the district to provide written copies of the modifications to all permanent teachers affected by those modifications within 30 days of their adoption. Thereafter, once the next year’s budget is finalized and approved, districts can go back and modify the schedule further to increase compensation for all teachers. While this technically wouldn’t comply with § 168.110, RSMo., you are very unlikely to encounter a tenured teacher that objects to being paid an even higher amount; and if they do, then the district can simply pay them the lower amount. In order to put your district in this position though, we recommend that the next year’s salary schedule be approved by your Board on or prior to May 15.

Setting the District Calendar

As you are aware, the Board is legally required to approve a District calendar for each school year. However, the timing of that approval is not directly stated in Missouri law. Obviously it should be before the start of the next school year, but beyond that there is little statutory guidance about when this calendar must be set. One thing that often goes overlooked though is the effect that the calendar will have on tenured teachers.

As discussed, the TTA only allows a tenured teacher’s permanent contract to be modified in two ways, and only annually on or before May 15. While the compensation paid to the teacher under the salary schedule for the next school year is one of those ways that a tenured teacher’s contract can be modified, the other way is the beginning and length of the next school year. Because of this then, we recommend that districts approve their calendars prior to May 15 in order to be able to legally modify the contracts for its tenured teachers. If the entire calendar cannot be set though, then at a minimum the start date of the next school year, and the length of the next school year should be approved by the Board prior to May 15. Additionally, like with the salary schedule, teachers must be notified within 30 days of the Board’s adoption of the date of the beginning of the next school year and the length of the next school year.

One final thing to keep in mind when determining the beginning and length of the next school year is the changes to the laws regarding the length of school days and the number of days in a school year. Beginning this coming school year, there are significant changes. First, and most important, is that there will no longer be a minimum number of school days in a school year. The practical effect of this change is that, rather than having a requirement for the number of days, districts will instead have a minimum hour requirement. This hour requirement will be 1,044 hours of actual pupil attendance, and a minimum of 36 weather make-up hours for possible loss of attendance due to inclement weather, with no minimum number of school days required. Second, and related to the first, is that the term “school day” now means any day in which, for any amount of time, students are under the guidance and direction of teachers in the teaching process. There are also some additional changes related to make-up days that districts should keep in mind, but are too detailed to discuss in this blog. DESE has issued a fact sheet on these, and we recommend that districts review it carefully to ensure that their calendars are in compliance with the new laws.

What all of this means for districts is that there is now much more flexibility given when setting the Board calendar. However, based on the requirements of the TTA, the beginning and length of the next school year should be set by the Board prior to May 15, with the teachers being notified within 30 days after the Board’s decision.

If you have any questions regarding setting salary schedules or the district calendar, or any other personnel matter, please feel free to contact any of our team members at EdCounsel.