Impact of License Renewal Requirements on Legal Employment
|To:||Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, Collaboratives, Principals, and Teachers|
|From:||Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner|
|Date:||May 23, 2014|
The June 17, 2014 deadline when many licensed educators are expected to have renewed their Professional license is right around the corner. To date the Department has renewed over 23,500 educators and more than 36,500 licenses!
This memo marks one of the final reminders to all districts regarding the impending deadline for the large cohort of educators whose professional licenses are due to be renewed by June 17, 2014, and the impact of the license renewal requirements on legal employment.
Educators must renew their professional licenses every five calendar years. In order to remain legally eligible for employment, all educators who are currently employed under a professional license that expires by June 17, 2014, must have satisfied the necessary requirements in order to apply to renew. Any such educator who fails to submit a completed application to renew his or her license by the deadline will not be eligible for employment under that license in September 2014.
The Department strongly recommends educators to renew their professional licenses online. To begin the process, educators must login to ELAR and follow six easy steps to renew. The license is renewed instantly at the completion of the process, and an updated license is available to be printed from ELAR by the educator and/or district (please note that the Department discontinued sending hardcopy licenses in April of 2011). Renewing online is the fastest way to complete the process without delay, but paper applications are also available at Advancing, Extending, or Renewing a License for educators who wish to mail their applications to the Office of Educator Licensure. If mailed in, an application could take at least 2 weeks for processing.
It is important for educators and districts to understand the difference between an inactive and an invalid license, and the impact on legal employment. Generally, educators who hold more than one license should at least renew the one under which they are employed. Any professional license (teacher, administrator or professional support personnel), that an educator does not renew, automatically becomes inactive for up to five years beyond its expiration date. If an educator has been employed in the role of the license for at least two years prior to its expiration date and does not renew it, the license becomes inactive and the educator can no longer be employed in the role of that inactive license, unless the school district requests and is granted an employment waiver. However, this educator may be assigned to another position under a different valid license or be newly hired by another district into a position under that inactive license and have two years by which to renew the inactive license. An inactive license that is not renewed within five years from its expiration date automatically becomes invalid. An educator may not be employed under an invalid license. The educator must renew an invalid license prior to beginning or resuming employment in that field and grade level, unless the district receives an employment waiver. Each Invalid license will require a minimum of 150PDPs.
An educator who has been employed since September 2011 under a professional math license that is due for renewal on June 17, 2014, would not be eligible for continued employment in September 2014 in that district under that license, unless the educator renews the license by June 17, 2014, or the district receives an employment waiver. However, if the educator also has a professional history license that is due for renewal on June 17, 2014, the educator can be employed in September 2014 to teach history under the inactive license, and would not be required to renew it until September 2016, two years from the date of employment.
An educator, who has an inactive license that was not renewed in 2009, could not be employed under that license in September 2014, unless the educator renews the inactive license by June 17, 2014 because the license would then become invalid. An educator cannot be employed under an invalid license, unless the district receives an employment waiver.
Please be sure that all educators in your district or school are well aware of the license renewal requirements, the impending deadline for the large cohort of educators whose renewal date is on or prior to June 17, 2014, and the impact of their license status on employment.
Following are answers to questions we have received about educator license renewal.
- Must the educator have been approved with a renewed license by June 17, 2014 in order to continue to be eligible for employment under the license?
No, but it is essential for the educator to have renewed online or have submitted his or her completed license renewal application to the Department by its expiration date. State law (M.G.L. chapter 30A, section 13) provides that as long as an individual has made a "timely and sufficient application for a renewal, his license shall not expire until his application has been finally determined by the agency." Consequently, an educator who submits a completed license renewal application to the Department by June 17, 2014 continues to be licensed under the previous license until the Department makes a final determination regarding renewal.
All educators should keep a copy of their completed application, and if they apply online, print and keep a copy of their receipt from ELAR, which can be provided to their employer upon request.
- What consequences may arise from an educator's failure to renew his or her license by its expiration date?
Under state law, no person is eligible for employment as an educator by a school district, an educational collaborative, or an approved special education day or residential school unless the person holds a valid educator license appropriate to the position, or the Department has granted a waiver based on a showing that no qualified licensed educator is available for the position. An educator must submit a completed license renewal application by the renewal date on his or her license in order to remain eligible for employment under that license in the next school year.
School districts may find that for budgeting or planning purposes, they need to make employment decisions for the 2014-2015 school year before June 17, 2014. School officials who are considering making layoff or dismissal decisions based solely on an educator's inaction on a required license renewal should consult with their district's legal counsel about the applicable procedures for layoff or dismissal. Our review of case law from other jurisdictions supports the authority of school districts to terminate the employment of educators whose licenses have lapsed, provided that districts follow the procedures set forth in state law. In line with the reasoning of these cases from other states, statutory arbitration may be available to educators whose employment is terminated for failing to maintain a license, provided that they otherwise qualify for arbitration (e.g., they have professional teacher status) under M.G.L. c. 71, §§ 41 and 42.
- If an educator is planning to retire at the end of the 2013-14 school year, and does not apply for license renewal by June 17, 2014, may the school or school district continue to employ the educator through the end of the school year?
Yes, as long as the educator has provided written notice to the school or school district, before June 17, 2014, that s/he intends to retire at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Local rules or collective bargaining agreements may require employees to provide notice of retirement to the employer/school district earlier in the school year. In that case, the educator must comply with the earlier notice date.
- Is an educator who failed to renew his or her professional license eligible to be employed on a waiver?
A school district would be able to employ a formerly licensed educator on a waiver only if the district is able to demonstrate to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that it cannot find a licensed educator who is qualified for the position. In our opinion, a formerly licensed educator who continues to work in the school district under a waiver or as a long-term substitute would likely have a break in service in terms of his or her employment rights.
- My Professional license is due to be renewed in June of 2014 and I have been assigned to a RETELL Cohort, however, I have already accumulated more than enough PDPs. What will happen to the PDPs earned by taking the SEI endorsement course?
Only for the RETELL initiative, educators may utilize PDPs earned through the Department sponsored SEI endorsement course across multiple renewal cycles; however, if an educator plans to claim PDPs for a future renewal cycle, they must maintain the records for both renewal cycles in order to ensure compliance with license renewal regulations. For example, if an educator had already accrued 135 PDPs when they took and completed the SEI endorsement course in 2013, the educator could choose to "carry over" 52.5 of those SEI PDPs towards the 2019 renewal cycle. In the event the educator is selected for an audit in 2019, the Department would need to audit the educator's professional development activities from the 2014 and 2019 renewal cycles in order to determine if he or she was eligible to claim those "carry over" SEI PDPs.
- How is my license renewal status affected if I am required to earn an SEI endorsement and I do not obtain one during the time designated?
To answer this question, it's important to understand that the timeline for earning an SEI Endorsement is determined by the cohort year to which an educator is assigned to earn the Endorsement.
An educator's SEI cohort year is triggered by enrollment into a Department SEI Endorsement course, which is self-assignment to a cohort, or in some cases, assignment to a cohort by the Department. The cohort year then runs until August 31st of the year following the enrollment or assignment. For example, an educator who enrolls in an SEI endorsement course in July 2014 for a course that is given during the 2014-2015 school year, has a cohort year that ends on August 31, 2015.
An educator can renew, advance, or extend a license up until the end of the cohort year without needing to have obtained the SEI Endorsement. An educator assigned to a cohort year who does not obtain the endorsement by the August 31st deadline, will be unable to renew, advance, or extend his or her core academic license(s) until the educator obtains the SEI endorsement, unless they obtain a hardship exception. The hardship exception extends the timeline for earning the endorsement. An educator may qualify for a hardship exception upon a demonstration of a serious injury, illness, or other circumstances beyond the educator's control that impede the educator's ability to earn the SEI Endorsement during the cohort year. Lastly, the lack of an SEI endorsement may affect an educator's employability as of July 1, 2016 because districts then will be required to assign SEI-endorsed core academic teachers to classes with ELLs, unless the teacher assigned will obtain the endorsement within a year of the assignment.