Salary Schedule Credit for Out-of-State Teaching Experience

Missouri is somewhat unique in that its two major metropolises both straddle state lines, with one part in Missouri and another in either Kansas or Illinois.  Due to this geo-political quirk, nearly all professionals in Missouri are faced with the decision of whether or not to secure a license or certificate in one of Missouri’s neighboring states.  A recent case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals identifies another aspect of work that could be affected by crossing state lines: placement on salary schedules.  See Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist., No. 11-4206 (3d Cir. Jan. 24, 2013).

Hit the jump for the “Show Me” the money goodness (Was that a pun within a pun?? Yes it was)…

In Cornell, a teacher had worked in Maryland for 9 years before being offered a position with a school district in Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvanian district, like most districts, placed teachers on their salary scale based on a combination of education and years of experience.  When the teacher accepted the position with the Pennsylvanian district he was credited with only one year of experience, giving him a salary of $38,023 instead of the salary he expected of $49,476.  The teacher sued the district claiming that failing to credit his time in Maryland violated the United States Constitution and the trial court granted summary judgment for the district.

Before moving to the appellate court analysis, I think a word or two of history relating to the teacher’s constitutional claim would be useful.  The teacher claimed that the district had violated his Article IV right to the “privileges and immunities” of citizenship.  Back when I was in law school I was very surprised to learn that, until after the Civil War (and passage of the Fourteenth Amendment), none of the amendments of the U.S. Constitution applied to actions by the states.  So any individual state was free to bar speech, imprison without trial, quarter soldiers in private homes, etc.  The first protection supplied by the Fourteenth Amendment was an extension of the “privileges and immunities” of federal citizens to the states.  At the time these were such critical rights as access to ports and waterways and the right to be protected on the high seas.  Most importantly for the case at hand, it also included the “right to travel” which was interpreted to mean that states had to treat its own citizens and citizens of other states essentially the same (in-state tuition is a whole ‘nother ball of wax).

Returning to Cornell, the court began by determining the proper standard of review.  If a residency requirement affects “fundamental rights” then it receives the highest level of review, “strict scrutiny,” otherwise it receives the lowest level of review, “rational basis.”  Reviewing prior precedent, the court found that the only way a “fundamental right” would be implicated is if the requirement is based on the duration of residency (such as limitations on welfare benefits for individuals only newly resident).  Finding no such duration requirement, the court reviewed the restriction under “rational basis” review.  The court noted that the school district had cited two justifications for the policy: familiarity with state education laws, and “promoting efficiency in the education system.”  Because the district was able to explicate some basis for the distinction, the Court affirmed the trial decision and rejected the teacher’s suit.

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