|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: April 17, 2002
Re: School consolidation inquiry
Dear City Manager,
You have asked whether, in the event of a merger between city and county schools, county teachers who earn less than city teachers would be entitled to raises and additional benefits, so their earnings would be the same as the city teachers. As we discussed in our phone conversation, my research has revealed that any teacher, whether employed by the city or the county before a merger or consolidation of school systems, is entitled to the same salary and benefits he or she received prior to the change. I have not found legal authority which requires that teachers earning less automatically receive raises upon consolidation, until a required salary schedule is implemented.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-2-1204 mandates that the retirement benefits, tenure rights and sick leave rights of any teacher or other school employee may not be abridged, diminished or impaired pursuant to a plan for consolidation. The statute goes on to state in paragraph (c):
Any plan of consolidation shall guarantee that the salary schedule under
which the teachers and other employees of a component part of any consoli-
dated school system were employed shall continue to apply for such teachers
and other employees, and no such salary schedule may be lower than it was
prior to consolidation.
This statutory requirement that teachers’ pay and benefits not be lowered or diminished in the event of a consolidation of school systems is repeated in the Code at T.C.A. § 49-5-203. The courts have interpreted these statutory provisions to be mandatory.
In Knox County v. City of Knoxville, the Court of Appeals ruled that the teachers employed by the abolished city school system who became employees of the county school system are entitled to the same rights and privileges received under contract with the city. These rights included participation in the city pension plan. I have enclosed a copy of the case for your review.
The only statutory language that may be interpreted as requiring raises for county teachers earning less than their city counterparts is found in T.C.A. § 49-2-1204(c) and states:
The plan shall provide that within three (3) years after the establish-
ment of the new consolidated school system, a new salary schedule
shall be established for such consolidated school system which shall
be no lower than the highest salary schedule maintained by a component
part of the system prior to the establishment of such new consolidated
After our conversation, I read this section of the statute again and determined that raises would eventually be required. Although it is not required immediately upon consolidation, within 3 years of the event, the school system must have a new salary schedule which is equal to, or higher than, the highest salary schedule of either the city or county system prior to consolidation.
I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to call me should you have any questions or need further information.
Thank you for consulting with MTAS.
Melissa A. Ashburn