Elliott v. Board of School Trustees of Madison Consolidated Schools, No. 16-4168 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Indiana law previously provided that, when school districts needed to reduce their teaching staffs, tenured teachers that were qualified for an available position had a right to be retained over non-tenured teachers. A 2012 amendment eliminated that right and orders school districts to base layoff choices on performance reviews without regard for tenure status. Madison Consolidated Schools relied on the new law to lay off Elliott, a teacher who earned tenure 14 years before the new law took effect, while it retained non-tenured teachers in positions for which Elliott was qualified. Elliott, who had been elected as president of his union, sued, claiming that the amendment violated the Contract Clause when applied to him. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in Elliott’s favor. The statute, not the annual contracts, granted Elliott his contractual tenure rights, which became enforceable the year Elliott earned tenure. A decrease in job security necessarily impairs his rights under that contract. The change substantially disrupted teachers’ important and reasonable reliance interests. Improving teacher quality and public-education outcomes are important public interests of the highest order but even important goals and good intentions do not justify this substantial impairment of the tenure contract for already-tenured teachers.