Oops! I forgot to pay the renewal fee for my certificate. Is my contract void?

Consider the creativity of this argument: because the superintendent forgot to pay the renewal fee for his certificate, a real estate agent claims that he was unable to close a sale of real property, because, after all…who would want to buy a home in a school district where the superintendent’s certificate has lapsed?

When you go house shopping, isn’t that the first question you ask?  “Tell me about the school district: did the superintendent timely renew his certificate?”

It may have been creative, but the Commissioner didn’t buy it.  The agent who filed the appeal to T.E.A. did not live in the district, did not own property in the district, and did not have children in the school. But he claimed he was injured because he lost out on a commission.

The Commissioner held that the man lacked the legal “standing” to pursue this matter. Furthermore, the Commissioner lacked jurisdiction over the allegations that the district had violated the state or federal constitutions or the rules of SBEC. Moreover, the man failed to establish jurisdiction of the complaint under the Education Code.

So the case was dismissed. But in the process of doing so, the Commissioner made some important rulings about contracts and teacher certification.  The headline is that the loss of certification makes the teacher’s contract voidable, not void.  Key Quote:

Texas Education Code section 21.0031 makes a teacher’s contract voidable when the educator lacks the appropriate certificate.  A voidable contract is a valid contract until action is taken to declare the contract void.

What if the contract says that it is “void” without proper certification? The Commissioner held that such a contractual provision is ineffective:

The superintendent’s contract provision that purports to make the contract void if the superintendent fails to maintain certification is itself void as it violates Texas Education Code section 21.0031.

This entire dustup was due to the superintendent’s failure to get his certificate renewed on time.  Thus the certificate was classified as “inactive” for a few months, at which time the superintendent was alerted to the problem. He promptly paid the necessary fees to get the certificate restored to active status.  Apparently the school board had no problem with this sequence of events, but the real estate agent wanted the superintendent fired and financially penalized.  Nope.

The case is Axelrod v. Marble Falls ISD, decided by Commissioner Morath on June 28, 2017.  It’s Docket No. 001-R10-09-2016.  I’m pleased to let you know that Bridget Robinson and Haley Turner of our law firm handled this one for Marble Falls.


Tomorrow: Yet another retaliation case….