The 2016 Summer Olympics may be over, but school superintendents in America are still going for the gold. If you are a creative teacher, you need to be careful and know your ideas will become the property of the school district. And they can make money on them. It is called “intellectual property” or IP for short.
This is especially important if a teacher develops software, but anything special a teacher does, including work that aligns with standards, may be used by the school district to make money.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth noting again. Superintendents are looking for teacher-made ideas to turn into commercial products to make money for the school district.
They are passing the word that teachers have something they can use to make the district rich–ideas!
They might criticize teachers, even judge them harshly by student test scores. They might deny teachers resources and make them pay out-of-pocket for their own class materials.
They might not even care if teachers work in crummy school buildings, but they know who knows good teaching.
It might be discouraging for a teacher to find the school district making money on their insight. What will they get for their work?
When school districts make lots of money on teacher lessons or project plans, selling them to other school districts, or publishing companies, where will teachers fit? Despite all the work a teacher might do, they might not be rewarded.
If you love your school district and they treat you well, you may not mind handing over your ideas about teaching to them, to market to other schools and teachers. You may or may not get much credit–or money.
A group of teachers, for example, who write a grant for their school, know where the funding will go…into the program for which the grant is written. Sometimes such grants also cover salaries.
But if teachers get together and write something special for their class, it too could belong to the school district. Administrators could have dibs on anything special a teacher does for their class. They could sell it to other districts and make a large profit on that teacher’s work.
Teachers go into teaching because they like kids and teaching what they love. They might not think about making money on a product, or a group of lessons they create for students.
Sometimes, however, teachers write their ideas down and hope to sell workbooks or teaching materials.
The point is, in today’s free market schooling, few in the school district seem to be thinking about helping teachers make a profit.
Teachers need to be careful.
The School Superintendent’s Association (AASA) just published an article called “Intellectual Property: Mining Gold in Your Backyard.”
They give examples of programs they have used to make money for the school district. They also distinguish well the lines that determine what does and doesn’t belong to the teacher in their eyes.
You may be surprised to know the school district may own the intellectual property of work created by employees. When district staff members create works within the scope of their employment, the work generally belongs to the employer. This is sometimes called the “work for hire doctrine.”
What is considered within the scope? Anything an employee does that contributes to the job for which she or he was hired might be considered within the scope. To state it simply, when a salaried teacher creates items used to teach a class, no matter where or when the faculty member creates them, the items most likely belong to the district.
If a teacher creates something entirely on personal time, with personal resources, that she or he does not use to teach the assigned class, that work probably belongs to the teacher alone. Nevertheless, some school districts add a clause in their employment contracts giving ownership of copyrights (but seldom patents) to their faculty members. Check your teacher contracts to see whether you have given away or share these rights. If already surrendered, discuss with your district’s attorney how you might regain future rights.
Teachers, consider yourselves forewarned. While it appears acceptable in today’s society, to turn schools and school districts into businesses, teachers remain workers under the old-fashion system.