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States

TEACHER RIGHTS IN TEXAS
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    Every teacher is entitled to a duty-free lunch and
    planning and preparation time. Except for a few minor
    changes made in the 1995 rewrite of the Texas Education
    Code, the statutes have essentially remained the same.Duty-free lunch – Texas Education Code, Sec. 21.405
    By law, each classroom teacher and full-time librarian
    gets at least a 30-minute lunch period “free from all
    duties and responsibilities connected with the instruction
    and supervision of students.” According to a Texas
    Attorney General opinion, the term “duty” would include a
    directive that teachers remain on campus during lunch,
    because it would relate to student instruction or
    supervision. Districts cannot require teachers to stay on
    campus during their 30-minute lunch even if the campus
    is “closed” for students.

    The law provides exceptions—personnel shortages, extreme
    economic conditions or unavoidable/unforeseen
    circumstances—which give districts the right to require
    teachers to supervise lunches, but not more than one time
    per week.

    The rules adopted by the commissioner of education set the
    bar very high before a district can assign a teacher to
    lunch duty. Scheduling problems do not create unforeseen
    circumstances. They exist when an epidemic, illness, or
    natural or man-made disaster leaves no one available to do
    the duty. An extreme economic condition exists when hiring
    a person to supervise lunch would cause the district to
    raise taxes to the extent that the district might face a
    tax roll-back election. A personnel shortage exists only
    after all available nonteaching personnel—superintendent
    and business manager included—have been assigned to the
    duty and the district has diligently recruited community
    volunteers to help.

    Planning and preparation time – Texas Education Code, Sec.
    21.404
    The law entitles every teacher to planning and preparation
    time, during which the district can require the teacher to
    engage in no activity other than parent-teacher
    conferences, evaluating student work, and planning.
    Teachers must have at least 450 minutes of planning time
    every two weeks in increments of not less than 45 minutes
    within the instructional day.

    Examples:

    A teacher could have five 90-minute conference periods
    within a two-week period, instead of a 45-minute
    conference period each day. A district can provide 50-
    minute blocks of planning time daily, and exceed the
    minimum requirement, but it could not provide 50 minutes
    one day and 40 minutes the next.

    A district cannot schedule a 7:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m.
    instructional day, and then give teachers 3:15 p.m.-4:00
    p.m. to plan after the students leave.

    Conference period cases often involve requirements for
    group planning or staff development during planning
    periods. According to the commissioner of education, if a
    district gives teachers no more than the statutory minimum
    planning time, the district cannot ask teachers to engage
    in group-planning during one of those planning periods.

    Example:

    A district that schedules 50-minute planning periods every
    day could ask teachers to plan as a group one day every
    two weeks, but the district could not take one planning
    period for group planning and another for staff
    development.