DOES YOUR STATE HAVE A TEACHERS' BILL OF RIGHTS? IT SHOULD.
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
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.
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.
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.
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