Last week I shared with you two cases the Texas commissioner of education rendered a decision on regarding Texas Education Code Section 21.404, which covers teachers’ planning and preparation period. The first, William Strater v. Houston ISD, occurred in 1986, and the second, Linda Chaffin v. Los Fresnos ISD, in 1990.
In the Spring 2016 issue of Texas Teacher, a magazine published by Texas AFT, four more-recent cases were mentioned:
1. Canutillo Educators Association v. Canutillo ISD. No. 042-R10-203. The commissioner of education ruled on this case in 2010. According to Texas Teacher, teachers at the school in question had their personal planning and preparation time while students went to P.E. Then, administrators told the teachers they would have to begin tutoring some students while others were in P.E. and that their planning period would take place after school. The commissioner of education ruled in the teachers’ favor because the teachers’ planning and preparation period must be during the “instructional day,” defined as the time when students are at school receiving instruction where the teachers are located.
2. Alicia Gonzales v. South San Antonio ISD. No. 086-R10-704. The commissioner of education ruled on this case in 2007. In this case, Alicia Gonzales’ principal habitually called her into meetings during her planning and preparation time, and she received a reprimand for missed meetings. The commissioner of education ruled in Gonzales’ favor because her attendance at these meetings was not voluntary, as evidenced by the fact that she was reprimanded for not attending, thus violating TEC Section 21.404.
3. Selene Carbajal v. El Paso ISD. No. 035-R10-0308. The commissioner of education ruled on this case in 2012. Selene Carbajal, a high school teacher, started her day at one campus and ended her day at another. Administrators scheduled her planning period at the second school, after the school day ended, though school was still in session at the first school. Robert Scott, Texas commissioner of education at the time, ruled in Carbajal’s favor, because, as mentioned earlier, a teacher’s planning and preparation period must be during the “instructional day,” and the instructional day is defined as the time during which students are in school receiving instruction where the teacher is. Since Carbajal ended her day at the second campus, the “instructional day” in question would thus follow the schedule at that campus. In his decision, Scott wrote, “Since the Petitioner’s planning and preparation time did not occur during the time the students at the school where she was at (sic) were receiving instruction, Respondent violated Texas Education Code section 21.404.” He further wrote, “Respondent is required to provide Petitioner with planning and preparation time that occurs during the time students at the school where she is at (sic) are receiving instruction.”
4. Tommy Bledsoe v. Huntington ISD. No. 033-R10-1103. The commissioner of education ruled on this case in 2014. In this case, Bledsoe’s contract during the previous school year included him teaching during his planning period for additional pay. When the new school year began, Bledsoe learned he would no longer teach an additional class during his planning period, which resulted in a loss of earnings. The commissioner ruled, first of all, that a district cannot exchange a teacher’s planning period for additional pay. Furthermore, the district cannot reduce the amount of money a teacher earned during the previous year unless that teacher is notified of this reduction in pay before the penalty-free resignation date (no later than the 45th day before the first day of instruction).
TEC Section 21.404 and plenty of legal precedent certainly provide more than enough incentive for administrators to provide teachers with at least 45 minutes of personal planning and preparation time each day or, as the TEC reads, at least 450 minutes within each two-week period.
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo by Sarina Manahan)