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Know Your Rights: Planning Time

Time is a valuable commodity that no one can afford to lose. But, unfortunately, once the time is taken or lost, you can never get it back. As a result, many educators are rightfully concerned about guarding their individual planning period time. Below we share the law and practical implications of the teacher planning and preparation time.

Planning and Preparation Time State law is clear on Planning and Preparation Time. The Texas Education Code Section 21.404 states: “Each classroom teacher is to have at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation, parent-teacher conferences, evaluating students’ work, and planning. Each planning and preparation period must be at least 45 minutes long and must be scheduled during the school day. During the planning and preparation period, the teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity.” State law also says a teacher’s planning time cannot be shorter than 45 minutes in duration. Case law and the Commissioner of Education decision have further defined the use of planning and preparation time.

Strater v. Houston ISD - Prohibits the use of Planning and Preparation for In-Service Training. Gonzales v. South San Antonio ISD - Prohibits mandated attendance at group sessions during teacher’s planning and preparation period. As the Commissioner states in this decision, “A teacher’s planning period is, therefore, for the use of the teacher as he or she sees fit, within the statutory boundaries, free from any duty mandated by the school district.” Therefore, you cannot be mandated/required to plan with a department or grade level during your 450-minutes.

Chaffin v. Los Fresnos ISD - Prohibits a Principal (Administrator) from requiring a teacher to meet with the Principal (Administrator) during their “duty-free” planning and preparation period. Some school districts give more than the state-mandated time for planning so grade level or team meetings can occur. For example, a school that offers 50 minutes of planning time every day can “take” one planning period every two weeks and use it for other purposes and still meet the minimum planning requirements. If you feel your rights have been denied, contact your local association immediately to discuss advocacy options.

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