Mr. Chips agrees to take on an additional class instead of having a planning and prep period. Thus, for the seven class periods during the day, our man Chips is in the classroom every minute. He’s a diligent and dedicated chap, Chips is. And so he gets his planning and prep time done outside of school hours. He is an excellent teacher. Of course, for taking on this additional load, he receives some additional compensation.
Fair enough? Well, of course, arrangements like this never become legal issues until someone gets unhappy with the arrangement. This arrangement might go on for years, and as long as Chips and the district are happy with the agreement, the legal issues are never addressed.
But the Commissioner has stated, in no uncertain terms, that teachers may not “contract away” their planning and prep time. This came up in Bledsoe v. Huntington ISD, Dkt. No. 033-R10-1103, decided on September 18, 2014. Here is the key language:
A teacher and a school district cannot contract so that a teacher will not have planning and preparation time. Texas Education Code section 21.404 requires teachers to have a minimum amount of time for planning and preparation. This is not a suggestion. It is a mandate.
Why this mattered is a bit complicated. Mr. Bledsoe argued that the district paid him less in Year Two than he got in Year One, and that the cut occurred after the penalty free resignation date. It’s true that he was paid less in the second year, but the district argued that the money he got for teaching during P&P time did not count. It was addressed in a separate “Memorandum of Understanding” rather than his teaching contract. The Commissioner rejected that argument, and in the course of the opinion, stated flatly that you can’t contract away your P&P time.
DAWG BONES: A TEACHER AND A SCHOOL DISTRICT CANNOT CONTRACT SO THAT THE TEACHER WILL NOT HAVE PLANNING AND PREP TIME.