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Planning Periods and Duty-Free Lunch

Whether it’s instruction time, planning time, personal time, or lunch time, you need this time to be effective at both work and home. It is no secret that the demands on every teacher’s time has increased dramatically. Many educators are concerned about being required to give up their individual planning period for meetings such as PLC’s, team planning, and/or department meetings.

Planning and Preparation Time

Texas Education Code § 21.404, Planning and Preparation Time, states:
“Each classroom teacher is entitled to at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation, including 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 a planning and preparation period, a classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity.”

The Commissioner’s decisions below further clarify this law.

The Commissioner of Education has ruled that a district may not require a teacher to attend an in-service meeting during the 45-minute period (Strater v. Houston I.S.D., 1986).

The Commissioner of Education has ruled that teachers cannot be required to meet with the principal during planning time (Gonzales v. South San Antonio I.S.D., 2007).

The Commissioner of Education has ruled that a district may not assign duties or require attendance at meetings during the minimum 450 minutes. (Chaffin v. Los Fresnos I.S.D., 1991).

Duty-Free Lunch

Texas Education Code§ 21.405 states:
Classroom teachers and full-time librarians are entitled to at least a 30-minute lunch period free from all duties and responsibilities connected with the instruction and supervision of students, unless the district is faced with such dire situations as personnel shortages, economic conditions, or unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances. In any event the teacher may not be required to supervise students during the duty-free lunch more than one time per week.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can my principal call meetings during my planning period?

No.  Each teacher actively engaged in the instruction of children in the public schools of Texas shall have at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation, including parent/teacher conferences, evaluating students’ work, and planning. A planning and preparation period may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day.

During a planning and preparation period, a classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity. A 45-minute period must be provided in its entirety without regard to any other time free from supervision allotted to the teacher for other reasons, and within seven hours after the commencement of classes for the school day.

Districts which extend the school day beyond the required seven-hour minimum for instructional purposes may include the required 45-minute planning and preparation period within that extended school day.

Preparation and planning periods must be scheduled within the time that students are being instructed in regularly-scheduled classes. A district may not extend the seven-hour school day solely to provide time for the required 45-minute planning and preparation period. Such extension can not be to provide time for extracurricular activities.

Can we be assigned other duties such as watching other classes during planning time?

No. The law is clear. However, if you are provided with more than 450 minutes for planning within a 10-day period, the time over that amount can be used by the principal for other activities.

Can we be asked to meet with parents during our planning time?

Yes. That is one of the purposes of this time. The time is also for reviewing students’ homework and for YOUR planning and preparation.

At-Will Employees

The national Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the law that protects employees from overtime abuse and ensures that eligible employees are paid for all the work they perform. Employees covered by the FLSA (bus drivers, cafeteria staff, teacher assistants, secretaries, and other similar employees) must receive overtime compensation for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Overtime vs. Compensatory Time
Check your local school district’s policies because many school districts opt to provide compensatory time rather than overtime pay. Comp time can be accrued and used in place of your state personal leave or local sick leave. However, most districts state that comp time not used by a specific time will be converted to overtime pay.

DO NOT Work Off the Clock
UEA’s best advice is never to work off the clock. You deserve to be paid for all the hours you work. Supervisors should never pressure you to work off the clock, and you should not take work home or “clock out” and continue to work.

Make sure you should always get approval from your supervisor before you do overtime work.

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