The Texas Senate Education Committee is set to hear testimony on SB 2368 this Wednesday. This bill, authored by Senator Donna Campbell of District 25, would immediately end the ability of any Texas school district to implement a four-day week, and it would also unnecessarily restrict the ability of school districts to provide teachers on-going, embedded professional development opportunities throughout the school year.
Senator Campbell has proposed that the Texas Education Code be amended to require schools to provide 175 instructional days. This change would directly negate the purpose of HB 2610 from the 84th Texas Legislature, a bill that moved away from schools being required to provide a specific number of instructional days and instead allowed schools to meet specific minute requirements. More specifically, HB 2610 eliminated the requirement for districts to have 180 instructional days on their calendar and replaced it with a 75,600-minute requirement. The purpose of this move away from days to minutes was to provide school districts more flexibility in how they crafted their school calendar.
HB 2610 was voted out of both the Senate Education Committee and the House Committee on Public Education unanimously. Somewhat ironically, Senator Campbell was on the Senate Education Committee that voted unanimously in favor of HB 2610.
Since HB 2610 passed, districts have utilized the flexibility created by the minute vs. day requirement to embed more professional development days throughout their school year, providing teachers with much needed (and deserved) time to plan, collaborate with colleagues, and participate in training that is more timely than the common practice prior to HB 2610 of frontloading teacher training at the beginning of the school year.
Over the past several years, more and more districts across the state have started to use the flexibility created by HB 2610 to implement four-day instructional calendars, with approximately 60 districts now using this innovative calendar option. These calendars create a unique opportunity that maximizes teacher planning time, maximizes instructional and support capacity of all staff (i.e. more time for training, more time for building maintenance, more time to collaborate on intervention plans), and creates an improved work-life balance for both teachers and students.
The overwhelming majority of districts that have switched to four-day weeks have cited “retention and recruitment” as a key factor in deciding to make the change. And there should be little surprise that this schedule has had so much success towards this goal considering Governor’s Abbott Teacher Vacancy Task Force found that “demonstrating respect and value for teacher time” was one of the eight key themes for developing a “thriving teacher workforce in Texas.”
Now, Senator Campbell’s bill is a little odd in that it doesn’t propose to reverse the days/minutes change. Instead, she has proposed to continue utilizing the 75,600-minute requirement and institute a minimum of 175 instructional days, ultimately removing all of the benefits the current minutes-based law provides to teachers and districts. In addition, a 175-day minimum ultimately eliminates any possibility of a school district continuing to utilize a four-day instructional calendar, regardless if teachers, school boards, and parents believe that is the best option for their students.
In the past, the Texas State Government claimed to value local control as the best form of government because it was the “one that is closest to the people.”
Moving to a minutes-based instructional requirement provided this sort of local control.
Moving back to a days-based system is a move in the opposite direction.
If you disagree with Senator Campbell’s proposal, you can complete her email form and let her know that you disagree with this proposed change. You can also go one step further and let your own representative know that you disagree with this bill.
Making your voice known is the only way to enact change.