House Bill (HB) 2610 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature changed the Texas Education Code (TEC) by altering instructional requirements from days of instruction to minutes, providing districts greater scheduling flexibility.
Additionally, House Bill (HB) 1842, known for authorizing Districts of Innovation, provides districts more latitude to further modify duty calendars and hours to support instructional program needs.
As school districts seek more local control over the instructional calendar and look to reduce calendar days, they should work closely with their school attorney in drafting and implementing these changes and consider the implication to employees.
For educators, TEC currently requires all 10-month educator contracts to be a minimum of 187 days of service. Therefore, a teacher salary cannot be less than 187 days.
The salary of a non-certified professional under a non-Chapter 21 contract may be reduced between contract years or in accordance with the terms of the contract. For certified administrators under a Chapter 21 contract, the district may reduce pay between contract years by providing formal and specific notice before the penalty-free resignation date.
For at-will and non-certified positions, a district may reduce calendar days and subsequent pay of employees. Pay for nonexempt employees, may be reduced at any time as long as the district complies with the Fair Labor Standards Act, and pays at least the minimum wage of $7.25/hour and overtime for any time worked more than 40 hours per week.
Depending on the circumstance for reducing calendar days, some districts maintain the annualized salary ensuring employee pay is not reduced. Note that this approach may lead to inflated daily or hourly rates of pay for employees when pay is compared to peer districts.
The district should review Policy DED (LOCAL)—Compensation and Benefits: Vacations and Holidays to determine if the reduction of days may cause some employees to lose eligibility for vacation and paid holidays. If this happens, districts can choose to change the eligibility criteria, pay off accrued leave, or set deadlines for using previously accrued leave. This is a great opportunity for the district to consult with their policy consultant to ensure local policy is current.
Lastly, don’t overlook the importance of communicating these changes to employees in a timely manner and in compliance with local policy and other regulations.