Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Overworked and Overextended: How Can Members Turn to ATPE for Support?

Overworked and Overextended: How Can Members Turn to ATPE for Support?

Your Ally | By Jennifer Gordon, ATPE Staff Attorney

Right now, educators are sharing a common sentiment with us: They are overextended. Staffing shortages, burdensome extra training requirements, adjustments to scheduled hours, and more have educators spread thin. Although we cannot always address the root cause of these challenges, the ATPE Member Legal Services Department is a resource that members need to know they can call on. Let’s discuss the most common challenges educators are reporting this year and how we can assist. 

For classroom teachers, one of the most frequent inquiries we get concerns extra work outside of the scheduled workday. The state-mandated Reading Academies require many classroom teachers to work additional hours over the course of the year above and beyond their regular schedule. Far more teachers are simply being asked to stay later, come earlier, or pick up the work of two classrooms. All of these requirements can be overwhelming, and educators often want to know at what point they can object. 

We often hear members refer to duties being assigned as beyond their “contract hours.” However, most educator contracts in Texas do not state what those hours are; rather, contract language often simply requires work at “hours and dates to be set by the district.” Dates are generally specified by the board-adopted district calendar, and the expected daily hours are determined at the campus level, though some work can be required beyond the set schedule—within reason. 

Although teachers are “exempt” employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and thus can be expected to regularly work beyond 40 hours without extra compensation, these “additional duties” are not without limit. The commissioner of education has responded to teacher appeals in the past by setting the limit as one of “reasonableness”—a definition that often requires analysis and sometimes argumentation. ATPE attorneys are often called on to assist members with this analysis and to present arguments against the unreasonableness of a particular assignment or directive. 

For paraprofessionals, administrative workers, and other hourly employees considered “nonexempt” by the FLSA, time worked over 40 hours is “overtime” and should be compensated accordingly. ATPE attorneys are available to assist eligible associate members with overtime claims and other hourly pay issues. 

Reassignment is another common concern this year. Professional educators and support staff are being called on to perform duties or teach classes they did not plan for and may have never anticipated. Determining whether a reassignment is lawful or allowed by an educator’s contract is a matter ATPE attorneys assist with regularly, too. 

In addition to changes in their overall assignments, some educators report being assigned duties during their conference period. The law requires most public school districts to provide 450 minutes of uninterrupted planning time every 10 days. We hear from many teachers who are used to being occasionally flexible about duties or meetings during their conference time; yet, this year they are finding those demands for flexibility to be more regular than occasional. In such cases, we can assist an educator as needed to address these concerns, informally or otherwise. 

Another issue often reported this year involves class size. Oversized classes of any grade level put additional strain on the learning environment and on teachers. Texas law sets specific class-size limits—a maximum of 22 students to one teacher—for pre-K through fourth grade classrooms only, yet even in these grades, there are legal exceptions that ATPE attorneys can assist in identifying or ruling out. 

Lastly, we hear some educators ask: “What are the options for leaving?” When medical reasons prompt the question, we can provide information about available types of leave and assist members in the process of getting approved for it. For educators with contracts—teachers, counselors, librarians, administrators, and other certified professionals—who are considering a resignation, Texas law sets a deadline for resigning unilaterally at 45 days before the start of the school year. After that deadline passes, educators must seek district approval to resign or be faced with a report to the State Board for Educator Certification that can result in sanctions—typically, a suspended certification. ATPE attorneys are here to help members understand the considerations involved in resigning midyear when circumstances necessitate it. 

For educators fighting to stay in their profession through the unique challenges of the present year, the ATPE Member Legal Services team is passionate about providing the support of the law whenever we can.  


Eligibility, terms, conditions, and limitations apply. Visit to view important disclosures and current details of the insurance policy. Staff attorney services are provided separate from the Educators Professional Liability Insurance Program.   

The legal information provided here is accurate as of the date of publication. It is provided here for informative purposes only. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers needing individual legal advice should consult directly with an attorney. Please note: Rights based on the Texas Education Code may not apply to all. Many Texas Education Code provisions do not apply to public charter schools, and public school districts may have opted out of individual provisions through a District of Innovation plan. Eligible ATPE members may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department.