Editorial: Dallas ISD pay decision slaps teachers in face

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

Any Dallas Independent School District teacher who ever said there weren’t enough hours in the day probably didn’t want to gain extra time the way it was assigned at a Jan. 26 school board meeting.

Teachers in the district will now be on the clock for an extra 45 minutes each day, though the numbers on their paychecks won’t be increasing accordingly.

That’s a slap in the face for sure. But what must sting even more is hearing how trustee Edwin Flores sees the teacher workday.

“We’re going to pay for eight hours, we’re going to get eight hours,” Flores told the Dallas Morning News before the change was voted into effect. “Our great teachers work a whole lot more than that.”

Though he did not come up with the idea (which appears to have stemmed from DISD administration) or vote it in on his own, Flores’s sentiments are the ones that have stuck.

He seems to be saying the board has no qualms about overworking the district’s teachers without compensation. He is well aware that they already work much longer hours than evidenced by their paychecks. He knows a teacher’s workday doesn’t end when the school bell rings.

And yet he wants to demand even more time from them.

The Dallas Morning News states, “The [extra] time will be used for professional development, planning, professional learning communities, and tutoring as determined by the principal and school leadership, according to information from the district.”

That’s time taken away from the after-hours work these teachers already have to do — making phone calls to parents, grading, entering grades in their grade books, making copies, preparing themselves for the next day, completing the endless list of tasks that simply can’t be done while trying to teach a classroom full of needy children. Now these tasks will be pushed back an extra 45 minutes, further eating into the teachers’ personal lives.

Demands and disrespect like this don’t make teachers want to stick around. And who can say they will? The Dallas Morning News notes that Fort Worth ISD teachers are on the clock for an entire hour less than teachers who will be working the new DISD workday. Teachers may very well leave DISD for school districts more respectful of their dedication, districts more respectful of the hours upon hours of personal time they put in for the children in their classrooms.

There could have been some gesture of respect made simply by asking teachers for their input, but that never happened, according to Rena Honea, president of the Alliance-AFT teachers association.

There could have been collaboration with teachers to find out what exactly would make their workdays more productive, and what would help them to get the most out of their time.

But absolutely no additional demands should have been made when compensation could not be provided.

Teaching is a taxing profession — mentally, physically and monetarily. Those willing to give up so much for the scores of children who need them year after year should not be extorted for their generosity. They should be rewarded.

Teacher pay will probably never come close to truly compensating our nation’s educators for all they do. It especially won’t come at this time, when school districts across the state are struggling with shrinking budgets and the cuts that must be made — Dallas ISD included. That does not, however, give any district license to abuse its teachers’ dedication, or take it for granted.