Rule of thumb
Many employees would see no difference, but those paid by the hour, like maintenance and catering staff, could see their hours tracked using biometric data. Currently, these workers depend on punch clocks and sign-in sheets to keep track of their time. These are verified by their manager, sent to personnel, verified again, and then sent to a private firm for entry into the district's payroll management and human resources software, known as IFAS. The proposed system would use thumb or retinal scanners or passwords to keep better track of time worked by hourly staff. It would record when they enter and leave the building, then transmit the data directly to payroll. Dallas ISD has a similar system, using thumbprints to verify the identity of substitute teachers. Software developer Oracle claims it has decreased manual paperwork for tracking substitutes by 90% and increased payroll accuracy.
District staff union Education Austin, while concerned about cost and potential privacy issues, is not opposed in principle to the proposal. Since this would only apply to workers covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, whose hours are recorded anyway, the biggest change could be more accurate timesheets. "The clock can be an employee's best friend," said EA's vice president for classified employees, Bruce Banner. He added that the current system, which easily allows staff to keep working after they have signed out, "masks the true employment needs of the district."
The ACLU of Texas is not opposed to electronic sign-in, in principle, but backs personal identification numbers and passwords over fingerprints. Current law does little to restrict or protect biometric data held by a private vendor. "It's like using a Social Security number but more permanent," said Director of Policy Development Rebecca Bernhardt. Turner said the district would factor privacy and security into any potential contracts.
There could be one sticky downside. In Dallas, sometimes staff lick their thumbs to make the reader work properly. "That isn't very hygienic," said Banner.