Conferees urged to restore teacher incentive pay
Wed April 29, 2009 12:21 pm

A group of conservative organizations, joined by several school superintendents and reform-oriented advocates, is asking the budget conference committee to fund the incentive pay program, which was stripped from the House bill. The letter notes, "Every existing teacher incentive pay program stands to lose half its state funding." It goes on to say:

The House defunded the teacher incentive pay program in an amendment by Rep. Mike Villarreal that moved the funding to school districts through formulas. The language also stripped funding for teacher bonuses based on demonstrable increases in student achievement.

The unpredictability of funding for teacher incentive pay has been a major deterrent to school districts adopting incentive pay programs. Major changes such as this punish those school districts that have embraced incentive pay by cutting their funding and redistributing it to all school districts, regardless of their interest in incentive pay.
Restoration of the state’s teacher incentive pay programs should be one of your top priorities during the conference committee on Senate Bill 1.

This is going to be a tough sell for TPPF and its allies.

I remember the amendment. It was not controversial; it passed the House 146 to zero. Villarreal shifted control of the $342 million incentive program from the Texas Education Agency to school districts. As the letter notes, the money would flow through school funding formulas. The amendment gave school districts discretion concerning how the money could be used. Teacher incentive programs were one of four possibilities. Two others involved teacher recruitment and retention at hard-to-staff schools and in hard-to-fill subject areas. The fourth area was improving teacher quality through teaching and mentoring.

Villarreal's amendment gives school districts more flexibility in spending, which they need due to the Legislature's failure to fund education adequately, and it deemphasizes a program that is largely based on the ideological belief on the right that incentive pay will improve teacher quality. (This is matched on the left by the ideological belief that feelgood programs like mentoring will improve teacher quality.) I have no quarrel with with incentive pay programs so long as they are treated as an experimental program rather than as a substitute for an ongoing method of paying teachers. (I would also give principals sufficient authority to replace poor teachers.) I also have doubts about giving bonuses to teachers based on the performance of students. There is no way to level the playing field so that all teachers start with similar groups of students.

The signees of the letter are:

Brooke Terry, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Joseph Patek, Aransas County School District (superintendent)
Pascal Forgione, Austin Independent School District (superintendent)
Peggy Venable, Americans for Prosperity
Paul Ruiz, Texas Education Trust
Andrew Scheberle, Austin Champter of Commerce
Peggy Venable Paul F. Ruiz, Phd
Bill Hammond, Texas Association of Business
Melody Johnson Fort Worth Independent School District (superintendent)
Bartell Zachary, Governor's Business Council
Andrew Erben, Texas Institute for Education Reform
Michael Quinn Sullivan, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility

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