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Texas House Drops Dallas ISD-Backed Merit-Pay Plan for Teachers

The Texas Legislature is getting close to a school finance compromise.EXPAND
The Texas Legislature is getting close to a school finance compromise.
manopjk / iStock

The Texas House of Representatives’ Public Education Committee unanimously signed off on the chamber’s education package Tuesday, but not before stripping a Dallas ISD-supported provision that would have allowed school districts to give teachers raises based on student performance. Teachers unions have lobbied hard against the merit-pay portion of the proposed law since the $9 billion bill’s rollout last month.

House Bill 3 is expected on the floor soon and has more than 100 co-sponsors. Members of the committee said Tuesday that they didn't want to put the bill in jeopardy by sticking with its most controversial provision, which was based on a Dallas ISD program.

"I would just hate to see the destruction of a valiant effort because somebody didn't like one little piece on it," Rep. Ken King said before voting to move the plan out of committee, according to The Texas Tribune.

Last week, at HB 3's first committee hearing, the state's teachers unions told the committee that they opposed any inclusion of merit-pay money in the bill, because they felt it would lead to an increased reliance on standardized testing. The bill didn't require that districts seeking to pay teachers based on how their students performed academically rely on standardized tests, but the unions said it was hard to imagine another way a district would do so.

On March 12, Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told the education committee that his district would benefit from the ability to hand out merit-based raises, rather than the across-the-board $5,000 increases that are included in the Texas Senate's already-passed education package.

"The main reason that I'm here is that I am for, wholeheartedly, the teacher quality allotment," Hinojosa said.

While state money for a merit-pay program is no longer in the House's education bill, author Dan Huberty did add a section allowing money from the bill to be used by school districts to pay incentives to teachers who are willing to teach at campuses with high levels of poverty or in rural or other areas that struggle to attract teachers.

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Tuesday, the unions celebrated Huberty's decision to back off and praised the changes to the bill.

"The Teacher Effectiveness allotment provides a critical incentive to recruit effective educators to hard-to-staff campuses without tying pay to standardized tests. Allowing a locally designed plan with critical feedback from the community will make a big difference for 5.4 million public school students," Texas American Federation of Teachers president Louis Malfaro said in a statement. "Now backed up with an initial budget, the House plan is a significant down payment on funding our future and providing much-needed raises for public school employees. We are grateful for the House’s leadership on this critical issue."

Texas Aspires, an education-reform advocacy group, accused the committee of succumbing to union pressure.

“We are extremely disappointed that teacher unions have won again. House Bill 3, in its original form, was much more comprehensive when it included merit pay for our most effective teachers and further incentives for them to serve in high-needs campuses," Texas Aspires executive director Will Fullerton said. "Many remaining components will still work for Texas kids, but we certainly look forward to working with legislators to find a way to support districts who have taken the lead on identifying and rewarding the impacts of effective teachers and expand those opportunities for teachers across the state.”

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