Earlier this week, the district announced it’s offering a retention incentive to employees who return to work next fall. Eligible staff who come back in the 2022-2023 school year could earn a bonus of up to $3,500.
The retention bonus will help Dallas ISD hang on to current staff in a competitive market, Robert Abel, acting chief of human capital management, said in a statement. It’ll also benefit the district in recruiting efforts.
“We know everyone from teachers to maintenance and bus drivers have been giving it their all to help create a learning environment in which our students can be successful,” he said, “and we wanted to recognize their efforts and tell them they are valued.”
Dallas ISD will split up the payments into three installments spanning the 2022-2023 school year, according to the district’s website. Staff will receive $500 in September while the other two installments will be included in paychecks in December and May.
Since the coronavirus first struck Texas, school districts have had to cope with widespread learning loss and staffing shortages. In July, Waco ISD approved $8.1 million in retention bonuses. And Midlothian ISD was forced to close on Friday thanks in part to a lack of substitute teachers.
But the problem isn’t unique to Texas. Some Illinois schools have grappled with a “major” teacher shortage, according to Fox Business. And Tulsa World reported that this summer, educator retirements in Oklahoma had increased nearly 38% year-over-year.
“With the hard work and effort that has transpired all throughout the pandemic, this was just a way to incentivize folks for their hard work,” she said.
While such rewards are undoubtedly a good thing, the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) wishes all teachers would get the same bonus, said spokesperson Clay Robison. The district’s system is merit-based, so certain teachers whose performance has been rated “unsatisfactory" will only get a total bonus of $500.
Texas teachers’ wages are “subpar,” clocking in at around $7,000 below the national average, he said. Resources should be directed to increasing pay for all teachers, not just a select few.
“Once we do that, then let’s talk about these other incentive programs again,” Robison said, "but right now, we need to raise pay for everybody.”
Since August 2021, the Alliance/AFT union has pushed for the district to recognize employees’ work amid the coronavirus pandemic, said President Rena Honea. Still, she believes the incentive shouldn’t be tied to evaluations.
After surviving two exceedingly difficult school years, teachers need the incentive now, Honea added. It’s "unacceptable" that they won’t receive it until next year, especially since district employees have consistently risked their health to educate their students.
Community members also don’t like that teachers’ compensation is tied to student test scores, she said. Teachers in low-performing schools don’t get the same advantages or opportunities to move up on the pay scale.
Although Alliance/AFT is "extremely grateful" for the incentive, Honea added: "We just think it is crummy the way that it’s being implemented and handled."