Lawmakers on the House Public Education Committee charged with gathering information ahead of the 2019 session heard testimony Aug. 8 on teacher compensation. 

Education Commissioner Mike Morath told committee members that paying quality teachers significantly more could go a long way in recruiting top college graduates and retaining educators at the state’s neediest campuses. Morath proposed an approach used in Dallas ISD (where he formerly served on the board of trustees) that involves paying some teachers more based on their performance. TCTA and other teacher groups oppose this approach because of the linkage between teacher compensation and student test scores.

TCTA testified that before the state considers new models for paying teachers, a solid salary foundation must be in place. TCTA believes that the minimum salary schedule should be increased and extended beyond the current 20-step format that ranges from $28,080 to $45,510, to ensure compensation for Texas teachers is competitive. 

In regard to Morath's proposal, TCTA told lawmakers it is important to distinguish “performance pay” as only one kind of “differentiated pay” or “strategic compensation.” There are many different types of differentiated pay, including pay for teachers taking on academic leadership roles (e.g. department head, mentor, master teachers); shortage subject areas; “hard to staff” schools; additional duties (e.g. sponsoring student clubs, extracurricular activities); and specialized knowledge or skills. TCTA supports all these forms of differentiated pay, and many school districts already offer them. Given that the more recent research shows that teacher experience continues to positively impact student outcomes well beyond just the first couple of years, TCTA recommends that districts be given financial incentives for retaining experienced teachers and assigning experienced teachers to high-need schools.

TCTA does not support performance pay based on student performance on tests that are far removed from the classroom, not instructionally sensitive, and not designed to measure teacher performance. Furthermore, fewer than 20 percent of teachers actually teach a tested subject, and basing an entire compensation structure around a minority of teachers seems counterproductive.  

TCTA also reminded lawmakers that compensation encompasses more than salaries, and consideration of teacher compensation must include attention to health insurance and retirement. Policymakers should always keep these important aspects of compensation in mind when structuring a school finance system and determining the adequacy of education funding. Rapidly increasing insurance premiums are eroding any gains in net salaries for teachers, and uncertainty about the stability of the pension plan and retiree health insurance is becoming an impediment to teacher recruitment and retention. TCTA strongly advocates that the state commit to long-term funding to maintain and enhance retirement and health insurance benefits. 

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