Related to today's earlier post on teachers, do also read this piece by Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) President Noel Candelaria on incentive pay in the San Antonio Express News.
By Noel Candelaria, For the Express-News
I don’t often agree with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but I applaud him for taking an important first step toward addressing the low pay of Texas public school teachers and keeping effective educators where they belong — in the classroom.
Texas teachers, on average, are paid $7,300 a year less than the national average, and I hope Patrick’s endorsement of a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise will help convince legislators to begin closing that gap.
But the second part of the lieutenant governor’s proposal — rewarding a handful of teachers with extra “incentive” or “merit” pay — misses the point. The point is that all of Texas’ 5.4 million schoolchildren deserve adequately compensated, effective teachers in their classrooms, and we don’t accomplish that goal by being selective.
A permanent $5,000 pay raise for all teachers is only a start in the right direction. Whatever else the state may spend on improved teacher salaries should be spread across the board, not reserved for teachers who can squeeze out higher scores on narrowly focused STAAR tests or jump through some other data-driven hoop that usually is required for extra pay.
Here is the real problem, and it has several, interrelated parts:
Virtually all of Texas’ 350,000 schoolteachers are underpaid, and thousands of effective teachers are leaving the classroom every year for more financially rewarding professions.
Their modest salaries are further eroded by rising health insurance premiums, now averaging $359 a month, based on a TSTA survey of its members.
These same teachers, on average, spend $738 a year on classroom supplies for which they are not reimbursed, according to the same survey.
Anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of Texas teachers have quit or will quit the profession by the time they finish their fifth year in the classroom. Singling out a handful of these teachers for “incentive” pay is not going to solve this problem or improve the learning prospects for the vast majority of Texas schoolchildren.