Incentive Allotments, more

   October 10, 2019
  

TEA releases guidance on Teacher Incentive Allotment

HB 3, this past session’s major school finance bill, establishes an optional Local Teacher Designation System and Teacher Incentive Allotment. This hotly contested provision originally leaned on high-stakes test results when developing merit pay standards, but TSTA successfully lobbied legislators to limit the TEA commissioner’s authority to mandate the use of the STAAR in setting criteria for merit pay and give districts greater flexibility. TEA has subsequently released details on the implementation of the new designation system and allotment.

In summary, Local Education Agencies (LEAs), if they choose, can designate high performing teachers as Master, Exemplary, or Recognized based on statewide performance descriptors for these designations. The designation requires teacher observation and consideration of the performance of a teacher’s students. Other evidence of teacher performance may be considered, such as teacher leadership and student surveys. National Board Certified Teachers will automatically earn a Recognized designation.

The LEA can receive $3,000 to $32,000 per year for every designated teacher they employ. LEAs receive greater funding for designated teachers who work on rural and/or high-needs campuses. At least 90% of the Teacher Incentive Allotment funds must be used on teacher compensation on the campus where the designated teacher works but would not necessarily go to the teacher whose designation earned the allotment. The remaining funds could be used for costs associated with implementing the local designation system or to support teachers in obtaining designations. There will be fees associated with the designation system — districts will pay a fee for their application and a fee per teacher they designate — and currently there are fees for teachers to obtain National Board Certification. Once a district’s local designation system is approved, the district will receive a reimbursement for fees paid to the state. The state will also reimburse fees paid to earn a National Board Certification. TEA will offer more guidance on fee structures and reimbursements later this school year.

The LEA funding per designation is listed below. The exact dollar amount an LEA would receive for a designated teacher depends on the level of designation, whether the school at which the teacher works is rural, and the level of socio-economic need at the school. The TEA guidance referenced above provides step-by-step examples of how to calculate an allotment.

Recognized: $3,000 – $9,000
Exemplary: $6,000 – $18,000
Master: $12,000 – $32,000

TEA’s letter regarding the Teacher Incentive Allotment  




Retirees didn’t have much room to splurge with their 13th checks;
they need a COLA


Retired educators were more likely to spend the 13th check, which they received in September, on credit card debt (about 3 in 10); medical debt (almost 1 in 4); home repairs (more than 1 in 5); doctor visits (almost 1 in 5); or prescriptions (1 in 6). Those figures were the result of a survey by the Texas Pension Coalition, which includes TSTA.

Retirees were grateful for the 13th checks — the maximum amount was $2,000 — but when the average monthly TRS benefit is $2,078 and most retired school employees in Texas don’t receive Social Security, they spent the extra money on basic necessities, not frills.

As the coalition’s report notes, “What retired school employees desperately need is a permanent cost of living (COLA) adjustment, in order to ensure that they aren’t back in the same financial situation they were before the 13th check.”




NEA supports bill to gradually repeal WEP and GPO

In other retiree news, NEA has announced its support of the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act (H.R. 4540) by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in Washington. It will take incremental steps toward repeal of Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

The WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of people who work in jobs covered by Social Security and jobs NOT covered by Social Security over the course of their careers — for example, educators compelled to take part-time or summer jobs to make ends meet. The GPO reduces the Social Security spousal or survivor benefits of people not covered by Social Security themselves.

Among those subject to the WEP, current retirees would get an extra $150 a month and future retirees an extra $75 a month, on average. The bill also includes a guarantee that no one would get less than the amount provided under current law.

NEA will continue to advocate for full repeal of both the WEP and the GPO and continue to support the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 521/H.R. 141), which remains pending.

Tell your representative to support H.R. 4540.




School boards can no longer limit the number of speakers they hear

Open-government advocates are applauding a new law (HB2840) that now requires school boards and other local governing bodies to allow everyone who wants to weigh in on an item on the body’s agenda to speak before or during the board’s consideration of the issue and before the board votes. Previously, school boards could limit the number of speakers during a meeting and schedule those opposed to an administration proposal to speak after a vote already had been taken.

The law presumably was well-intentioned, but it is too early to determine how effective it will be in opening up public participation before school boards, city councils and other governing bodies. Austin ISD, for example, dropped its long-standing 30-person limit for public speakers at its board meetings but cut the amount of time each speaker can address the board in half, from two minutes to one.

Showing up in large numbers to speak for or against an agenda item before a school board can be important. Packing a meeting room certainly can command a board’s attention. But equally important for TSTA locals are the organizing efforts outside the board room and making sure that the members who do address a board are knowledgeable about the issues.




NEA Member Benefits offers disaster relief assistance for Imelda victims

NEA members and affiliates in Harris, Chambers, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery and Orange counties who were affected by Tropical Storm Imelda may be eligible for assistance from NEA Member Benefits and its business partners.

Check out available services and learn how to apply for assistance here.




Proposition 4 is anti-education and unnecessary; vote NO

TSTA is urging you to vote against Proposition 4 in the Nov. 5 constitutional amendments election. It purports to ban a state income tax when, in truth, the state constitution already has a provision that prohibits the imposition of a personal income tax without the approval of voters. That same provision also requires that if Texas voters were ever to approve an income tax, at least two-thirds of the revenue that it would raise would be dedicated to reducing school property taxes and the remainder to education.

Proposition 4 would repeal that constitutional requirement for property tax relief and education funding, meaning that a future legislative session could vote for an income tax and dedicate the revenue to anything, including tax breaks for wealthy corporations.

TSTA supports Proposition 7, which would allow the General Land Office to double from $300 million to $600 million the amount of revenue it could donate each year from state-owned land or properties to the Available School Fund for distribution among school districts. This would be an important new source of public education funding.

Here is more information about both propositions.

Early voting will begin Oct. 21.




2020 Charter Application includes several TSTA recommendations

The new 2020 Generation 25 charter application was released by the Texas Education Agency late last week and will be used to determine when and whether applicants seeking to open in August of 2021 will be approved. Texas State Teachers Association, in conjunction with a coalition of partners working together to reform the Texas charter school system, submitted recommendations to the Texas Education Agency and School Board of Education on the topic. While there is more work to be done, TSTA is happy to see that the new application includes several of our recommendations and is a step in the right direction. Importantly, the changes in the 2020 Generation 25 Application reflect the need for more community engagement and feedback on applicants. 

The following recommendations made by TSTA and the coalition were included in the new 2020 Generation 25 Application:
  • Charter Applicants must now send a notice of required public meetings to all SBOE members and members of the legislature that represent the geographic area where the charter would be located. This will hopefully allow for greater dissemination of this information and more public engagement.
  • When charter applicants notify the appropriate SBOE members and legislators, they must also copy TEA so the agency receives notification of all required meetings. 
    Applicants to interviews for charter capacity will be notified six weeks before the interviews are conducted.
  • Charter applicants must submit a Statement of Impact form to SBOE members that represent the geographic area where the charter would be located. 
  • Charter applicants must submit résumés for all Board members and key personnel. 


SBEC delays decision on new contract abandonment rule 

The October 4 State Board for Educator Certification meeting saw much discussion on the proposed amendments to the language regarding additional factors that may be considered good cause when an educator is reported to have abandoned a contract in violation of statute.

TSTA testified with concerns that an employee may not have access to information that shows that an individual or department has “actual authority” to accept resignations. In school districts, the policies are often vague regarding who is authorized to accept a resignation. Policies may authorize the Superintendent or his “designee,” which could be an Assistant Superintendent, a Director of Human Resources, or a department without a specific designation. Moreover, the list of designees is often not seen in school district policies. For example, Austin ISD board policy states that the Superintendent or his “designee” may accept a resignation. However, Dallas ISD board policy states that resignations should be submitted to the “Human Capital Management” department. In testimony, we recommended that the language of this change reflect this variation and be changed to:

 
“…reasonable reliance on a written acceptance of the educator’s resignation by a person or department acting with apparent or actual authority to accept resignations delegated by the school board of trustees…” 

Member Tommy Coleman, assistant district attorney of Livingston, liked this language and was urging the body to consider the recommended changes. 

TSTA supports other changes to statute that would allow for more leeway for an individual to resign their position from a school district. Many individuals submit a resignation in good faith, sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances and sometimes in pursuance of higher wages. TEA staff will likely recommend striking this particular provision, arguing that it encompasses “too much uncertainty” and would give excessive latitude to teachers in contract abandonment cases. 

After much discussion and several testimonials by TSTA and other teacher groups, it was moved that the question be tabled until the Dec. 6 meeting. There will be 30 days of public comment on the item. 




NEA offering a webinar on classroom management

“Creating Positive Classroom Environment” will be the next topic in the New Educator Webinar Series. The one-hour session on Oct. 17 will begin at 7 p.m., Central time, and 6 p.m., Mountain. This is a good professional support and peer engagement opportunity, especially for early career educators.

Register here. Once you RSVP, you will get an email with the login instructions.

Based on prior years’ experience, potential members who joined a webinar were more likely than their peers to join their local association when engaged in the New Ed Campaign. In order to support follow-up recruitment efforts, all participants will be available through the VAN “Targets” module. Contact pwitzler@nea.org for more details on accessing these lists.

 


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