HISD officials have been working on an incentive pay plan since last June. The District Board allocated $14 million to fund bonuses and Dr. Abe Saavedra says they cannot continue to pay every teacher the same.
"Under this plan, if a teacher helps children to make strong academic progress the teacher will earn performance pay of up to $3,000 this school year. And if the school board approves it, we will continue to add money to this program so that in a few years HISD will pay its very best teachers up to $10,000 bonuses."
The plan drew endorsements from a number of local educational organizations as well as the Greater Houston Partnership. It is also supported by the Council of the Great City Schools, a national organization that represents 66 of the largest school district. Executive Director Mike Casserly says the plan is not perfect, but it is the first such plan put forward by a major school district.
"Houston has taken the lead and once again the eyes of other big city school districts across the country will be on Houston to see how this proposal works over time."
The plan was adapted after complaints that it was limited to small groups who teach in TAKS related subjects. The most money will still go to those teachers who deal with direct academic improvement on test scores. But Dr. Saavedra says the changes will open more money to non-instructional staff as well as teachers in elective classes. And there will be additional incentives.
"A piece of this program is that a teacher that has perfect attendance, whatever performance pay they earn, we will bump it up by ten percent if you have perfect attendance. If you miss one or two days we'll give you a five percent bonus on your earned performance pay if you miss a couple days."
Not everyone is in favor of the plan. The local teachers' union, the Houston Federation of Teachers is not impressed by the plan. They say there is more to education than just test scores and this incentive program relies too heavily on the Stanford and TAKS tests. HFT would like to see the $14 million used to raise base salaries and bring HISD into a competitive pay schedule with other districts in the area. HISD has one of the lowest starting salaries among Harris County Districts.