Houston teachers’ union drops lawsuit as HISD rolls back evaluation system for now

The union originally filed the lawsuit against the district because it said HISD’s proposed system violated state law, which requires input from teachers and community members. The union said the policy was done behind closed doors.


FILE: Houston Federation of Teachers building on Sutherland St. Taken on March 9, 2020.

A local teachers union, the Houston Federation of Teachers, has dropped its lawsuit against Houston ISD over its proposed new teacher evaluation system, after HISD's board of managers voted on Thursday to, instead, adopt a state-approved evaluation system – for now.

The union originally filed the lawsuit against the district because it said HISD's proposed system violated state law, which requires input from teachers and community members. HISD's proposed policy, the union said, was created behind closed doors by state-appointed superintendent Mike Miles.

Chris Tritico, general counsel for the Houston Federation of Teachers, said that by voting to adopt a state-approved policy instead, HISD's board of managers essentially conceded that the union's allegations are valid.

"In the board of managers' vote, they acknowledged that we were right in our lawsuit, and that their original modification of their board policy DNA was unlawful," said Tritico.

A Harris County judge previously sided with the Houston Federation of Teachers, granting a restraining order against the implementation of the system.

"Creating an assessment tool illegally, that's the issue, and once they took care of that, then I don't need the court intervention," Tritico said.

Instead, Tritico said the union filed a grievance Friday. However, if the district attempts to implement its system later, Tritico said they will challenge it in court again.

"We don't have the emergent need from the court any longer. We now have a whole year to go through the grievance process and use the administrative process to argue that they have an illegal policy," he said. "However, if Mr. Miles decides to go back through and commit another illegal act, we'll go right back to court."

Tritico says the Houston Federation of Teachers has no issue with the district implementing a state-approved evaluation system this year instead.

"It was never about them assessing the teachers. That's fine; no one has a problem with being assessed," said Tritico. "The problem is doing it illegally."

Whatever evaluation system is used will eventually be tied to teacher compensation, as the new superintendent shifts the district to a "pay-for-performance" model, in which teacher salaries are determined according to standardized test scores and teacher evaluations.

Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said she is against the change.

"I don't think pay-for-performance is an appropriate way to compensate teachers for the work they do every single day," said Anderson. "If you have a salary of $60,000, for example, including a $10,000 bonus, but the next year, you don't get the bonus, you've already based your cost of living and supporting your family on that amount of money. It will be difficult when that fluctuates year-to-year."

Rebecca Noel

Rebecca Noel


Rebecca Noel is a daily reporter at Houston Public Media. She covers a wide range of topics, including state and local government, public health and the Texas electrical grid. Rebecca has also covered Houston-area school districts, including Houston ISD and Katy ISD, some of the largest in the state.Rebecca is...

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