Recruitment & Retention

Schools Say No to Bonuses

By Jessica L. Tonn — October 10, 2006 1 min read
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Some Texas schools that could receive money for bonuses for teachers this school year have told the state: No thanks.

Of the approximately 1,160 schools that are eligible for the funds, 21 had indicated that they would not apply for the grants as of the middle of last week. The application deadline was Oct. 6.

Under the state’s new incentive-award plan, teachers in high-poverty districts can receive cash bonuses for “teaching excellence,” which includes, among other criteria, student achievement on state tests.

The three-year, $300 million program, which was passed by the legislature earlier this year, allows for salary bonuses of up to $10,000 per teacher per year. Schools can apply for grants ranging from $40,000 to $300,000, depending on their student enrollments. (“States Giving Performance Pay by Doling Out Bonuses,” Sept. 6, 2006.)

Incentive-award systems are usually unpopular with teachers’ unions, which generally favor pay scales in which teachers are compensated for their education and experience rather than rewarded for student performance on standardized tests.

Since the unions do not consider such tests an accurate measure of student progress, tying teachers’ pay to student performance as determined by test scores is “inherently unfair,” said J.B. Richeson, an executive vice president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. The group is an affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

Rob D’Amico, a spokesman for the Texas Federation of Teachers, said that incentive-pay systems can also be “divisive.”

To receive the noncompetitive grants, administrators and teachers must “hash out” a plan for dispensing the bonuses, said Debbie Graves Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Some schools passed up the grants for fear that the hashing-out process would cause tension between teachers on campus, according to Mr. Richeson. Eight of the more than 30 schools in the 56,600-student San Antonio Independent School District that were eligible for the grants chose not to apply for them.

The schools didn’t want “one group fighting against one another over meager compensation,” Mr. Richeson said.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 11, 2006 edition of Education Week

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