On Thursday, the Texas Education Agency released its annual report for 2020 and strategic plan for 2021.

According to the report, the state has distributed almost $40 million in additional funds to teachers who were designated as master, exemplary, or recognized teachers throughout Texas during the 2019-2020 school year—a period of unfamiliar teaching territory due to the Chinese coronavirus. 

The program to pay higher salaries to better-performing teachers was funded by last session’s school finance reform legislation, House Bill 3. The report explains the Teacher Incentive Allotment as the following: 

HB 3 established the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) to recognize and reward the professional growth of teachers, with priority given for high-need and rural schools. Districts are developing local systems to designate highly effective teachers (Master, Exemplary, or Recognized), and to help more teachers become highly effective. During the 2019-20 school year, nearly $40 million in additional funds were distributed to designated teachers throughout Texas.

The Teacher Incentive Allotment will be an ongoing incentive to help schools with a high demand for teachers. A total of 3,900 teachers distributed the incentives ranging from $6,266 to $22,374.

Other interesting numbers listed in the report were the total annual funding for the 2018-2019 school year (more than $66 billion) and the average spending per student ($12,227). The average spending per student increased 21 percent from the previous year, according to the report. 

To put that in perspective with neighboring states, Oklahoma spends $8,778 per student, and Louisiana spends $12,359.

TEA also reported the amount of money spent on its COVID response. The agency distributed more than $2 billion from the federal government’s CARES Act as of December 26, 2020. 

With all of the money being spent, student success does not seem to be rising at the same rate. The report shows how Texas students’ results compared to those of other states on the National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP). 

Based on the NAEP assessments, Texas ranks 42nd in fourth grade reading and 48th in eighth grade reading. In fourth and eighth grade math, Texas ranks 12th and 32nd, respectively.

The state is spending money, and it is not going to the classrooms. With increasing funds, shouldn’t taxpayers expect to see increased returns?

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.

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