In the hours of testimony on House Bill 3, the so-called “Texas Plan” of House leadership to address the state’s broken school finance system, public education employees seemed to echo two common themes: more money is welcome, but merit pay is not.

Administrators argued that increasing teacher pay is a goal they share with the Texas legislature, but differed on who should oversee the distribution of it. They suggested school districts needed flexibility to decide how much to spend on new teachers and how much to reward current teachers for their performance in the classroom, rather than having lawmakers take the lead on the issue.

“There is a difference between differentiated pay and test-based merit pay,” said Monty Exter, lobbyist for the Texas Association of Professional Educators. “ATPE opposes the use of student performance, including test scores as the primary measure of a teacher’s effectiveness, as the determining factor for a teacher’s compensation or as the primary rationale for an adverse employment action,” he read to the committee from the organization’s legislative program, verbatim.

“There is nothing in the bill that ties teacher pay to STAAR testing performance,” Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) said.

The exchange continued, echoing a lot of the conversations lawmakers had with those testifying on the bill holding stern criticisms of any measures forthcoming to include competition of any kind.

“Our support for this bill is not contingent on across the board teacher pay raises. There is a lot of good in this bill,” Exter said, doubling down on the notion that no raises in the bill for teachers was better than competitive increases in teachers’ salaries.

“If we remove the teacher pay portion of the bill, you’ll sign on to it?” King asked.

“Probably so,” Exter responded.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation testified on the bill, saying the bill’s work to incorporate a merit-based pay system was where the bill did the most good and could potentially lead to the most improvement in academic outcomes of students. The system mirrors the one implemented in failing school in Dallas Independent School District, which the organization says led to “dramatic improvements” in student achievement. According to TPPF, from “2012 to 2018, Dallas ISD’s elementary schools collectively grew student achievement from 25 percentage points to 42 percentage points, approaching the statewide student achievement average of 45 percentage points.”

The bill’s fiscal note brings total additional new spending to $9.3 billion, with only a measly $2.7 billion going to property tax relief.

After public testimony concluded, the bill was left pending in committee. The Committee’s Chairman, State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble), said he expects the bill to see the floor of the Texas House in early April.

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.