HISD expects to save $4.6 million with revised bonus program
Houston school trustees Thursday will consider changes in the district's performance pay program that officials estimate would reduce the bonuses for some employees and save $4.6 million.
Superintendent Terry Grier, who proposed the changes, told the board this week that beyond the immediate reductions, he plans a more significant overhaul that would revamp the criteria for awarding bonuses after next year.
In an interview in January, Grier expressed concern that the bonus program doesn't sufficiently distinguish the top teachers, instead rewarding 92 percent of eligible employees with cash in amounts varying from $25 to $25,000.
HISD's performance pay program for teachers and other school employees is among the largest in the nation. Last year the district spent $24.5 million from local dollars on the bonuses, plus nearly $6 million from a federal grant and $12 million from a state grant, HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said at the time.
Under Grier's initial proposal, teachers, principals, assistant principals and deans of instruction no longer would earn a bonus for good attendance.
In addition, employees would only get the part of the bonus based on state accountability ratings if their school met the standards for an "exemplary" or "recognized" rating outright — without using the easier Texas Projection Measure. This standard allows schools to get credit for students who failed state exams if the students are projected to pass within a few years.
Teachers also wouldn't qualify for a bonus if their individual effectiveness score — which is based on students' test scores — is below a certain number.
"The premise behind this recommendation is that these employees are not contributing to growth among their own students, departments or grades, and should not benefit from other ways in which their campus earns an award," the school board agenda item states.
Most HISD board members have strongly supported the bonus program, despite objections from teacher groups, since it launched in 2007 under then-Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra.
Newer trustees Carol Mims Galloway and Juliet Stipeche, both backed by the Houston Federation of Teachers, have questioned whether the performance pay system, known as ASPIRE, is based on a fair statistical calculation of teacher effectiveness.
At a board meeting Monday, trustees Anna Eastman and Harvin Moore reiterated their support for the bonus program but said they understood the need to cut costs at a time when teachers could be laid off.
Local Advertising by PaperG