Brownsville ISD Teacher Incentive Allotment raises receive mixed reviews

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The Texas Education Agency has awarded new Teacher Incentive Allotments to 778 Brownsville Independent School District teachers. (Courtesy photo)

Even as the Brownsville Independent School District trumpets $10 million to be paid to teachers through the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Incentive Allotment, some teachers are questioning TEA’s system for distributing the funds.

In a March 11 news release, Brownsville ISD stated that TEA had awarded new Teacher Incentive Allotments to 778 BISD teachers, bringing the number covered by the excellence program from 32 to 810.

The TIA framework became law in 2019 under House Bill 3 to reward the best teachers in Texas with large pay increases based on performance.

The system aims to elevate the education profession by providing districts with systems and funding to recruit promising new teachers, retain their best teachers, and encourage teachers to work in high-needs schools and difficult to staff positions, according to TEA.

BISD announced that it expects to receive $10 million per year over the next five years to fund raises for 778 teachers designated as TIA recipients under the program.

The TIA framework recognizes effective teachers in three categories: recognized, exemplary, and master. The designations are based on data gathered from teacher evaluations and yearly student academic growth data submitted to TEA.

BISD said it would notify teachers who have received TIA designation via email by March 25. The program encompasses all grade levels and teaching assignments.

However, David Perez, a 35-year teacher at Pace Early College High School and a leader with BEST-AFT, the teachers union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, said the national AFT opposed Teacher Incentive Allotment plans when they were first proposed in 2019.

“AFT’s objective is to fight for teachers. When this came out, AFT did not endorse it. There’s a reason. Public money. This is public money. Any time you deal with public money, you’re gonna find misuse, misappropriation, you’re gonna find corruption. And there’s good mixed in,” Perez told The Brownsville Herald on Friday at the union’s offices across the street from BISD on Price Road.

Perez cited the case of Sylvia Atkinson, the former BISD board member serving prison time for bribery, and IDEA Public Schools being taken over by TEA. He said other examples are easy to find.

Denise Day, a 26-year teacher at El Jardin Elementary and BEST-AFT member, also spoke with The Herald about the TIA program on Friday.

“I’m a recipient of this. I was reading up on this and their goal is to recruit and to reward people, and to retain teachers. But the system to me is rigged since the very beginning because they’re basing it on SLO and T- TESS,” Day, a first-grade teacher, said.

Day referred to the teacher performance component, T-TESS, in the TEA’s teacher evaluation rubric, and Student Learning Objectives, or SLOs. BISD said it used the statewide performance standards for both T-TESS and SLOs.

“It’s on that administrator’s opinion of you. They do have a rubric, but I mean if the administrator has something against you, you’re not gonna get a good (evaluation). If they like you a lot, you’re gonna get a good one. We can see in different schools where all their teachers are recipients, yet you have other schools where there are only two or three,” Day said.

In a video on the BISD website, Superintendent Jesus H. Chavez and Emiliano C. Camarillo, BISD Teacher Incentive Allotment coordinator, explain the TIA program and how it is based on data submitted to TEA.

“So, it emphasizes excellence in our classrooms, right, and in addition to that it emphasizes it for everybody because all of our teachers qualify. They’re always on their best game but they’re also about improving, which is something that we believe in, but in addition to that, one of the great things that happens with the Teacher Incentive Allotment is that there’s a range all the way from about $3,000 (for recognized teachers) all the way up to $32,000 (for master teachers) that an individual teacher can get. And keep in mind that these teachers receive that additional increase in salary for five years,” Chavez says in the video.

Camarillo then says, “What it means for BISD is that we can hold a badge of honor and say that over 30% of our teachers are recognized at the state level. It’s a validation of all our teachers’ hard work and it means that we’re back on the map as the leaders in education in the Valley and Cameron County, despite the challenges posed by our geographic location and the demographics of our student body. … It’s a reaffirmation of our mantra. BISD is the best choice,” he says.

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