State senator unveils school-finance plan that includes ‘outcomes-based funding’ and ‘merit pay’

by Rob D’Amico (Follow on Twitter @damicoaustin and @TexasAFT)

Texas AFT’s Red for Ed March to the Capitol today called for more public education funding.

We haven’t had a whole lot of time to look at the “Senate plan” for school finance, released Friday evening by state Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood). We were too busy preparing for today’s Texas Red for Ed rally at the Capitol, which drew educators from across the state decrying what Taylor is proposing — outcomes based funding and merit pay. But rest assured, you will hear our commentary as more information is released.

The idea behind the funding scheme is that schools that score higher on standardized tests should receive more funding from the state. Here’s the report from the Dallas Morning News:

Taylor’s bill will also include outcomes-based funding for schools — a system that rewards schools with “incentive payments” for improved reading outcomes among educationally disadvantaged children and English language learners.
There are also incentive payments for schools that “prepare low-income kids for life after high school.”
The outcomes-based funding appears to be a scaled-back version of the School Finance Commission’s $800 million plan to reward higher performing districts with more per pupil dollars.

Call us crazy, but we don’t think better standardized test results should be the target of more funding, since the obvious would be that struggling schools and students are the ones that need more resources.

And then there’s merit pay:

The bill summary also says it will create an “Educator Effectiveness Program” that will allow districts to develop ways to provide merit-based raises to its best teachers. The salary increases will be higher if teachers work at low-income schools, a nod to a Dallas-based school turnaround program.

Some legislators, of late, have been quick to jump in and claim that merit pay doesn’t have to use student test scores to determine these “effective” teachers, yet that’s the model they’ve praised all along.

Accompanying all this, of course, is the Senate’s proposed $5,000 pay raise for teachers and librarians, which starts looking like an artificial sweetener for the bitterness of the other junk in the plan. We’ll keep pushing, as we did at today’s rally, for a pay raise for all school employees and no merit pay. Meanwhile, check back tomorrow for news on the House plan — HB 3 — which proposes to put a lot more money into public education, but doesn’t carry any guaranteed pay raises. The bill gets its first hearing in the House Public Education Committee hearing tomorrow.