More executive disorder in Texas
This is the second pre-primary gift from Perry to the right-wing. In August, Perry ordered that 65 cents of every dollar be spent on "instructional expenditures." Nobody's quite sure how to make that happen considering there is no new money for education in Texas and the same costs for transportation, building maintenance, librarians, and security (to name but a few) still exist.
The new executive order has pissed a lot of people off, as the Houston Chronicle pointed out in an editorial yesterday:
DESPITE the prodigious self-promotion that went into Texas Gov. Rick Perry's announcement that he was using his executive power to order merit pay for some Texas teachers, its size is distinctly underwhelming. Perry's entire statewide budget of $10 million is considerably less than what the Houston Independent School district merit pay program will cost for one year.
Teacher union leaders have consistently opposed bonus pay plans linked to tests scores because the criteria for receiving bonuses can be easily manipulated by school principals to reward favorites and punish mavericks. Simply assigning advanced students to particular instructors can rig the system in their favor. Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon says Texas teachers' base pay is about $6,000 less than the U.S. median pay for instructors, and Perry's plan won't make a dent in that disparity.
"I understand that the fad of the moment is to try and do these merit pay schemes," Fallon said, "but the bottom line is none of them work until you have a good base salary."
Alief school board President Sarah Winkler expressed similar sentiments to the Chronicle's Jason Spencer: "I think we need to get everyone's salary up to an equitable level before we start giving rewards here and there."
Perry's likely opponents in the upcoming gubernatorial contest also were unimpressed with the merit pay plan. Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn chided Perry for failing to realize that all Texas teachers, not just those in low-income schools, are underpaid. Democrat Chris Bell derided the governor's plan as treating instructors "like glorified hall monitors."
It's too bad Perry didn't provide the leadership during the series of special sessions this year to secure a fair and adequate system for financing public education, one that would pay Texas teachers a competitive salary. His merit pay executive order is better than nothing, but just barely.
Maybe Perry could issue an executive order to bring Texas teacher salaries up to the national average.
Don't hold your breath.