Summary of Public Comments and Agency Responses Related to Proposed New 19 TAC Chapter 102, Educational Programs, Subchapter FF, Commissioner's Rules Concerning Educator Award Programs, §102.1073, District Awards for Teacher Excellence
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(b)(5), the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA) commented that the meaning of the language that "measures must also be generally viewed as measures of student/institutional excellence and equity" is uncommon and unclear. The TCTA asked that this language either be eliminated or changed to define exactly how a measure can be viewed as a measure of student/institutional excellence and equity.
Agency Response: The agency agrees and removed the language in subsection (b)(5) for clarity.
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(b)(5), the TCTA and the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) stated that limiting the definition of "meaningful, objective measures" to solely "quantifiable measures" does not comport with the statute and legislative intent and objected to the use of these measures. Additionally, the TSTA commented that §102.1073(e)(2)(C) and (D) also relate to these measures and appropriate assessments forcing districts to use Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) testing.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees and has maintained language as published as proposed. The language in subsections (b)(5) and (e)(2)(C) allows for flexibility in using measures other than TAKS or tests, such as local benchmarks, evaluation of projects, exhibits, portfolios, or other assessments that are consistent with national or state recognized professional and technical standards. These assessments must be meaningful, objective, and quantifiable. For clarification, however, language in subsections (b)(5) and (e)(2)(C) was modified.
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(b)(7), the TCTA stated that it is unclear whether the language refers to student recruitment and retention or teacher (and other instructional personnel) recruitment and retention; consequently, the word "instructional personnel" should be added before the word "recruitment."
Agency Response: The agency agrees and included the suggested language in subsection (b)(7) for clarity.
Comment: The Texas Library Association (TLA) commented that the statutory authorization for the rule clearly allows districts to use this program to reward classroom teachers and other district personnel. The TLA stated that the definitions provided relate only to classroom teachers and not to other instructional personnel who are eligible for some component of the awards. The TLA requested that language be added to the rule to list specifically the eligibility of school librarians and media specialists in the program.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees and has maintained language as published as proposed. Section 102.1073, including the definitions in subsection (b), allows for other district personnel, such as school librarians and media specialists, to be funded with Part II funds. For clarification, however, the title of subsection (h) was modified to make clear that award payments are not solely for classroom teachers.
Comment: The director of instruction of Aransas County Independent School District commented that language in §102.1073(e)(2)(A) should reflect that districts have the option of forming a district-wide team specifically for the purpose of developing the District Awards for Teacher Excellence (DATE) award plan, rather than having to utilize the existing district planning and decision-making team.
Agency Response: The agency agrees and modified language in subsection (e)(2)(A). The Texas Education Code (TEC), §21.704(a), offers a choice to districts to use their existing district planning and decision-making committee to create the local award plan or assemble another district-level committee. The language change will reflect the option that the committee should have similar representation as the committee defined under the TEC, Chapter 11, Subchapter F.
Comment. Concerning §102.1073(e)(2)(A), the TCTA commented in support of the requirement that a local awards plan must be developed by the district-level planning and/or decision-making committee established under the TEC, Chapter 11, Subchapter F.
Agency Response. The agency disagrees; however, language was modified in subsection (e)(2)(A) removing the requirement that a local awards plan be developed by the specified district-level planning and/or decision-making committee. The TEC, §21.704(a), offers a choice to districts to use their existing district planning and decision-making committee to create the local award plan or assemble another district-level committee. The language change will reflect the option that the committee should have similar representation as the committee defined under the TEC, Chapter 11, Subchapter F.
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(e)(2)(B), the TCTA and TSTA expressed concerns regarding significant teacher involvement. The TCTA stated that the proposed rule refers to evidence of significant teacher involvement, but is incomplete in that it does not state the activities in which teachers must be involved. Noting that the relevant statute, TEC, §21.704(c), states that there must be evidence of the significant involvement of teachers in the development of the plan, the TCTA asked that the words "in the development of the plan" be added after the word "involvement." The TSTA recommended that there be a requirement in this process for more teacher participation in developing the plan.
Agency Response: The agency agrees and added language in subsection (e)(2)(B) to require teacher involvement in developing the local awards plan. The district-level planning committee responsible for designing and voting on the award plan must have significant teacher representation.
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(e)(2)(B), the TCTA expressed concern about whether examples of the required evidence of teacher involvement contained in the proposed rule, such as "an assurance from the school district superintendent" is sufficient, particularly given that the Texas Educator Excellence Grant program requirements give much more specific examples of significant teacher involvement, including teacher attendance records, meeting minutes, or other evidence.
Agency Response: The agency agrees and added language in subsection (e)(2)(B) to emphasize and identify appropriate teacher representation on the planning and decision-making committee. New subsection (f)(8) was also added to reinforce the district requirement to maintain evidence of teacher involvement.
Comment: The Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT) and the TSTA expressed concern over the level of teacher involvement in the creation of district award plans.
The Texas AFT stated that §102.073(e)(2)(E) would allow imposition of a local awards plan without the approval of a majority of classroom teachers at any campus if a district's local awards plan is drafted to cover all campuses in the district. The Texas AFT commented that only if a district's local awards plan were drafted to exclude some campuses would the statutory requirement of majority approval by teachers at participating campuses be enforced. The Texas AFT stated that this administrative narrowing of the "majority approval" requirement for campus participation in a local awards plan is not supported by the language of the TEC, §21.704, or by legislative intent. The Texas AFT commented that the TEC, §21.704, states: "A majority of classroom teachers assigned to a campus that is selected by the district-level committee to participate in the program must approve participation to be included in the local awards plan." The Texas AFT stated that in a case where the district-drawn plan provides for the participation of all campuses, those campuses have been "selected" to participate. The Texas AFT concluded that the majority of classroom teachers assigned to each of those campuses must therefore approve participation before the district's local awards plan can apply to their campus.
The TSTA commented that §102.1073(e)(2)(E) is vague with regard to the level of teacher involvement that is actually required. The TSTA recommended that the rule require that any committee formed for the purpose of developing a plan under DATE be composed of at least two-thirds classroom teachers.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees and has maintained language as published as proposed. The DATE program requires teacher input and votes at various points of the awards plan creation. The local awards plan must be developed by the district-level planning and decision-making committee, and each district-level planning committee is required to have teacher representation. If a district selects a certain campus to participate, participation is predicated on a simple majority vote of classroom teachers assigned to the selected campus. The program also requires districts to make the awards plan available to the public for teachers and others to provide Comment: Teachers are given multiple opportunities to support or oppose their district awards plan. Districts may choose campuses and select specific target teachers by grade or subject to help improve student achievement or address critical teacher shortage areas. Conducting additional and superfluous multiple campus votes, when the district-level planning-making committee has already voted on the plan will create an undue administrative burden and create an unreasonable or overly burdensome grant requirement within the request for application time constraints.
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(e)(4), the TSTA stated that this subsection restricts any appeal of a decision by the school board related to the local awards plan. The TSTA commented that the most significant consequence of this provision is if a school board approves a local awards plan that violates the teacher vote or consensus. The TSTA objected to this language stating that it restricts the process by which an employee can grieve any decision the school board makes in regard to the local awards plan in violation of an educator's due process rights. The TSTA recommended this prohibition be deleted from the rule.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees and has maintained language as published as proposed. Subsection (e)(4) precludes an appeal to the commissioner of the discretionary action of the local school board to approve a plan and submit it to the agency. The submission of a grant application is not subject to review by the commissioner through the administrative hearings process. In the event that a grant application is approved, the local plan implemented, and local administrative remedies exhausted, an individual could appeal actions taken in the development or implementation of an approved local plan if jurisdiction under the TEC, §7.057(a), exists.
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(e)(6), the TCTA and TSTA expressed concern over the ability of local school boards to vote or change a local awards plan. The TCTA stated the proposed rule allows the school district board to amend, with TEA approval, its local awards plan in accordance with subsections (g) and (h) of this section for each school year the school district receives a program grant. The TSTA recommended that this requirement be deleted, and the rule require a presentation of the plan to the school board upon approval by a majority of the classroom teachers.
Agency Response: The agency agrees in principle with this interpretation and modified the language in subsection (e)(6) to require the selected district-level planning and/or decision-making committee to vote in advance of any school board changes to the local awards plan. A technical edit was also made to subsection (e)(6) to cross reference requirements in subsections (c) and (h) rather than (g) and (h).
Comment: The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) objected to the requirement in §102.1073(f)(1)(A) that DATE awards be tied to district goals that must increase from year to year.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees and has maintained language as published as proposed. District administrators and instructional personnel should seek performance at a level that reflects improvement from current performance. The purpose of the grant program is to improve student achievement. Performance measures should be based on the district's goals and reflect a desired result that is achievable. Districts that are unable to meet their goals will still be able to receive a grant award with the submission of a plan addressing how the district will modify its local awards plan to meet their performance measures in the next grant period. To support this policy, subsection (f)(1)(E), relating to meeting performance measures within two years, was deleted.
Comment: The TSTA commented that §102.1073(f)(7)(A) and (C) require a demonstration from the district of a strategic plan for decreasing dependence on state funds to assure long-term sustainability of the program after DATE funds expire, and a demonstration of efforts to identify additional sources of funding to support and sustain the activities of the plan. The TSTA stated that it found no legislative support or legal authority for the mandate of these additional requirements in order to be eligible for grant funds under DATE. The TSTA further commented that the matching requirement violates the most recent Texas Supreme Court decision on school finance as it diminishes a district's "meaningful discretion" as it has the effect of prohibiting some districts which cannot budget the required matching funds from even applying for a grant under DATE. [Neeley v. West Orange-Cove C.I.S.D., 176 S.W.3d 746 (Tex. 2005).] The TSTA stated that additional strings of this nature will be cost prohibitive for many districts around the state, leaving a bias toward the more property rich districts. The TSTA commented that these provisions create an unfair application process across the board and should be removed as requirements for the grant.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees and has maintained language as published as proposed. The rule requires districts to devise a strategic plan for decreasing dependence on the grant funds and identify additional support to sustain the program for planning purposes only. The rule does not mandate a school district to continue its district award plan if grant funds expire. There is no cost for planning and considering potential funding sustainability options.
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(g)(4), the Texas AFT, ATPE, and TSTA stated that the requirement of local matching funds lacks legislative foundation and serves as a deterrent.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees. The TEA has expressly been granted the authority to promulgate the necessary rules to implement the educator award grant program. Language, however, has been added in subsection (g)(4) to clarify the matching requirements to better assist districts with future planning. In order to ensure program sustainability once the grant funds are exhausted, the district grant award requires a cash or in-kind match from federal, state, or local sources. Research shows that an effective award plan will have a positive effect on curriculum and instruction, will attract and retain quality teachers, and will translate into student achievement. The TEA understands the financial burdens districts face and views the 15% cash or in-kind matching requirements and programmatic sustainability sections of the grant application as critical steps to building capacity, stakeholder support, and long-term program sustainability.
If a district must amend their district award plan because it receives less grant funding in future years, the amended award plan must be voted on again by the designated district-level planning committee and school board.
Comment: Concerning §102.1073(h)(2), the Texas AFT, TCTA, and TSTA commented that teachers who meet the criterion of positive impact on student growth should not be disqualified from receiving a bonus because of transfer or retirement. The TSTA also objected to any restriction on the appeal process under the DATE program.
Agency Response: The agency agrees in part and disagrees in part. The agency agrees that teachers who meet established criteria should not be disqualified and has included language in subsection (h)(2) barring the disqualification of teachers who have retired or were involuntarily transferred. The agency disagrees with removing language in subsection (h)(2) that restricts appeals and has maintained language as published as proposed. District-level planning committees should not circumvent or violate existing local school district grievance policies and procedures.
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