As districts work through the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) system development process, some are hearing misconceptions about TIA rules and processes.
A few common myths seem to be circulating. Busting these myths may clear up confusion, but if you have additional questions about TIA, you’re always welcome to reach out to us.
TIA myths, busted
Myth #1: Districts need to change their policy for compensation and/or reassignments to be compliant for TIA purposes.
Myth #1 busted! Districts with standard policy language at DEA (LOCAL) and DK (LOCAL) need not worry about making changes to board policy for TIA.
Under most districts’ Policy DEA (LOCAL), the board of trustees is tasked with reviewing and approving the compensation plan each year, including wage and salary structures, stipends, benefits, and incentives. As such, districts should be bringing forward TIA incentive plans to the board for approval, and any payments of these incentives would be covered under the compensation plan. No additional policy changes are necessary for this to happen.
Standard Policy DK (LOCAL) language grants authority to the superintendent or designee to assign and reassign employees when the assignment or reassignment is in the best interest of the district. This means the superintendent or designee already has broad authority to make decisions about moving staff when needed.
Many districts’ Policy DK (LOCAL) also allow employees to request reassignment to another position for which he or she is qualified, but there’s nothing in the policy that specifies a district has to grant these requests. For districts adopting a designation system that applies to limited campuses or teaching assignments, the standard Policy DK (LOCAL) language is still sufficient because, while employees can request reassignment, it doesn’t compel a district to grant reassignment requests that don’t align with the designation system.
Myth #2: Districts need to change their teacher contracts to allow the teacher to receive additional compensation under TIA.
Myth #2 busted! TASB model term contracts include paragraph 6.4 that covers incentive and performance pay. The model contract language reads: “If you qualify, you may receive incentive pay or pay for performance under the District’s compensation plan, federal law, or state law. An incentive or performance payment is not an entitlement as part of your salary.”
As noted in Myth #1, most districts’ Policy DEA (LOCAL) language addresses compensation paid to contract employees, including incentive payments, and points to all compensation being included in the district compensation plan approved annually by the board of trustees.
Some districts have added or are considering adding contract addendums to allow for TIA payments. However, they’re unnecessary given the standard contract language covers any payments made under TIA if they’re included in the approved compensation plan. Also, adding a contract addendum could inadvertently supersede other contract addendums in place (e.g., certification addendum, retire-rehire surcharge addendum).
Myth #3: Districts can choose whether to make TIA payments TRS creditable or not.
Myth #3 busted! This is not exactly true. While some district choices may lead to the compensation being creditable for TRS purposes, it’s not entirely accurate to say a district can simply choose to make the pay creditable. It’s not a “yes or no” sort of decision.
If a district adopts a compensation plan that includes TIA payments, many of those payments will be creditable without a formal choice. TRS rules require that pay be “earned or accrued proportionally as the work is performed” to be creditable, and the compensation plan template includes language about incentive and performance pay that helps comply with this requirement.
If TIA funds are paid to designated teachers that were in your district in February, even if they’ve left the district since then, the payment would still be creditable compensation for retirement calculation purposes. This may mean a district is generating a TIA check for a teacher who has changed districts or for a retiree, assuming they would receive their payment in their last check from the district before their retirement date.
One situation in which TIA payments would not be creditable is for districts that plan to spread the funds among multiple teachers (e.g., 70 percent to the designated teacher, 20 percent distributed evenly among other teachers on the designated teacher’s campus, and 10 percent held back for administrative expenses) without applying the “earned or accrued proportionally” measure. For small payments like this, many districts stipulate the payment will be made to all teachers on the campus in an active pay status on the date the check is cut, rather than tracking down teachers who may have left the district or changed campuses. If the 20 percent distributed to the other teachers isn’t treated the same as the 70 percent paid to the designated teacher—paid out to teachers who have left the district or the campus—it won’t be creditable compensation.
Myth #4: The 90 percent of TIA funds can be spent only on teacher pay on the campus where the designated teacher teaches.
Myth #4 busted! This is correct except that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is allowing for a broader interpretation of “teacher pay.” The broader definition will allow districts to make TIA payments to other instructional support staff, such as instructional aides, on the campus where the designated teacher teaches, and those payments can be counted as part of the 90 percent spending requirement.
A district also could make deductions from the 90 percent paid to instructional staff at a campus to include the required TRS district contribution and still comply with spending requirements. This would require communication with affected employees to ensure the deductions are clear and understood, but TEA has assured districts that it’s allowable.
Districts with additional questions can reach out to us at email@example.com or 800.580.7782, or contact TIA staff at the Texas Education Agency at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Campbell is a director at TASB HR Services. Send Amy an email at email@example.com.
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