History of Time, Responsibility, and Incentive (TRI) Pay


Prior to 1977 school districts and local teacher unions were free to negotiate salaries with no state-imposed restrictions or limits.  Salaries levels varied from district to district, based on local need and priorities.  Back then school districts relied on local levies for as much as 30% of school district operating budgets statewide[1][1].  Many districts were even more reliant on local levies.


In response to a high-profile lawsuit about the reliance on local levies and the adequacy and equity of Washingtons school funding formula, State Superior Court Judge Doran directed the state legislature to define and fully fund a program of basic education for all students in Washington.  In the following legislative session, the Legislature adopted the Basic Education Act of 1977.  This Act defined the length of the required school year and instructional hours and set minimum staff to student ratios.  In addition, the Legislature determined that the state had an interest in controlling salary growth since the state was required to fund salaries.


Standardization of state funding of education and restrictions on teacher pay were just two of the outcomes of the Basic Education Act and subsequent related legislation. House Bill 166 which was passed in 1981 became the first successful effort by the Legislature to set specific limits on teacher pay. It accomplished this by setting a maximum on the average salary and benefits that could be paid to teachers and other instructional staff in each district.


As a result of this legislated restriction the concept of negotiating supplemental salaries for the work teachers performed outside of their regular classroom duties was developed as a means to obtain pay increases.  Initially some argued that House Bill 166 did not specifically prohibit this practice therefore it was legal to bargain locally funded supplemented pay.  Some districts resisted, saying that since the law did not specifically permit local bargaining it must be illegal.


However, over time most school districts and local associations bargained supplemental pay. The practice became so common that in 1987 the original law was repealed and replaced with RCW 28A .400.200, which reads in part:


Salaries may exceed the limitations of this section only by separate contract for additional Time, additional Responsibilities, or Incentives.


Under this new Time, Responsibility or Incentives statute (called TRI), the specific qualifying activities for additional time, responsibilities or incentive payments are not listed. Each district, in conjunction with its employees and collective bargaining units, determines what are the necessary qualifying activities. This current statute has effectively removed any perceived restraints and specifically permits the bargaining of supplemental salaries and/or incentives. Some examples of both kinds of TRI pay are listed below:


         Increase the amount paid per day for supplemental days actually worked, for example each extra day would be compensated at twice the per diem rate.


  • Increase the number of supplemental days or hours without increasing the actual on-site workload, as payment for work already being done. Examples would be attendance at open house, work performed in off hours at home, work before/after school hours, attendance at professional conferences, additional college credits, or as additional payment for work relating to education without being performed on-site and without direct accountability by signed statements or the like.


         Pay each employee an actual dollar amount annually as a stipend to encourage continued service to the district and education and as a reward for longevity in the district.


         Pay each employee a lump sum for work currently performed but uncompensated for time spent on school activities, employee purchased materials, college credits, etc.


         Developing a shadow schedule that relates directly to and tracks, at a lesser percentage the local salary schedule in recognition of the added time or responsibility involved in career development or to encourage and promote longevity without the requirement of additional service.


  • A sum of money for tuition reimbursement.


  • Longevity Stipends - Payments to employees at designated steps (every 5 years, usually), for dedication and longevity within the school district;


  • Supplemental pay to give additional encouragement for and recognition of earned graduate degrees.

[1][1] Currently, on average, 15% of total district General Fund revenue comes from local levies.