Merit-based pay for teachers – yes!

There’s no doubt educators locally and throughout the state were
disappointed with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget plan that provides a
2.2 percent increase in spending per student, but is still $1.1
billion shy of what the public school system expected.
There’s no doubt educators locally and throughout the state were disappointed with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget plan that provides a 2.2 percent increase in spending per student, but is still $1.1 billion shy of what the public school system expected.

However, teachers and school administrators shouldn’t cross their arms and close their ears over the governor’s idea to tackle budget problems in local schools by placing educators on a merit-based pay raise system. It could make a tremendous difference in one of public education’s largest expenses – its employees – and if done intelligently would reward the best teachers while driving out those who should not be in the classroom.

It’s time to embrace a merit-based system and begin to gather the input of teachers and administrators who have the esoteric knowledge of the challenges schools and their teachers face. Merit-based pay simply cannot be another state mandate dropped onto the system.

The education system would do well to mirror the private sector when it comes to pay increases. Businesses do not automatically grant pay raises to every employee, good or bad. Increases are based on merit, production and meeting goals.

The real question isn’t should teachers be rewarded by merit, but how merit should be determined in a world where student performance is influenced by many things like parental involvement, language skills and class size – all elements even the greatest teachers cannot control.

But merit-based pay should not be a dirty concept to educators? It certainly makes sense to reward those who are effective educators, and to eliminate automatic pay raises that are not justified.

A merit-based pay system, if implemented properly, should be part of a strategy to improve our public school system. Rewarding teachers for excellence, and allowing them to earn comparable wages to similarly experienced private sector employees, should energize our schools.

Hopefully, the individual teachers will not allow the union to hide behind a series of straw-man arguments that deflect the positive possibilities of a merit-based compensation system. We need to attract and retain the best teachers.

Merit-based pay is a key component in that effort and can be a catalyst for education improvement.

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