Florida legislators continue trying to reward good teachers with higher pay. Powerful union bosses continue to try to block those efforts.

Why would they try to prevent good teachers from being rewarded?

In Jacksonville, about half the teachers in the public schools are rated either “effective” or “highly effective” and are rewarded with bigger paychecks.

This, of course, is how the private sector works.

Effective teachers get $1,000.50 more each year. Highly effective teachers get twice that amount.

The teachers union has tried to block every attempt to reward good teachers.

In 2007, they hired the Rand Corp. to study the issue of merit pay, or performance pay.

Rand did its best to give the FEA the answer it wanted but fell somewhat short.

In its conclusions, the study completely dissed the current system, saying: “The traditional compensation schedule links teacher pay to educational background and experience—two factors that have weak to nonexistent relationships with classroom success.” 

But in its compensated attempt do show that merit pay was not the answer to the problem, Rand misstated the purpose of merit pay. It said it was intended to be an incentive for teachers to do a better job and presented all sorts of mathematical gyrations to show that it does not do that perfectly.

For example:

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But, fancy math aside, merit pay is intended to reward teachers who do a good job.

Paying everyone the same does not do that. It is the preferred socialist model of unions, however.

By opposing and resisting every attempt to do so, union bosses seem to be arguing that it is impossible to determine whether a teacher is doing a good job.

If that is the case, why even use teachers? You could place robots or low-salaried nannies in the classroom and get the same results. If performance can be measured, why is the union not helping to find a way?

“Like the dusty blackboards still found in some school classrooms, the single‐salary schedule has served its purposes and outlived its usefulness…,” the study said.

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Bottom line: “The key issue is whether the incentive and sorting effects of an admittedly imperfect merit pay system can improve the quality of the teacher workforce. We believe that piloting such systems and carefully monitoring their results is a valuable exercise.”

That sounds like: “keep trying.”

If no teacher is better than another, and all of them should be paid the same —  why do all of them deserve higher pay, as liberals keep insisting? For “trying hard”? If there is no way to judge good performance then why are students even given grades? Why are there valedictorians?

Why can’t you test a child at the start of a school year to see what he knows, then test him at the end of the year to see what he has learned?

It is true that children learn at different rates. But it is also true, Rand says, that teachers can make a difference. Those who do should be rewarded.

Raising the salaries of every teacher – good or bad – would put more money in the union coffers. Could that be a factor in union opposition?

The Rand study is old and more recent studies have found that merit pay is effective in keeping good teachers on the job and improving student performance.

Florida leads the nation in trying to find a better merit pay system, as it does in the critical issue of school choice.

Florida legislators are trying to help teachers and students. They could use some help from the teacher unions that claim to represent the teachers and care about the students.

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Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida.  He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union.  He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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