Examine teacher merit pay idea with caution

Monday, June 18, 2007

Work hard, do a better job, and you will receive better pay.

That's the way our economic system should work, and does in many cases.

One of the exceptions is academics, specifically public schools, where teachers' unions have traditionally fought the idea tooth and nail.

That's changing around the country, with dozens of states, with the assistance of teachers' organizations, experimenting with merit pay.

Under the plans, spurred by No Child Left Behind, teachers earn bonuses or raises for improved student performance, or for agreeing to work in less-desirable schools or teaching subjects for which teachers are difficult to find.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about merit pay; especially in small towns where some feel it could be abused by principals who want to reward some teachers and punish others based on favoritism.

But used correctly, it could compensate for traditionally low teacher pay.

No, we don't necessarily want to attract to teaching people who are in it for the money. But more money could bring better talent into an important profession, especially in areas where public education competes with private industry for talent.

But the merit pay idea has some merit, and should be examined with caution. With teachers organizations involved from the start, it could do much to bring American education up to the level needed to compete in the 21st century.

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