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October 15 2012

Michigan School Districts Embrace Merit Pay…by Giving Outstanding Teachers $1 Raises

Vicki E. Alger

Only in the whacky world of politicized public schooling would something as commonsensical as merit pay generate such controversy. As Michigan Capitol Confidential reports:

A state law became effective Jan. 4, 2010, that said public schools "shall implement and maintain a method of compensation for its teachers and school administrators that includes job performance and job accomplishments as a significant factor in determining compensation and additional compensation."

The [Davison  Community Schools in Genessee County and the Stephenson Area Public Schools in Menominee County] and their unions took that to mean teachers rated as "highly effective" got a $1 bonus; Gladstone teachers rated "highly effective" fared better with $3 a year; "effective" teachers got $2; and a teacher who "meets goals" gets $1.

“What a tragic symbol the school district is sending to teachers — they don’t value good work," said Leon Drolet, president of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. "The reward for being a highly effective teacher is as much as $3. That's what the school district considers a highly effective job to them. ... $3.”

Before then-Gov. Granholm enacted the law that said school districts had to compensate teachers for stellar performance, Michigan's public school districts used a method of compensation that based pay solely on years of service and level of education. The quality of the teacher was not considered.

Prior to the law, gym teachers were paid more than a biology teacher who was a national teacher of the year finalist. School district officials claim the chump-change bonuses were a temporary measure as they tried to figure out how to implement the law. Other observers say that’s hogwash.

Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the Davison school district had more than year to figure out a system. Davison school district and union officials then also signed two other union contracts.

The Davison School Board agreed on new union contract on April 27, 2011, (for the 2011-12 school year) and again on Sept. 12, 2011, (for the 2012-13 school year).

“The law states that job performance has to be a ‘significant factor in determining compensation,’ ” Van Beek said. “In no way, shape or form could $1 be construed to comply with the law. The district clearly capitulated to the union and twice signed contracts that appear in violation of state law."

The Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci likened these shenanigans to a “guerilla war,” adding:

It demonstrates the limits of passing a law enacting education reform and then handing it over to opponents to put it into practice. I admit to a certain admiration for the wise-a** method used by these local unions and their compliant superintendents to thumb their noses at the legislature. However, they wouldn’t think it clever if the method were used against them. If we’re going to play these kinds of games, how about reducing class sizes – by half a child? Addressing indoor air quality by conducting classes outside? How about firing teachers for not paying union dues? Oh wait. We already do that.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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