OPINION: Governor has right idea, wrong plan on teacher merit payWe respectfully disagree with your assertions and endorsement of the governor’s new proposal for teacher pay in the state of South Dakota. We submit to you and your readers the following as to why we do not support the governor’s plan on teacher compensation.
By: David Steele snd Jennifer Larson, Guest columnists
We respectfully disagree with your assertions and endorsement of the governor’s new proposal for teacher pay in the state of South Dakota. We submit to you and your readers the following as to why we do not support the governor’s plan on teacher compensation.
1. Merit pay will reduce collaboration between teachers. Research has shown collaboration among teachers is one of the best ways to make teachers better at what they do and, therefore, benefit students. Competition over year-end bonuses will end the desire of teachers to work together, as now they will be competing against one another for increased compensation.
2. State workers all receive the same percentage raise regardless of performance. Are there great teachers and poor teachers? Absolutely there are. However, the same rings true for police officers, firefighters, social workers and the vast array of other professionals employed by the state. Yet, teachers are singled out for merit pay. It seems acceptable to pay an average or poor police officer the same wage as a great police officer; yet, for teachers, different rules seem to apply. Why?
3. Under the proposal as it stands, administrators will determine, to a large degree, who receives bonuses and who does not. This is flawed by human nature. Administrators have their personal biases as to subject matter, grade level, teaching styles, etc. Asking them to be unbiased in their assessments is not only unfair, it is simply unrealistic. As the plan stands now, the year-end bonus pay to teachers may be determined by little more than the preferences of the evaluator. Unless a third party completes the evaluations of teachers, the plan is flawed in achieving its goal of rewarding the absolute best teachers in the state with increased compensation.
4. There certainly has to be some bad math and science teachers in the state already. Why are we paying them $3,500 to continue to do a poor job? If the true intent of this plan is to entice science and math teachers into the teaching profession, then do so at the collegiate level. Provide student-loan relief to science and math teachers who come into South Dakota schools and teach for a certain period of time; or, allow administrators to hire new science and math teachers with incentive bonuses on a case-by-case basis. Paying bad math and science teachers who are in the system already is counterproductive to the mere idea of merit pay in the first place, and is only going to create tensions among departments and staff members within schools. Paying two content areas for the same work as other content areas is simply a slap in the face to every other content area teacher. Merit pay is supposed to reward the best teachers, not simply certain content teachers.
5. Students are not a product like others found in the “business world.” Students are not uniform, and asking teachers to teach them like they are is unrealistic. Expecting the same outcome from each student is never going to be a reality within the education profession. Merit pay is flawed in that it assumes that it can be.
6. There may be fewer students and more staff today than there were when the governor went to school. However, schools have been asked to do much more for students since 1971. Providing school breakfast, offering after-school programs, meeting special education mandates, instituting No Child Left Behind mandates, and numerous other requirements that exist today, were not required of schools in 1971. If you want the operating cost of schools to go down, reduce what is required and expected of them. Don’t expect them to provide more services to students and then complain when the bill goes up. After all, that’s not how the “real world” works. The more services one provides, the higher the total cost.
We assume most business owners would agree with that conclusion.
We agree great teachers need to be paid more. However, we don’t agree with the governor’s proposal on how to achieve that goal.
David Steele is the president and Jennifer Larson is the vice president of the 22-member Sanborn Central Education Association in Forestburg.