Push For Teacher Merit Pay Moves Forward

Monday, September 17th 2007, 9:23 pm
By: News On 6

A controversial push to shake-up teacher pay is underway at the state capitol. House education leaders will hold another hearing Tuesday to discuss merit pay for Oklahoma teachers. It's an issue that's drawing passionate debate all across the country. Speaker of the House Lance Cargill is leading the call to bring merit pay or pay for performance to Oklahoma, saying the program will pay off for students. News On 6 education reporter Ashli Sims reports other's argue the costs outnumber the gains.

Oklahoma teachers have rallied, marched and clamored for better pay. In recent years, lawmakers have listened and bumped teacher pay by about $4,800, now the Speaker of the State House, Lance Cargill, says if teachers want to see more money taxpayers will have to see results.

Right now, Oklahoma pays teachers based on the level of their education and years of experience. But Cargill wants to tie teacher pay to student performance.

The Oklahoma Education Association says before the state changes how they pay teachers it should honor its commitment to bringing Oklahoma salaries up to the regional average.

"Our number one major concern is to get us to the regional average in salaries, and we don't want this to be the avenue to get us there, because it's not a fair and proven program," said Roy Bishop of the Oklahoma Education Association.

Cargill disagrees and he's brought in educators from all over the country to testify before the House education committee.

Arkansas started a merit pay pilot program in 2005. It's now in five elementary schools and a recent study showed the teachers paid for performance saw better performance from students, about a three-and-half point gain over a control group. But that same study reported merit pay teachers were no more likely to report working harder or being more innovative than other teachers.

The idea of pay for performance, which was once very taboo among teachers, is gaining ground, the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators polled 750 of its members and almost two-thirds are in favor of a merit pay system.

"It's kind of hard to be against something when it can mean $10,000 more for some teachers,” said Ginger Tinney with the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators. “When you look at the business model, in the business world, when you own your own business or you manage a business it's a natural thing that you're gonna give better pay to the top performers who help the bottom line."

Tulsa Public School's superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski spoke at the state capitol last week. He says TPS already has some incentive programs, offering higher salaries for teachers who specialize in hard to fill areas like bilingual education, math and science.

The Foundation for Tulsa schools also offers merit based bonuses to the district's exemplary schools, those are the sites that test the highest and make the most gains.

Watch the video: Merit Pay For Teachers

Related stories:

8/14/2007 Cargill Promotes Teacher Merit Pay Idea

8/21/2007 Expert Says Merit Pay Worthy Idea

8/26/2007 Push For Merit-Based Teacher Pay Heats Up