D.C. Teachers to Get Money, Get Paid
Any of you with an interest in public education reform will be excited to hear today’s news from D.C. The Washington Post reported that the Washington Teachers’ Union ratified a new contract yesterday that gives Chancellor Michelle Rhee (fancy title, right?) a lot more power over rewarding effective teachers and removing bad ones.
This agreement is a pretty big deal, as teachers unions are naturally resistant to any kind of contract that might increase their chances of unemployment. But after two and a half years of negotiations, and despite the stacked odds, the contract passed 1,412 to 425.
The news is especially great for new teachers who are good at their jobs. Whereas before seniority has been the main factor in determining pay scales and who gets the boot when it’s time to make cuts, the new rules will base those decisions largely on performance. Totally logical, you say? Well, yes. Why it hasn’t been this way for a long time now is just one of the problems education reform is hoping to address. This will hopefully create a precedent for other school districts across the country. If one teachers’ union can agree to a new, riskier contract — although really, it’s only risky if you’re a bad teacher — maybe others will follow suit. (Check out a post from two days ago that takes a more critical view of national reforms.)
The details of the contract could lead to a pretty nice payday for qualified D.C. teachers. The Post reports a five-year, 21.6 percent increase in base pay which would put the average teaching salary between $67,000 and $81,000. There is also a voluntary performance pay program teachers can enter this fall which would add even more to their salaries if they produce significant results in their students. Some teachers could make up to $140,000!
Now, before we go calling D.C. teachers greedy, let’s think for a minute. Why shouldn’t we pay teachers lots of money? At least those who deserve it. Think of the kinds of people who make millions of dollars each year. Wall Street execs, actors, big-shot lawyers, oil companies. Most of them have nothing to do with educating our children. It might sound shallow, but the reason many exceptional educators don’t go into education is probably because of the salary. If we can reward good teachers and give them a good life, while minimizing unnecessary and unwanted job cuts, why not?
Paul Richards is a staff writer for Campus Progress. He attends the University of Pennsylvania.
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