Haslam: Collective Bargaining Bill Aside, Merit Pay a Ways Off

Governor Bill Haslam says it will be awhile before the state pays extra to teachers who do outstanding work. That’s as some lawmakers argue performance pay is part of their agenda, as they push to weaken teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

Haslam points to some school districts around the state that are experimenting with merit pay now, using federal Race to the Top funds. From there Haslam says he wants to look at gradually expanding statewide.

“I think merit pay is important. I don’t know that I would say that collective bargaining (legislation) is there to pave the way… Let me just say I think what I’d call ‘differential pay’ – I think we should have the ability to pay people more for teaching harder-to-teach subjects, in harder-to-teach schools, and for doing it well.”

Haslam’s native Knoxville has received millions to work on how schools might tie teacher pay to performance. But two recent studies, including one last year from Vanderbilt University, have argued there’s no link between better pay and higher test scores.

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Putnam County is another district receiving the aforementioned Race to the Top funds. Schools Director Kathleen Airhart says she prefers the term “strategic compensation” rather than “merit pay,” because in her eyes merit pay is solely about test scores.

Airhart says in her district while TVAAS and AYP results will factor in, so will attendance, as well as compensating teachers for their time serving as mentors to other educators and modeling best classroom practices.

Airhart says a committee of 22 teachers, administrators and others have been devising the approach over the last eight months, and she’s glad to have some new money to offer her teachers, who’ve been without raises for years.

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