Monday, February 26, 2007

90% of Florida Teachers Are Without Merit

In Florida, if I recall correctly, only what the powers that be determine to be the top 10% get merit pay. It appears Santa Rosa County's teacher of the year, Nicole Mayhew, may not qualify.

Apparently whatever Ms. Mayhew did to earn that title does not coincide with the Florida merit pay laws. Perhaps she now regrets not spending more time falsifying student papers, which could have earned her a cool two thousand bucks. More likely she regrets not taking a job in Georgia, where she could have made a much cooler five thousand bucks without jumping through the hoops Governor Jeb Bush left for her.

The biggest problem with merit pay is that it isn't really used to augment salaries, but to artificially depress them. Joel Klein loves merit pay, not because it rewards extraordinary teachers, but because it will allow him to continue hiring from the bottom of the barrel. He can then say the teachers stink and continue to pay them sub-par salaries--and if anyone doesn't recognize that as his goal, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn for a very attractive price.

The union also contends performance pay is premature until Florida teacher salaries become competitive with other states and professions. FEA spokesman Mark Pudlow said Florida’s average $42,000 teacher’s salary is $6,000 below the national average and trails neighboring Georgia by $5,000. Performance pay advocates have challenged those numbers, citing benefits, beaches, balmy weather and other amenities that make Florida attractive. Pudlow counters: “It’s real difficult to get a mortgage on sunshine.”

And in NY, much of the time we don't have even that. Nearby suburban schools still pay 10-20K per annum more than NYC, and they still get hundreds of applicants for each position. The city, which has declared the end of the teacher shortage, is lucky to get a handful. If the city really cared about quality, it would work on increasing that pool.

But there's nothing bad about bad teachers for Mayor Mike and Uncle Joel. They make a fine scapegoat, and help him divert attention from what's really wrong here. I don't know if they still keep unqualified teachers at a low salary step, but NYC did so for years, making them very attractive and cost-effective.

Needless to say, that's not how you put children first.
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