NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 7, 2005

Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has a bold plan to improve public education in his state, including merit pay tied to classroom performance that could add $5,000 or more to a teacher's annual salary.

Romney's plan to raise teacher salaries through merit pay builds on a nascent movement around the country to turn away from a teacher salary structure based on the number of academic degrees and years of service, says the New York Times.

Around the nation:

  • Arizona, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico and North Carolina have systems giving teachers extra pay for classroom performance.
  • Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Carolina use money from the Milken Family Foundation for teacher development programs that can lead to higher salaries.
  • Minnesota, in a statewide effort, plans to combine career advancement, professional development and extra pay, as much as $2,000 a year, all linked to student achievement.
  • The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, an education reform group, is working to develop a national merit pay plan for the states that would help identify master teachers and get them bonuses or raises.

Each state program works differently, but they all share the basic concept of measuring classroom performance to determine how much extra a teacher can make. Some involve substantial spending, like $884 million over ten years in North Carolina; others spend much less, like $2 million over four years in Iowa. Romney's plan calls for large sums - $46 million in new spending for the 2006 fiscal year and $143 million for 2007.

Early response has been mixed. Teacher unions have shown resistance and have historically opposed merit pay programs as unfair and divisive. Others support merit pay and agree with Romney when he says we cannot keep spending money the same way and expect different results.

Source: Michael Janofsky, "Teacher Merit Pay Tied to Education Gains," New York Times, October 4, 2005.

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