On Merit Pay for Teachers


I don’t know how long this link will be available, but Eric Schopmeyer, a Portland, Oregon music teacher speaks about, not the impossibility of instituting merit pay fairly across the board, but of the disrespect to our profession by pushing the issue.

Right on, Eric!

For another view on merit pay, which highlights how the federal government (a government that intrudes on the constitutional right of the states to handle public education) views the issue, check out Larry Ferlazzo on In Practice.


Should Eric’s link become history, here’s the text from “The Stump,” opinion from The Oregonian online.

Education, In My Opinion, Sunday Commentary »

Merit pay for teachers

By George Rede

March 21, 2009, 6:46AM
Eric Schopmeyer

Count instead on real incentives to help kids achieve

Implicit in the idea of merit pay is the notion that teachers would work harder at their jobs if only they were motivated by the promise of more money. This misapplication of market principles is utterly disrespectful to our nation’s educators. At best, it reads as a dark, satirical joke.

A scene in such a black comedy might open thusly: A classroom of 32 second-graders struggles in a futile attempt to complete an assignment while a teacher leans back lazily in her chair, ignoring them, counting out a neat stack of twenties thinking, “No, still not enough. Oh, if only someone would make it worth my while, I could easily get all these kids to pass the test. But until then … .”

Any cursory examination of our education system will turn up a group of serious and dedicated professionals who pour their hearts and souls into their jobs, working countless hours of unpaid overtime, dipping into our own pockets for needed supplies and tirelessly shepherding children toward academic success.

We do all this in an environment of essentially untenable conditions caused by the toxic dichotomy of ever-increasing demands and ever-diminishing resources. And it shouldn’t come as news to anyone that people don’t go into teaching for the money. We work our hardest every day not for the promise of the dollar but for love for the children and a deep belief that education is the key to a healthy society. You could give us a million dollar bonus every year, but it wouldn’t make a difference without a substantial investment in improving the fundamental conditions under which we are made to work.

A parallel scene might take place on the battlefields of Afghanistan. A small battalion, outnumbered and unarmed, is deployed behind enemy lines. Their commanding officer promises each of them bonus pay should they reign victorious. They’ll fight because they have to. They’ll fight for survival. They’ll fight out of loyalty. But without proper weaponry and ample reinforcements, the battle (and their survival) is a lost cause. The motivation of bonus pay is moot.

If you want to spend money to improve teaching and learning in the classroom, spend it on reducing class size, spend it on the resources and materials that we desperately lack, spend it on upgrading our crumbling facilities, spend it on programs to end the poverty that prevents so many of our kids from succeeding.

Sure, teachers deserve more pay — all teachers do. That’s a simple matter of respect for an extremely challenging profession that is so vital to our society and our economy. But I’d take a reduction in class size over an increase in pay any day.

Eric Schopmeyer is a music teacher at Marysville Elementary School in Portland.

Board Takes Official Position on Four Measures of Significance to Oregon Education

Oregon is the state of initiatives. I think Iowa was the first state to use popular influence to get measures on the ballot, but the initiative phenomenon became known long ago as The Oregon System.

To our embarrassment, The Oregon System has become a source of riches for Bill Sizemore, a convicted felon (thanks in large part to the Oregon Education Association) who has made a business of pimping initiatives and gathering signatures for whomever is willing to pay him. Sizemore was recently in the news for siphoning funds for personal use from a foundation he controls.

The three initiatives we oppose are Sizemore’s. Some of them, people here believe, are attempted revenge against teachers who belong to the union (OEA) that helped nail his pitiful butt to the judicial wall.

It’s not often that I can speak for the entire Board, but this is one of those times, because we voted this way in an official meeting that was attached to our work session on Tuesday, October 14, 2008.

Of the many measures that will appear on the November ballot (Oregon), four, in the opinion of the Hillsboro School District’s Board of Directors, merit not only our attention, but our active participation to defeat three of them, and pass the fourth.

The initiative we support is Measure 56, which calls for the restoration of the simple majority voting requirement.

The three we oppose are Measures 58 (prohibition of teaching public school students in language other than English for more than 1-2 years); 59 (proposing full federal income tax deductibility from Oregon tax liability); and 60 (creating a state-wide teacher merit pay mandate).

Here are our resolutions in measure numerical order:

Measure 56:

WHEREAS, the 2007 Oregon Legislature adopted HJR 15, which refers a constitutional amendment proposal to Oregon voters at the November 4, 2008 General Election that would modify a portion of the double-majority requirement, restoring simple majority voting; and

WHEREAS, under the so-called ‘double-majority’ requirement, to get voter approval of a finance measure, 50 percent of all registered voters must vote, along with “50 percent plus one vote”, with the exception of General Elections in even-numbered years; and

WHEREAS, this requirement places more election power in the hands of citizens who do not vote, rather than those who have decided to exercise this right; and

WHEREAS, the so-called ‘double-majority’ requirement has resulted in many jurisdictions crowding the even-numbered General Election ballots with many competing taxing interests; and

WHEREAS, the so-called ‘double majority’ requirement has resulted in the failure of several finance measures, despite the measures receiving a majority “yes” vote; and

WHEREAS, the 2007 Legislature created a very workable compromise, restoring the simple majority voting requirement for local bond and levy measures on all November and May ballots;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors support the Oregon Legislature’s passage of HJR 15 to restore the simple majority voting requirement to all May and November elections.

Measure 58:

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 58 and its resulting ballot measure would establish a statewide policy that English is the “language of opportunity” and mandate that non-English speaking students shall be immersed in English so they can be mainstreamed as quickly as possible; and

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 58 proposes to place non-English speaking students in English immersion classes for state-specified, limited time periods based on grade level (a maximum of 1 year for K-4 students; 1.5 years for grades 5-8; and 2 years for grades 9-12); and

WHEREAS, current, district-specified courses being taught to assist non-English speaking students who are unable to benefit from classes taught in English would effectively be eliminated,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District Board of Directors strongly opposes Ballot Measure 58 because it severely reduces our authority and ability to meet the unique needs of our students w2ho must learn English – while also learning academic skills.

Measure 59:

WHEREAS, K-12 public education receives the majority of its funding through a direct appropriation from the state legislature in the form of the State School Fund, generally comprising over 40% of the total state general fund; and

WHEREAS, the state relies on personal income taxes for almost 90% of all state revenues, making public services, including public education, highly sensitive to any changes in personal income tax collections; and

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 59 proposes to increase the amount of federal income taxes paid that can be deducted from an individual taxpayer’s Oregon taxable income from a limit of about $5,500 to the entire amount of federal taxes paid; and

WHEREAS, the changes proposed in Ballot Measure 59 are estimated by the Legislative Revenue Office to result in a $1.244 billion loss of state revenue in the 2009-11 biennium and a $2.268 billion reduction in the 2011-13 biennium; and

WHEREAS, such a dramatic reduction and instability in state revenues would likely result in a direct reduction in revenues for public education.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors strongly opposes the passage of Ballot Measure 59 and its efforts to destabilize and dramatically reduce revenues available for public services.

Measure 60:

WHEREAS, Measure 60 would impose a statewide mandate requiring all school districts to institute a new teacher compensation program without regard to the existing local collective bargaining process; and

WHEREAS, the measure lacks realistic and comprehensible definitions and clarifications that would enable local boards to thoroughly understand and effectively implement such a statewide mandate; and

WHEREAS, the measure would likely result in discouraging collaboration among teams of teachers in schools and instead foster competition for highest test scores; and

WHEREAS, said competition for high test scores would reduce the quality of Hillsboro’s education offerings because an emphasis on testing and testing rehearsal leaves less time for higher level curriculum exploration, and

WHEREAS, the official state fiscal impact committee has estimated that Measure 60 would require additional spending of between $30 million and $72 million statewide in the first year and between $30 million and $60 million statewide in subsequent years without raising additional revenues to compensate local districts.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors opposes the passage of Ballot Measure 60 and its effort to implement an unfunded statewide mandate overhauling the existing local teacher compensation system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors urges voters to oppose Ballot Measure 60, and that the Board of Directors will work to educate local voters about the negative impact this measure will have on the local control of public schools, employee relations with teachers, funding for the classroom, and, most importantly, the opportunity for students in the Hillsboro school district to enjoy the benefits of a world-class education.

If you got this far reading, let me know, cuz you deserve a high-five!

And think about it. Maybe pray for us here in Oregon. Not only do we have to cope with NCLB, but we have to deal with crooks like Sizemore and the dipsticks he represents! 😦