Monday, January 14, 2008

“Merit Pay” Hurts Teachers, Staff and Students

From Marjorie Stamberg to ICE-mail:

This is a leaflet circulating in GED-Plus that colleagues may be interested in. Our school was belatedly asked to "participate" in this project.

“Merit Pay” Hurts Teachers, Staff and Students


UFT members in the GED-Plus program are being asked to approve a so-called “Performance Bonus Program.” This is a really, really bad idea. We have to organize to vote it down.

On Thursday we received a joint letter from the United Federation of Teachers and the NYC Department of Education announcing that hub meetings will be held next week on this plan. The first meeting was held in Staten Island on January 3, the day the letter arrived. They want to ram this through, just like they got the Delegates Assembly to vote on it with barely 15 minutes discussion, just hours after the deal was sealed.

Beware: this is not a bonus but a bribe. And don’t think you’ll be seeing 3 grand anytime soon. Already they’re talking about $1,500 if the school only makes “partial gains.” What you give up for that is the basic union principle of equal pay for equal work.

While pretending to encourage teachers in impoverished neighborhoods, the “incentives” will tend to push educators away from all but the best-funded inner-city schools. While claiming to support teacher collaboration, it will set teacher against teacher, dividing paras, teachers and support staff.

Call it whatever you want, it’s not really voluntary, it’s not really a bonus -- it’s the same old “merit pay” we’ve been resisting for years, until the UFT leadership caved.

This plan opens the door to individual “merit” pay. Bloomberg says straight-out that’s what he’s after. And once they get that, you can kiss ALL your union protections goodbye. It won’t stop at “bonuses.” Next time around, if “goals aren’t met,” it’ll be your S rating, your appointment, or the ATR sub pool (which Klein is looking to “terminate”).

Teachers and other school staff may be tempted by the money, but it’s a poisoned offer. Look again! Please read the points below and try to have the maximum discussion on the pros and cons at your hub and spoke. Be informed.

Here are ten reasons to vote down this dangerous plan:

1)Why are they offering the bribe? Teachers already work tirelessly because we are dedicated to our students and public education. We can’t “work harder” for the “bonus,” because we’re already working beyond capacity. They know it. The main purpose of the “bonus” (financed by private corporatizers like the Eli Broad Foundation) is not to improve education, it’s to break the power of the union.

2)If they wanted to give teachers more money, they could just grant a raise. If they wanted to improve education in impoverished school districts, they could lower class size. But instead, the DoE has repeatedly refused to spend money offered by the state to reduce class size, and used money earmarked for reducing class size for other purposes (particularly testing).

3)It will set up competition between teachers instead of solidarity. Imagine the kind of resentment that will be directed at fellow union members on the school “compensation committee” who decide who gets how much of a “bonus”!

4)It will increase the power of principals who have veto power. Want more money? Work lunch. Do extra coverages. There will be pressure to teach to the test, or scapegoat teachers who won’t, because they’re “costing” the school a possible bonus.

5)It is bad for the students. Bonus pay is tied to test scores. So economically, it means teachers will drift to schools where students’ test scores can be the highest. (Low-performing students will be pushed out, low-performing schools will be closed.)

6)There’s nothing really “voluntary” about it, since this “data” will be used in part for the “report cards” to close schools.

7)Think of the extra paperwork required to track the increase in the already over-the-top test schedule to track student “gains” on which the bonus depends. We already work tirelessly for our students.

8)In the 2005 contract, the UFT leadership traded away seniority and work time (going back before Labor Day) for a pay increase. This opened the door for the notoriously corrupt “open market system” and the ATRing (a new verb) of up to 1,000 teachers sitting in sub pools across the region.

9)In some ways this is even more foolhardy, because it goes to the very core of the principles of education and teaching. This re-introduces “piece work” – paying per head (literally) of those students making gains – which the union movement fought for years to get rid of.

10) Schools aren’t factories, kids aren’t widgets, and teachers aren’t stupid. Don’t buy the “bonus” pay scam!

It’s not just about the money. Yankees coach Joe Torre said it best when he turned down George Steinbrenner’s “performance pay” contract. He said, “I’d been there 12 years and didn’t think motivation was needed….Incentives, to me, I took it as an insult.” It’s an insult to teachers, too.

They need 55 percent of chapter members to vote this deal up (not just a majority of those voting). Already, 33 schools offered this plan have voted it down. Don’t say later, “I wish I had voted no at the time.”


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. So direct and to the point. I can only hope that they aren't ever able to fill all the school spots. Not likely but you take what you can get. Hopefully it will take at least another couple of rounds to fill them up as schools get it and vote no.


Anonymous said...

The voting for which schools will participate in the program is already finished, and the $1,500 if the school only makes partial gains has been part of it from the start.

How are you so behind on what's going on?