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MERIT PAY GAINING GROUND?: Denver Voters Approve Plan, Other States Consider Paying for Performance

"Every time a teacher walks through the classroom doors, young lives and the future of Texas changes for the better," Perry said.

On November 1, voters in Denver approved a $25 million teacher pay-for-performance plan that will reward teachers for boosting student achievement. Under the plan, called ProComp, educators will also receive bonuses for teaching in hard-to-staff subjects such as English-language acquisition classes or middle school math, and for teaching in high-needs schools. Denver will pay for the plan by adding about $2 in property taxes for every $100,000 a home is worth. This increase will bring the total amount the city pays for teacher compensation to $225 million. Voters approved the measure by a 58 percent margin.

Under the current system, teachers with master’s degrees and 13 years of experience can earn no more than $54,185. Under ProComp, those teachers could make $80,000-90,000 or more. Current teachers have 7 years to decide whether they want to opt in to ProComp, while teachers hired after January 2006 will be automatically enrolled.

Texas Governor Uses Executive Power to Create Pay-for-Performance Program

In Texas, Governor Rick Perry (R) used his executive authority to order the state’s first incentive-pay program for teachers. The $10 million plan, which stalled in the state legislature over questions on funding and structure, will reward teachers who succeed in economically disadvantaged schools.

“Every time a teacher walks through the classroom doors, young lives and the future of Texas changes for the better,” Perry said. “While the legislature adjourned with little success, the need for education reform is simply too great to wait for lawmakers to overcome their differences.”

Exactly how much money a teacher will receive is still unclear, although the money will be distributed in $100,000 grants to 100 campuses that show marked improvement in student performance. Local school officials will then decide how to distribute the incentive grants among teachers who they believe are making the greatest impact.

Around the country, several other states, including Massachusetts, Maryland, and Florida, have considered tying teacher pay to performance. Opponents generally believe that merit pay could be divisive and cause animosity between teachers who received bonuses and those who did not. Others stress that more money is needed to lift the salaries of all teachers, not just a select few.

“If the governor really cared about the hardworking teachers of Texas,” said Texas State Teachers Association President Donna New Haschke, “he would get behind an across-the-board teacher pay raise proposal that would move all teacher salaries to at least the national average rather than proposing a 5 percent solution that rewards only a handful of teachers and leaves 95 percent of our teachers behind.” The national average for teachers is $46,597, compared to an average of $40,476 in Texas, according to the American Federation of Teachers.

“Pay-Reform Plan for Teachers OK’d” is available at


Secretary Spellings Relaxes High-Quality Teacher Requirements


In a letter to chief state school officers late last month, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings gave states and districts an additional year to meet the “highly qualified teacher” requirement in No Child Left Behind. According to the law, all classes must be taught by a highly qualified teacher-defined as someone who holds at least a bachelor’s degree, has obtained full state certification, and has demonstrated knowledge in the core academic subjects he or she teaches-by the end of the 2005-06 school year.

“Despite the progress we are making, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that each state can meet the goal that every child is taught by a highly qualified teacher by the end of the 2005-06 school year,” she wrote. “The purpose of my letter today is to assure you that states that do not quite meet the 100 percent goal by the end of the 2005-06 school year will not lose federal funds if they are implementing the law and making a good-faith effort to reach the [highly qualified teacher] goal in NCLB as soon as possible.”

The department will determine whether a state is implementing the law and making a “good-faith effort” based on four criteria: 1) the state’s definition of a highly qualified teacher; 2) how the state reports to parents and the public on classes taught by highly qualified teachers; 3) the completeness and accuracy of highly qualified teacher data reported to the department; and 4) the steps the state has taken to ensure that experienced and qualified teachers are equitably distributed among classrooms with poor and minority children.

According to the secretary’s letter, states that fall short of having highly qualified teachers in every classroom by the end of the 2005-06 school year, but meet the law’s requirements and the conditions described above, will have the opportunity to negotiate a revised plan for meeting the law’s requirements by the end of the 2006-07 school year. However, the letter stresses that the department “reserves the right to take appropriate action such as the withholding of funds” if states are not in compliance with the law or are not making a good-faith effort.

The secretary’s complete letter is available at Website Helps Education Professionals Access Benefit Information helps teachers and education professionals locate more than 1,000 government benefit programs, including student loan information and youth risk grant programs, in addition to a myriad of other government assistance programs. It is a partnership of federal agencies with a shared vision: to provide improved, personalized access to government assistance programs.

Through this partnership, eliminates the need for people to understand the government’s organizational structure in order to find the information they need. Instead, individuals can search for benefits on the website by keyword, benefit category, or by a specific state or by answering questions on a confidential questionnaire.

More information is available at


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