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County's Decision To Provide Bonuses, Not Raises, Will Bring 'an End' to Merit-Pay Plan, Teachers Say

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Robert R.Spillane

A decision by the Fairfax County, Va., school board last week to award top-rated teachers bonuses instead of raises "will bring an end" to the district's performance-based pay plan, predicted Walter J. Mika Jr., president of the Fairfax Education Association.

The compromise measure, which the board passed unanimously, will provide highly rated teachers with a 9 percent salary bonus, instead of the 10 percent pay raise favored by the union and by Superintendent of Schools Robert R. Spillane.

The Fairfax pay plan has attracted national acclaim since its inception in 1986. In a surprise move late last month, Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association, urged the board to fully fund the program, saying that to do so would mark a "truly historic" date in education. (See Education Week, Feb. 8, 1989.)

The nea's local affiliate has backed the program for the past two and a half years, based on Mr. Spillane's promise that teachers would receive a 30 percent across-the-board pay hike and a 10 percent raise for top-rated teachers.

However, the board never formally ratified that agreement.

Members of the fea's representative assembly last week passed a vote of "no confidence" in the school board for failing to fully fund the plan.

The union will send a ballot to its 6,800 members in the next few weeks asking whether they want to continue supporting performance-based pay, Mr. Mika said.

Meanwhile, supporters of the8compromise note that the school board is expected to save nearly $3 million by replacing the pay hike with a salary bonus. Unlike the pay raise, the bonus will not affect an individual teacher's future salary scale and it will not count toward teachers' retirement benefits.

Ms. Futrell last week accused the board of "reneging" on its initial commitment and said the nea will support any decision made by its local affiliate.

In a written statement, Mr. Spillane tried to downplay the effects of the compromise, insisting that it "maintains the integrity" of the performance-evaluation plan and will not result in a major difference in teachers' take-home pay.

The merit-pay vote came as part of the board's action on an $809-million budget, which also included an 8 percent pay raise for all teachers, the last of three across-the-board pay hikes promised as part of the performance-based pay agreement.--lo

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