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Colo. Teachers Approve Performance Pay

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Members of the Douglas County (Colo.) Federation of Teachers last week ratified an unusual contract agreement that will replace teachers' longevity increases with performance pay.

The agreement calls for a committee of 20 teachers appointed by the union and 10 people appointed by the school board and administration to design a performance-pay plan over the summer.

The first part of the plan, which will recommend pay incentives for individual schools or groups of teachers in a school, is to be ready by early September. If it is approved by the school board, it would go into effect in January.

The committee also will develop a plan for "responsibility pay'' for teachers, said Douglas Hartman, the president of the local union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Mr. Hartman said the responsibility-pay plan is likely to resemble a career ladder, paying teachers for taking on extra work. In some cases, he said, they might also receive extra pay in recognition of the work that they have already been doing.

Finally, the committee will redesign the district's salary structure to bring it into line with anticipated changes in Colorado teacher licensure. The state is overhauling its certification procedures to create three levels of licensure: interim, professional, and master.

The plans are to be finished by next July. The union will vote again on each plan as it is finished.

In designing the new pay plans, Mr. Hartman said, "we want to avoid any disincentives for collegial interaction, nonproductive competition, and the like.''

Although teachers ratified the tentative agreement by a vote of 597 to 154, he said, many are concerned about the changes.

"They weren't voting on a blank check,'' the union president observed. "What they were voting on was whether to empower 20 of their colleagues to explore this.''

Like Private Sector

The automatic pay raises that teachers have received for continuing to work in the district will be scrapped.

But Mr. Hartman said it is likely that veteran teachers would receive some type of raise, perhaps every three or five years.

Teachers also will continue to be paid for gaining new knowledge and skills, he said.

In the interim, teachers will receive 3 percent raises beginning July 1.

Officials said the unusual agreement came about because the 16,000-student district, located in a fast-growing suburban area south of Denver, is experiencing budget problems and public pressure for accountability for teachers.

"We believe performance-based pay is what the public wants to see in teacher compensation,'' said Pieter Kallemeyn, the board president. "The concept is more consistent with what occurs in the private sector.''

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