Obama Resurrects Performance Pay

By Vaishali Honawar — July 05, 2008 1 min read
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He did it. Again.

Barack Obama spoke to 10,000 adoring fans at the NEA RA, who were all dressed up in blue Obama T-shirts and carrying white “NEA for Obama” noisemakers. He conquered their hearts by promising to “fix the broken promises of NCLB and by opposing the use of public school funds for vouchers. And then he waded smack-dab, for the second straight year, into that most-deplored topic here among these union stalwarts: performance pay.

“Under my plan, districts will be able to design programs that give educators who serve as mentors to new teachers the salary increase they deserve. They’ll be able to reward those who teach in underserved areas or take on added responsibilities. And if teachers learn new skills to serve students better, or if they consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well,” the likely Democratic presidential nominee said while the otherwise unbearably noisy crowd stood deadly silent, except for a few boos.

Obama added that while he knew that wasn’t a popular part of his speech last year, “I said it then, and I am saying it again today because it’s what I believe.”

Other than those charged moments, it was a love fest.

“I am tired of hearing teachers blamed for our problems,” said Mr. Obama, whose speech came live from Butte, Mont., via satellite feed.

He emphasized the importance of recruiting top teachers, and said that undergraduate debt discourages young people from becoming teachers. “If you commit your life to teaching, America will commit to pay for your college education,” he promised.

One wonders now how the NEA will reconcile it’s opposition to performance pay with the views of its preferred candidate. Will its members and leaders act as though that point of difference simply doesn’t exist? Or will we hear more about “enhanced pay” in coming months—something Reg Weaver has mentioned fairly often in recent months,and which he defines as higher pay for teachers in high-risk schools and nationally certified teachers?

A version of this news article first appeared in the NEA & AFT: Live From the Conventions blog.