Education Opinion

Pay-for-Performance Hypocrisy

By Walt Gardner — July 22, 2013 1 min read
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It won’t be long before the demand is heard once again to pay teachers based on their performance because that’s how pay is determined in the business world.
Let’s remember that schools are not businesses and instead focus solely on the assertion. The reality is that executive compensation is rarely based on what reformers want everyone to believe (“Why We Should Stop Subsidizing Sky-High CEO Pay,” OpEdNews, July. 17).

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains why. First, CEO performance pay is largely based on nothing more than an upward movement in the value of the stock market as a whole, over which the CEO has played no role. Second, CEO stock options are often back-dated to match the company’s lowest price, thereby magnifying any subsequent upswing. Finally, the CEO performance bar is deliberately set below what security analysts are told to expect, practically guaranteeing positive news.

What should be clear is that corporate reformers speak with forked tongue. When confronted with the contradictions of their position, they argue that taxpayers support public schools, but they don’t support corporations. As a result, taxpayers are getting shortchanged. But executive compensation is deducted from taxes that corporations pay. Therefore, taxpayers pay more to make up the difference. According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 2007 and 2010, $121.5 billion in executive compensation was deducted from corporate earnings, of which about 55 percent was for performance-based compensation.

I’ve long been skeptical about proposals to improve education emanating from corporate reformers. This data are only the latest to expose their hypocrisy. But I don’t expect the attacks to abate. It’s much easier to scapegoat teachers than to seek solutions. With the fall semester just around the corner, the demand for performance pay will be renewed.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.