Education Letter to the Editor

Use Performance Pay in Sweatshops, Not Schools

August 22, 2008 1 min read

To the Editor:

The ProComp merit-pay structure set up between the Denver teachers’ union and the city’s school district is in “ferment” because nowhere does research show that it has had any real, positive impact (“Model Plan of Merit Pay in Ferment,” July 30, 2008). Merit-pay plans are established because they sound simple to people who just want their schools or kids to do better, and because politicians will say or do anything to look good, especially when they really can’t be proved wrong. All a politician has to say, when merit pay does not work, is that it was applied incorrectly, or that the union sabotaged it.

Unions are so petrified of bad press that they accept merit pay instead of saying what it really is: a scam. It’s effective only for people like my mother, who worked in a sweatshop sewing buttons on dresses; the more buttons she sewed, the more pennies she made. That is merit pay.

If performance-based pay is so great for teachers, why not offer it to other professionals? When a doctor is going to do surgery, we could tell him that if he does a better job on that broken leg, we’ll pay him more. Or tell a fireman that if he rescues us better, he will get a bonus.

Elliot Kotler

Ossining, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the August 27, 2008 edition of Education Week as Use Performance Pay in Sweatshops, Not Schools