Shanker Urges Bonuses Topping $15,000 for Best Teachers

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Washington--Saying there is no reason public schools should be run like a "planned economy," Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has called for new financial incentives to improve school performance.

In a July 21 address here during the union's biennial professional-issues conference, Mr. Shanker urged President Bush to retool his $500-million "merit schools" plan to provide more attractive incentives.

The union president said the one-year program would not provide enough money to individual educators to encourage them to take risks and radically alter troubled school systems.

Instead, he suggested that Mr. Bush invest the money in a voluntary, five-year competition that would provide individual faculty members with bonuses of $15,000 or more at the 10 percent of the nation's schools that showed the greatest improvement.

"That's real money--unlike the President's proposal to reward only one-quarter of one percent of the public-school teaching force with $5,000," Mr. Shanker said.

In a statement, Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos disagreed.

"There is more to restructuring than bonus payments to good teach8ers," the Secretary argued. "The President's merit-school proposal takes a broader view--and offers a much greater chance for improving the education of students."

Calls for Waivers

For his own proposal to succeed, Mr. Shanker said, school boards would have to waive all rules except those pertaining to health, safety, and civil rights; schools would have to be responsible for their own budgets; unions would have to suspend contract provisions that conflict with restructuring plans; and parents would need the option of choosing their children's schools.

Mr. Shanker also suggested deel10lveloping more comprehensive forms of assessment so that schools could measure themselves against their own goals.

To encourage students to work harder, the union leader called on businesses to work closely with schools to examine high-school transcripts and hire top students.

Businesses, he asserted, should tell students, "If you do well in school, you're the first to get a job, not the last." In addition, he suggested that the best students start their jobs at a higher salary.

He also urged colleges to cease admitting students who are "incapable of doing college-level work." Instead, he advocated that colleges set clear standards. Those students who did not meet them initially would be helped to qualify at some later date.

As a framework for increased student achievement, Mr. Shanker suggested that "national goals" be developed to spell out "what students should know and be able to do." One option, he said, would be to create a national exam given by a board similar to the new National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

In remarks following his speech, Mr. Shanker conceded that persuading the White House to consider his proposals would be difficult.

But, he added, the plan "does not stand or fall on whether the President of the United States does it." He expressed confidence that governors, private foundations, and businesses would respond to his ideas.

Vol. 08, Issue 40

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