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McCain’s Pay-for-Performance Plan

By Michele McNeil — June 24, 2008 1 min read

No, this isn’t a merit-pay plan to reward teachers for performance. But, it’s along those same lines—and I’m thinking this might be a good idea.

John McCain is offering a $300 million prize to someone who develops a car battery that will “leapfrog” the current technology that powers our traditional cars and even newer hybrids. The goal, of course, is to drive down oil prices. In his remarks yesterday, McCain pointed out that many advancements—such as the mapping of the human genome—can be traced back to American inventors, and “often to the foresighted aid of the United States government.”

Money is a grand motivator—including in education. After all, some schools are using money to encourage students to do better on state tests. Other schools use money as incentives for teachers. The $1 million Broad Prize rewards success in urban districts. Could McCain’s plan work?

Many people ask: If the country can turn out brilliant minds who could develop a nuclear bomb, and send a man to the moon, why can’t we develop a better, cheaper technology for powering cars and then sell that technology all over the world?

Perhaps McCain can turn some of our country’s great minds—and research universities—to this task, if he does, indeed, come up with this $300 million prize. Or, perhaps as important, McCain could extend his reasoning to education, and put aside his no-more-money-for-education mantra and come up with a similar prize for improving public schools.

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