Teaching Profession

Denver Voters Approve Tax Hike to Underwrite Incentive-Based Teacher Pay

By Bess Keller — November 02, 2005 3 min read

Denver voters have given the go-ahead to a new pay plan for the city’s teachers, capping a nationally watched, six-year drive for the groundbreaking change.

In the Nov. 1 polling, voters agreed to $25 million in additional property taxes to finance the plan, which stops rewarding teachers for years in the classroom and instead recognizes them for raising student achievement, adding to their skills, and teaching where they are needed most. The tax increase, pegged to inflation, amounts initially to $24 per year on every $100,000 of a home’s assessed value.

The measure, ballot question 3A, won a clear victory, with support from 58.5 percent of voters. It had been backed by Denver’s popular mayor, John W. Hickenlooper, the City Council, and other business and civic leaders, as well as a campaign war chest of more than $1 million, mostly from foundations and businesses.

“I’m really pleased by the margin,” said Brad Jupp, the former union activist who led the joint district-union team that devised the pay plan. “What [the plan] had that made it last with the public for six years is a really good idea at its core … the idea that you pay teachers more for getting results with their kids.”

Opposition to the plan, known as the Professional Compensation System for Teachers, or ProComp, came mainly from a small group of teachers. They charged that the complex system was unfair to teachers who would have fewer opportunities to earn more money because of their assignments, and it would encourage teachers to teach to tests. Opponents also argued that the district’s administration had not shown itself capable of running such a system.

In recent years, the idea of overhauling the way teachers are paid to bring it in line with compensation systems in other sectors has gained broad support among reformers and lawmakers. But winning teachers over and surmounting a host of practical problems have proved difficult. The two national teachers’ unions have been against so-called “merit” or “performance” pay for individual educators, especially when it would link the test scores of a class to a teacher’s salary. As a result, changes in salary structures have mostly been timid and piecemeal.

To date, no school district as large as Denver, which enrolls about 70,000 students, has thoroughly revamped its compensation plan to reflect factors other than years of experience and college credits. Denver’s framework is also unusual for giving teachers substantial opportunities to add salary based directly on student-achievement results.

‘A Breakthrough’

Proponents of paying teachers on a different basis hailed the victory as significant. And some said it promises more such changes nationwide.

“By approving ProComp, a solid majority of Denver voters have ushered in a new chapter in the history of the teacher profession,” Josh Greenman, a spokesman for the bipartisan advocacy group, the Teaching Commission, said in a statement. “It’s a breakthrough that can, should, and will spread across the country.”

One feature of the Denver framework that made it unthreatening to teachers now in the school system is a voluntary opt-in over six years. Only teachers new to the system will be forced to enroll. Members of the 3,200-member Denver Classroom Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, backed the proposal by 59 percent to 41 percent in a March 2004 vote.

The Denver plan aims to raise teachers’ salaries as much as 40 percent over a 25-year career but on condition that their work will contribute directly to academic gains for students. One facet of the plan, already in effect, requires teachers to set measurable objectives for their classrooms and rewards them with salary increases or bonuses if they meet those objectives. Other incentives dole out salary increases or bonuses for completing degrees, undertaking professional-development projects, raising scores on state tests, or teaching in high-poverty schools or in academic areas such as English as a second language where there are shortages of qualified teachers.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Juliana Urtubey, an Elementary Special Educator, Is the 2021 National Teacher of the Year
Known as Ms. Earth for her work with school gardens, Urtubey is a National Board-certified teacher in Las Vegas.
4 min read
Juliana Urtubey
Juliana Urtubey
Courtesy Photo
Teaching Profession 4 Ways Districts Are Giving Teachers More Flexibility in Their Jobs
After a year-plus of pandemic schooling, some experts are seeing momentum for district leaders to reimagine what teaching can look like.
11 min read
Teacher working at home in front of camera.
Getty
Teaching Profession Why Teachers Leave—or Don't: A Look at the Numbers
New EdWeek survey results reveal why teachers consider leaving the profession, and how the pandemic has changed their decisionmaking.
6 min read
v40 32 Teacher Retention INTRO DATA
Stephanie Shafer for Education Week<br/>
Teaching Profession We Asked Teachers How They Want to Be Appreciated. Here's What They Said
All they need is respect, independence, a break, and a heartfelt word of thanks after a difficult year.
3 min read
Image shows a teacher in a classroom.
skynesher/E+