Democrats have often been criticized for being in cahoots with the teacher unions on education policy, and each time Sen. Barack Obama voices support for charter schools or merit pay-- ideas that the national teacher unions aren’t terribly fond of-- there’s a lot of back-and-forth on how he’s breaking away from the unions.
Today, in his speech at a school in Dayton, Ohio, the Democratic presidential candidate-- who has received the endorsement of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers -- called for more charter schools, merit pay, and for replacing bad teachers.
“We must give teachers every tool they need to be successful, but we also need to give every child the assurance that they’ll have the teachers they need to be successful,” Obama said. “That means setting a firm standard — teachers who are doing a poor job will get extra support, but if they still don’t improve, they’ll be replaced.”
But in Ohio, I would guess, Obama’s support for performance pay and replacing bad teachers would actually go down quite well with the local unions (although his ideas on charters might not, as my colleague Michele McNeil points out). Many Ohio locals have embraced performance pay, including Toledo and Cleveland. The Toledo local pioneered peer review more than two decades ago. And four districts in Ohio were recipients of the first installment of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants last year.
You can be fairly certain he wasn’t booed by any teachers in the audience when he mentioned merit pay this time.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.