Teaching Profession

Performance Pay by Any Other Name

By Vaishali Honawar — August 27, 2008 1 min read

“Obama and the NEA: If elected, will he be willing to part ways with the union?”

Or that’s what the Rocky Mountain News wants to know. And here at Teacher Beat, we think it is a question worth examining.

It is true that so far Obama has expressed support for merit pay, which the NEA is famous for not liking. But does anyone even know what Obama means when he talks about supporting performance pay? So far, at the convention in Denver, we’ve heard many other Democratic voices endorse it without actually going into any specifics, and many others have denounced the unions for opposing it.

Here’s what Obama said at the NEA convention in July when he was greeted with boos: “Under my plan, districts will be able to design programs that give educators who serve as mentors to new teachers the salary increase they deserve. They’ll be able to reward those who teach in underserved areas or take on added responsibilities. And if teachers learn new skills to serve students better, or if they consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.”

Meanwhile, the NEA’s Reg Weaver has said time and again in recent months that his union supports “enhanced pay” for teachers who are national-board-certified or who agree to teach in high-risk and hard-to-staff schools.

Now am I the only one who thinks Obama and Weaver are saying mostly the same thing?

Maybe they don’t need to part ways. All they need is a new term for merit/performance/enhanced pay. That should make everyone happy.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.