Monday, August 15, 2011

Merit Pay! Seriously?

Chicago is not corrupt enough, so now Rahm Emanuel is announcing $5 MILLION in Merit Pay for principals.  I wonder how much extra work the teachers will have to do in order to make their principals look good. 

Emanuel states the money is coming from private donors.  Too bad he couldn't use some of that money to  hire back many of the teachers who were unfairly fired and put them in schools where classrooms are over-crowded.  That might actually help the learning environment! The Board claims it's not increasing class size, but when many are already overcrowded, what does that mean? 

At a time when CPS cannot even balance their own budget or honor the contract they made with the Chicago Teachers' Union, should this really be the Mayor's main focus?

Link to Original Article

Mayor: $5 million for Chicago school principals’ merit pay

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday will establish a $5 million fund to provide merit pay to Chicago Public School principals.

Emanuel said he has “put together” a $5 million fund to reward the best-performing principals, with details to follow at an afternoon news conference.

But the mayor campaigned on a promise to deliver merit pay for principals and he’s about to check it off his list of accomplishments during his first 100 days in office.

“I’m gonna announce today that I’ve put together $5 million of merit pay for principals,” the mayor said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on his first 100 days in office.

“We’re gonna announce [that we will be the] first city school system in the entire country that will have merit pay for its principals.”

Emanuel campaigned on a promise to create a local version of the federal “Race to the Top” fund to reward the best teachers and schools.

The $5 million over five years is coming from four wealthy Chicago families. Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana, are contributing $2 million. Three other families are each giving $1 million: Groupon co-founder and executive chairman Eric Lefkofsky and his wife, Liz; Penny Pritzker and her husband, Chicago Park Board president Bryan Traubert and Paul and Mary Finnegan.

In an interview with the Sun-Times in mid-March, then Mayor-elect Emanuel also dangled a cash carrot in front of school bosses.

At the time, Emanuel did not specify how much the reward would be. He would only say that the bonus would be big enough to serve as an appropriate motivation for outstanding principal performance.

He also noted that merit pay for teachers needs to be authorized by the General Assembly. Cash incentives for principals is something the mayor can do on his own.

“The core of this is a level of accountability that the [school] contracts will provide and a reward for the chief executive of that building for the performance of what goes on in that building,” Emanuel said then.

“If all we do is say bonus pay or merit pay for teachers, we’re missing [a key element]. This is why teachers feel that they’re being selected out to bear the burden or the responsibility or the blame. The whole idea of merit pay or bonus payment for teachers was based on a reward. But they’re hearing it as somehow punishment.”

At the time, Emanuel said he wanted to level the playing field, in part because of a backlash against his proposal for merit pay for teachers.

“My hope is that teachers will hear it and say, `He’s not trying to single us out. He’s holding everyone accountable.’ I want the notion of reward and accountability to be comprehensive,” the mayor-elect said.

Bonus pay for principals is not a new concept in Chicago.

Four years ago, then-Schools CEO Arne Duncan, now the U.S. Education secretary, used the lure of cash—as much as $69,000 over four years—to encourage four “superstar” principals to work in the neediest inner-city schools.

“This is part of our overall strategy to try to bring great talent to the schools and communities that need it most. We’re trying to really change that and do things very differently,” Duncan said at the time.

One of the superstar principals was Keith Foley, the highly-touted Lane Tech H.S. principal who was sent to Marshall to help that chronically-troubled school under a performance contract.
Marshall continued to struggle despite Foley’s help.

Skeptics had warned that the bonuses would foster test-prep mills. Duncan had hoped it would produce results.

Two months ago, Emanuel defended the decision by his handpicked school board to cancel four percent pay raises for Chicago teachers, arguing that teachers have gotten two types of pay raises every year since 2003 while students “got the shaft.”

The teachers union responded by firing off a letter to the board saying it intended to negotiate the board’s decision instead of swallowing it. Those negotiations are still going on and could ultimately force a reopening of the entire CTU contract or even lead to the first school strike since 1987.

At the time, newly elected School Board President David Vitale noted that, while teachers have enjoyed 4 percent raises for the last four years, central office staff have swallowed two years of pay freezes and furloughs and principals endured one year of them.

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