• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Chipping Away at the Union Stranglehold

    Despite decades of union gridlock, the Washington, D.C., school board, with the help of school Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s leadership, has successfully contracted with teachers unions to implement performance pay.

    The contract with the Washington Teachers’ Union is a huge triumph for Rhee in her fight for education reform in our nation’s capital. Rhee has battled with teachers unions for nearly two years over the new contract. The agreement offers teachers more compensation in return for greater accountability in their students’ academic achievement.

    The contract will provide significant bonuses to teachers who demonstrate positive results in the classroom. Bonuses of up to $20,000 to $30,000 will be awarded to teachers whose students show better-than-expected growth in test scores—one of the primary benchmarks in the performance pay teacher evaluation system. This new teacher evaluation system will also allow principals to base their employment decisions on performance instead of seniority. The contract also offers development opportunities called “teacher centers,” where teachers can go to learn new approaches to improve their teaching skills in the classroom.

    Michelle Rhee recently had this to say about the performance pay aspect of the new contract:

    The new union contract passed unanimously by the City Council means students will have more effective teachers in the classroom and teachers will be rewarded monetarily for increasing student achievement. … It also tackles three of the perennial problems that have plagued school district agreements over time—lock step pay, seniority and tenure.

    A report entitled “New Millennium Schools: Delivering Six-Figure Teacher Salaries in Return for Outstanding Student Learning Gains” from the Goldwater Institute demonstrates how performance pay has the potential to dramatically improve the education system in our country. According to their study, performance pay makes teaching careers more attractive by treating educators as professionals—offering comfortable salaries without increasing the burden on taxpayers.

    James Hall is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Chipping Away at the Union Stranglehold

    1. Billie says:

      Get the government out, really.

      A few years back there was a charter school in Minnesota, that would've continued teaching according to Muslim curriculum if a substitute teacher wouldn't have witnessed this illegal danger paid with tax dollars. Private interests makes it privately run. Not if your a government favorite or government weakling. Since they've been here there is nothing but exceptions made to their man-made god beliefs.

    2. Nick, California says:

      If unions have a negative effect on educational quality, how come states with unions do better on educational measures?

    3. Sammy says:

      You need to look at the contract. In your article you failed to mention that the pay for performance is something the educator can choose to be apart of, and will have to go through a selection process to be accepted in to the program. There is a chance for teachers to earn up to 30,000 more, but does not state what exactly they will earn. The process for the selection has not been developed. So before you publish anything there is a need to acquire all the information.

    4. Ben C. Ann Arbor, MI says:

      "If unions have a negative effect on educational quality, how come states with unions do better on educational measures?"

      Nick, please site references for the above statement. Thanks

    5. Rachel Sheffield Rachel Sheffield, Th says:

      Nick, California on July 15th:
      "If unions have a negative effect on educational quality, how come states with unions do better on educational measures?"

      At first glance, it may appear that students in forced-unionism states score higher, but there is no correlation. Statistical tests reveal that there are no significant differences between the average math and reading scores for fourth and eighth grade students based on whether they live in a forced-unionism state or a right to work state (using data from the 2009 NAEP).

      While there may not be differences between student scores based on a state’s union or right to work status, there are examples of states that have pushed back against union power and seen success. Students in Florida, a right to work state, have made significant gains in math and reading, with the greatest gains made among Hispanic students. Much of Florida's success can be attributed to their implementation of school choice, which was only achieved by pushing back against unions.

      On the other hand, students in the District of Columbia report the worst scores in the nation, yet there is a strong union presence. One program, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, has proven successful in raising achievement and graduation rates. Yet, once again, this program was implemented only after fighting union control.

    6. Chris, Springfield, says:

      I didn't find much commentary on how the deal dealt with seniority and tenure issues and would be interested in more specifics there. Lacking true ability to dismiss ineffective teachers and to promote the most effective, this deal is simply a 'win/win big' for the teachers unions because there is no downside. And why should anyone expect the unions to not start gaming the system? We saw it with No Child Left Behind, which simply directed funding away for non-performing school systems. Those systems promptly went through a process of lowering their standards and when that wasn't enough, administrators and teachers resorted to cheating on exams. Now the financial incentive is to be paid directly to teachers.

      This has fiasco written all over it. I hope I'm proven wrong.

    7. Randall Holland, Ari says:

      Does the union get any of the bonus? Does the union have to approve of the bonuses? Something fishy going on here if the union lets this get passed. I don't trust the unions.

    8. Greg Clements, Round says:

      @ Randal

      I agree. The unions don't negotiate a contract unless it provides them more power or some long-term financial benefit. They never give up something without some kind of payback…somewhere…always follow the money!

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.