Denver  teacher  strike  exposes  US  divide  over  benefit  pay

Denver teacher strike exposes US divide over benefit pay

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, March 5, 2019

DENVER (AP) — Denver teachers went on strike to enhance their pay, but the fight wasn’t that simple.

Emboldened by teacher activism nationwide and struggling to live in a rapidly growing city, Denver educators challenged one of the nation’s earliest reward pay systems, which was initially backed by the instructors union and education reform supporters.

The system understood as Professional Compensation, or ProComp, permits teachers to add on to their base salary by earning benefits of up to $3,000 a year for working in a hard-to-staff position or high poverty school or if their schools enhance.

Administrators and instructors on Thursday reached a tentative deal for better pay that ended a three-day walkout. However the union jeopardized on a $3,000 benefit for instructors who work in the district’s most tough schools that it stated wasn’t helping keep educators in those schools. Both sides agreed to study instructor turnover and revisit whether to get rid of that incentive.

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Teachers state the reward system is complicated and can leave them thinking at what their profits will be.

Sarah Olsen, a third-grade teacher at Maxwell Elementary School, stated she was already living on a tight budget when she lost a piece of her income. The number of students getting complimentary and reduced-price lunch — a step of hardship — dipped below the limit for getting an reward for a school ranked as “hard to serve.”

She also stated the district cut the promised benefit to teachers at the school for enhanced test scores.

“There’s simply no consistency with the rewards,” she stated Wednesday. “They can be taken away at any time. They can be lowered.”

With the use of reward pay increasing amongst districts and states, here’s a appearance at the conversation:


“We’ve seen a tremendous boost in the number of schools, districts and states that are experimenting with incentive pay programs across the nation,” stated researcher Matthew Springer, who has actually studied the commonly varying programs for 20 years.

Springer, distinguished teacher of education reform at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said an influx of federal funds through programs like Race to the Leading and the Teacher Reward Fund have encouraged more states to check out the concept.

Most states now permit for some sort of reward pay, whether it’s offering bonus offers to teach in high-needs schools or topics or basing raises on trainee or instructor efficiency.

Nine states need districts to think about performance in instructor pay and at least 11 states enable it, according to the not-for-profit Nationwide Council on Instructor Quality, a research study and policy company. A majority of states incentivize pay for high-needs schools and subjects.


Market-driven recruiting and retention rewards are typically accepted, but rewards linked to trainee and teacher efficiency are more questionable. Teachers say it’s not reasonable to pay them based on standardized test scores that are impacted by aspects beyond their control, like poverty.

Teachers likewise say they are self-motivated and not driven by bonuses the method a sales representative might be, for example. Many would rather see financing used to increase the base pay of all teachers, not awarded in a way that can create friction and competitors within a school.

“Performance pay has actually ended up being simply another method of nickel-and-diming educators due to the fact that erratic benefits are no alternative for sustainable living earnings, specifically as costs keep rising,” American Federation of Educators President Randi Weingarten stated. “This simply injects more instability into a profession that’s ending up being ever more precarious.”

In Denver, the main sticking point over perks was how much extra to pay teachers who work in high-poverty schools and in one of 30 struggling schools. The district sees those benefits as secret to helping enhance the academic efficiency of low-income students. It says it also requires to honor the will of citizens to spend tax income worth about $33 million a year on reward pay.

“There is not one school district in the nation that is going to appearance at Denver and believe, ‘Oh, I think I’ll try that,’” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said after joining picketing Denver instructors this week.


There are a lot of reasons for incentive systems, Springer said, including the idea that instructors must be compensated for results in the class, not simply years of service.

“One of the things that I think is important about these systems, particularly well-designed ones, is it’s getting us to a point where we can pay our highest-performing educators a six-figure wage,” Springer said. “And I believe our finest and brightest teachers are worthy of a six-figure wage. But sadly, the single income schedule is never ever going to let us get there.”

An reward pay program likewise may be less expensive than a basic pay raise and an easier sell for districts in requirement of taxpayer support, he said.


A 2017 analysis of more than 30 research studies on merit pay found that it has a modest positive result on trainee test scores. The academic gains were roughly equivalent to including three weeks of knowing to the school year, stated Springer, who co-led the study while a teacher at Vanderbilt University.

An unpublished University of Colorado research study of ProComp that compared test scores in Denver with those of close-by districts between 2001 and 2016 discovered the rewards may have assisted boost student achievement.

The research study by assistant professor Allison Atteberry, which is being peer-reviewed, likewise found that the district kept teachers at higher rates who were ranked as more efficient based on their students’ test score growth than those ranked as less efficient because the reward system started.

The study did not discover proof that the bonus offers triggered teachers to transfer into high-poverty or top-performing schools. But there was some sign that the rate of teachers leaving hard-to-serve schools slowed.


Florida’s instructors union competed in a 2017 claim that the state’s benefit program is discriminatory. It relies in part on college entry test ratings. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this month proposed reforming the program, and no longer tying it to examinations. He stated almost 45,000 extremely reliable teachers would be eligible for bonuses surpassing $9,000.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott won applause in his State of the State address when he raised the concept of gratifying effective teachers with incentives that could aid them earn a six-figure wage. However union leaders said the state test shouldn’t be the step of teacher success.

“The guv offers offense to Texas teachers every time he and his education commissioner claim to want more pay for the so-called finest teachers,” Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas AFT union, said in a statement. “The ramification being that the hundreds of thousands of females and males who teach and support the 5.4 million trainees in Texas’ public schools are not worthy of being paid decently for the difficult work they do every day.”


Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York.