A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

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School District Sees Success Through Merit Pay

Superintendent: 'If somebody is doing a good job they should get rewarded ... whether they've been here 10 years, or 40 years or two years'

The recently expired Leslie Education Association teachers' union contract gave teachers $26.60 an hour if they substituted for another teacher. It paid teachers $467 if their day involved going to more than one building.

The newly-approved contract will create a more comprehensive system that rewards teachers for being good at their job. In fact, the Leslie Public Schools district is using merit pay to benefit teachers in a manner that few others in the state have considered.

The district in Ingham County created a committee made up of teachers, administrators and board members that will develop a "total merit pay process" that the district can transition to, Leslie Superintendent Jeff Manthei said.

The specifics are still to be determined but the idea is to reward excellence in teaching regardless of the number of years a person has been employed. Past union contracts across the state have paid teachers according to their length of service only. A state law passed in 2011 said merit pay had to be considered.

The Leslie School district currently gives up to $400 a year for merit pay.

"We had teachers doing things that they had never done before," Manthei said.

Not all school districts took the law as seriously. Some school districts offered $1 to $3 a year to teachers as merit pay just so they complied with state law. 

Manthei said the district wanted to do what was within the spirit of the state law, so the $400 was given until the district could create a more comprehensive approach to performance pay. He said he expects the committee to complete its work this year.

"The teacher reaction has been positive," he said.

Teachers see a system where they don't have to wait 30 years to make the most money, he said.

"I think there is a belief in our community that if somebody is doing a good job they should get rewarded for doing a good job whether they've been here 10 years, or 40 years or two years," Manthei said. "The present system doesn't allow for that. And we want to attract good teachers."

Leslie School Board Member James Wood credited Audrey Spalding, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's director of education policy, for helping him get information to convince other board members to try a more sophisticated performance pay system for teachers.

"I don't think I could have got this pushed through if it hadn't been for her and the information the Mackinac Center had," Wood said.

Wood said he had long wanted good teachers to be paid for putting in extra effort.

"If you go the extra mile and give everything you got, you have to be recognized for it," Wood said. "By the same token, if you are just coming for a paycheck, you need to not potentially make what someone going the extra mile makes. There needs to be a difference and people need to realize that."

Spalding said aligning teacher pay more closely with performance is a step forward.

"There's no question that good teachers should be rewarded for producing better outcomes for students," Spalding said. "Paying teachers who are doing a better job more will encourage high performers and send a signal to teachers who need to improve."

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See also:

School Districts Value Best Teachers $1 More Than the Worst

Merit-Based Teacher Pay Rewards Everyone

NEA Recognizes Need for STEM Teachers

Commentary: Of Course Merit Pay Is a Good Idea

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Union Salary Schedule Ensures State 'Teacher of the Year' Earns Near Bottom In Pay

State 'Teacher of the Year' Finalist Given Middle-of-the-Pack Pay

$100K Teachers? For Some Educators, Unions Are Standing In the Way

District's P.E. Teachers Average Tens of Thousands of Dollars More Than Math and Science Employees

Troy Gym Teacher Pay Trumps Nationall Recognized Science Teacher

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Will Schools Keep Ignoring Teacher Effectiveness When Setting Pay?