MichiganVotes Bills

Bill moves Michigan away from merit pay for teachers

In the absence of merit, schools would be left to reward seniority

The Michigan House recently passed six bills that favor the interests of teachers unions over students. Among these, House Bill 4354 is the most damaging, as it will dilute the quality of education delivered to public school students.

HB 4354 gives unions power to bargain over subjects that were previously under the control of school boards. The bill, if signed into law, would reverse the 2011 reforms designed to help schools retain and reward the most effective teachers.

The subjects open to bargaining would include, among others:

  • Performance evaluations
  • Staffing decisions, such as layoffs and recalls
  • Merit pay
  • Teacher placement
  • Discipline
  • Classroom observations

“Passing these bills will help attract and retain high-quality educators who can help our kids succeed,” Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbert said, according to The Center Square.

House Bill 4354 will do the opposite. It will require schools to keep underperforming teachers in the classroom and make it harder for them to retain effective ones. Policies governing teacher placement and layoffs will rely heavily on seniority rather than teacher effectiveness, as the current law requires.

High-performing teachers will no longer be rewarded with merit pay. Performance evaluations will place less weight on objective measures like student assessment data. And limits on classroom observations will make it harder for administrators to offer feedback that supports teachers’ professional growth.

Reopening these subjects for collective bargaining would diminish the power of school administrators to uphold quality teaching standards and hold teachers accountable. Watered-down evaluation criteria will weaken schools’ ability to assess teacher performance. And if a teacher is underperforming, contract restrictions on discipline and layoff procedures will make it harder for administrators to take appropriate action.

Ineffective teachers will remain in the classroom, being paid and promoted based on their seniority. Districts will find it difficult to recruit and retain talented younger teachers under these conditions. ”Last in, first out” will once again become the norm when schools need to make personnel changes.

Improving teacher quality is the best way for schools to foster student success. Michigan’s students still struggle to recover from learning losses created by pandemic-era school closures, so this is not the time to undo laws designed to help schools promote and reward their best teachers. Expanding the subjects of bargaining will strengthen teachers unions at the expense of student outcomes.

Molly Macek is director of the Education Policy Institute at the Mackinac Center. Email her at macek@mackinac.org.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.