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My Turn: Reward good teachers by basing pay on merit

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2003

Ms. Audap's letter regarding the Juneau School District's lack of support for teachers is well written, and persuasive. She obviously loves what she does and probably does it well. No doubt she would do well in being assessed by her administrators, fellow teachers and students. And she should be paid accordingly. No doubt about it.

Let's takea short stroll down the hall. In the next classroom resides the long-time teacher that's just biding his time until retirement. He's the guy that thinks the kids have changed for the worse and there is no getting to them anymore. Look back to your own school years. Yeah, you know the one I'm talking about. Or two. Or one-fourth of the teaching staff.

Does this teacher deserve the same benefit as Ms. Audap? Is he making an impact on the lives of our young people? Would students, staff and administrators give him high marks? Or would they kindly recommend that he be "put out to pasture?" Is the teacher union's position that he deserves the same compensation?

I'm not real sweet on unions in general.Iput in some time working for the state of Alaska and was forced to pay dues. During those years the only individuals I saw actually use the services of the union were those individuals who were chastised by supervisors for not pulling their weight, or were protesting lackluster performance reviews. Yeah, you know the ones. Microsoft added solitaire to their operating systems just for them.

And yet I'm torn. Over the past five years I've had the unique privilege to assist a number of teachers in purchasing homes. Through this contact, I've come to appreciate the good teachers' consternation over the seemingly widening gap between themselves and the school district. As much as it pains me, I must admit that their union is necessary under the current pay system. For now, I can only endorse the teacher's efforts for better compensation. And yet I hope it rankles those good, passionate, dedicated teachers that they are fighting for higher pay for the bad ones, too.

Yep, I'm advocating a complete change in the system. Merit pay for teachers is not a new concept. Let's pay those individuals who are making an impact on our children handsomely, because their job is so important that some of them deserve six-figure salaries. At the same time we can "pull the weeds" and make room for fresh energy in the classrooms. But guess what, good teachers? Your union isn't going to support such a concept. The union is going to advocate for that minority individual who is responsible for the distasteful adage, "those who can't, teach."

I vote yes for virtually every referendum involving increased funding for education, sometimes blindly. We need the new high school and we don't need to scale it down because there aren't enough students currently enrolled to fill every classroom to capacity. We need to plan for growth. But that's fodder for another dissertation. We do need to support and value our educators, especially the larger amount of dedicated professionals. But let's change the system. That won't be easy. The current climate of the union and the administration lobbing volleys across a wide chasm, introducing a radical new concept is difficult at best. But whichever side loads this conceptual artillery shell gets my wholehearted support.

• Scott H. Granse is a Juneau realtor.



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