Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Merit Pay in Arkansas: So Far, So Good (Unless You Ask the Teachers Union)

The St. Petersburg Times reports on some interesting findings from a pilot program in Little Rock, where public schools are experimenting with paying teachers according to how well their students learn. According to the Times, the University of Arkansas researchers studying the program found that “students in the pilot schools increased their scores 6 to 7 percentage points more on a national math test than their peers at similar Little Rock schools.”

Another key finding:

When teachers were asked if performance pay increases collaboration among teachers, 83 percent of the pilot teachers said yes, compared to 19 percent of non-pilot teachers. When asked if performance pay led to counterproductive competition, 22 percent of pilot teachers said yes, compared to 74 percent of non-pilot.

The program is still in its early stages (it began two years ago), but the Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association is already trying to pull the plug. Fortunately for Little Rock’s schoolkids, the actual teachers don’t seem to be listening:

Union rules in Little Rock require that before a school begins an alternative pay program, a majority of teachers in that school must approve. So last summer, teachers at five schools cast ballots to either stay in the bonus program or join it.

Despite union opposition, all five schools approved it, with the percentage of teachers voting yes coming in at 100, 90, 79, 79 and 66 percent.

The Times blog caps the story off:

Several teachers in Little Rock told the St. Petersburg Times they were union members — until the Little Rock union came out so strongly against the bonus plan. “Not anymore,” said Angela Rodriguez, a kindergarten teacher at Meadowcliff Elementary. Rodriguez didn’t want to say how big a bonus she got last year, but it was enough to pay for new carpet at the house and a family vacation to SeaWorld in San Antonio. Another Meadowcliff employee, instructional coach Dee Ann Morgan, recalled union reps grumbling at a school board meeting while pro-bonus teachers were encouraging the board to expand the pilot. They were “disrespectful,” she said. She said she quit the union after 20 years as a member.

Letting individual teachers distinguish themselves according to merit (you know, like actual professionals) is probably the union’s worst nightmare. But for schoolkids, it could very well be a dream come true.

Categories: AFL-CIOPolitical Money