Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Chicago Teachers Union Merits Praise

A Chicago Sun-Times editorial last week calls our attention to a new program being tested in Windy City schools: merit pay. Teachers in schools participating in the pilot will receive bonuses proportionate to how much their students improve over the course of the school year. If the program is done properly, merit pay tends to have two salutary effects: it encourages current teachers to work better and it draws a different breed of teacher candidates, attracted by the prospect of being rewarded for success rather than being shielded from failure. The private sector has known the virtues of merit pay for decades, while public schools are just now starting to catch on — click here to read about Little Rock’s merit pay program, how it seems to be improving education there, and how it drove a wedge between many teachers and their union.

Unsurprisingly, Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart opposed the plan when it was first unveiled in November, writing in her union’s newspaper: “Why does the board feel some teachers deserve more for their hard work but others do not?

More surprisingly, however, union president Stewart has come around to see the merit in the idea. As the Sun-Times writes:

To her credit, Stewart has come around to endorsing the pilot program despite her strong reservations. She was swayed by the role teachers have played and will continue to play in shaping it, the input the union will have and the fact that rewards will be based not on student test scores but on ongoing evaluations of factors including classroom performance.

While Stewart still needs to back off of her original objection (yes, better teachers really should get paid more than less good teachers who work just as hard), it’s good that, in the end, her objection did not cause her to oppose the new program.

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