Nevada’s schools desperately need more competition. That competition must go beyond school choice and into the unionized teaching profession, which has long been locked into an industrial-era wage scale that ignores performance.
James Guthrie, who resigned as state superintendent of schools about a month ago because his reform vision didn’t align with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s, put himself back in the policy spotlight last week by championing $200,000 compensation packages for Nevada’s best teachers. Doing so would elevate the state’s pool of teaching applicants. The existing workforce, meanwhile, would be driven to achieve “master teacher” status and collect a financial reward for lifting student achievement.
In Mr. Guthrie’s plan, commissioned by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, teachers who work their way into the highest pay grade would have to continue performing to stay there. That’s completely counter to the current system in Nevada school districts, which provide teachers with gradual pay increases based solely on their years of service and continuing education, and drives instructors out of the classroom and into unionized administrative positions because that’s where the higher salaries are.
Naturally, the state’s teacher unions are opposed to the plan. They insist that all pay raises be awarded equally, across the board, because all teachers are effective.
The vast majority of teachers are incredibly dedicated and do a fine job. But as with every other profession, some are superior — and some don’t get the job done at all. Studies show that teacher experience, credentialing and graduate degrees do not translate to higher student achievement, so why keep handing out pay raises for them? Unfortunately, even a modest merit pay plan, which became Nevada law in 2011, has gone nowhere. School districts haven’t established systems and the state hasn’t provided funding.
Mr. Guthrie’s $200,000 figure can be debated. But his idea is sound. It’s past time to give Nevada’s teachers an economic incentive to succeed. Our children deserve as much.