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Teacher bonuses: CCSD responses to competition

Even good ideas from the Clark County School District end up exposing its fundamental problems.

The district recently announced $10,000 bonuses for teachers who are offered and accept positions at eight struggling middle schools. The current teachers at those schools will have to reapply for their jobs.

This is a good strategy to help those schools. One of the most important factors in student achievement is teacher quality. Offering educators substantial bonuses to teach at these schools should attract a larger candidate pool. It’s then up to the principals to select and retain the best teachers. The bonuses will last for three years. Teachers can also earn a $5,000 bonus based on student achievement.

Principals are free to keep teachers currently working at their schools, but they don’t have to. Presumably, principals will retain their effective teachers. But what happens to the ineffective teachers?

In the private sector, they would likely be out of a job. But in the world of public education, they’ll simply be shuffled off to other schools where they’ll be leading a whole new slew of unfortunate young charges. It’s an unfortunate example of the dance of the lemons — moving bad teachers from school to school, instead of terminating them.

Even given this reality, using bonuses to attract teachers to low-performing schools is a net positive. As a whole, low-performing schools have students with greater risk factors. Kids are less likely to come from two-parent households and more likely to be in poverty and need English instruction. These students present a greater challenges. It makes sense to incentivize the district’s best teachers to work at those schools.

The district should expand this program, but it can’t. It’s funding the initiative through federal Title I money that used to go toward Turnaround Schools. A program such as this requires getting permission from the Clark County Education Association. The union has historically wanted broad-based teacher raises instead of performance pay or incentives to work at failing schools.

The union did agree to this pilot program, however. The reason is telling. As the Review-Journal’s Amelia Pak-Harvey reported, each of these schools faces the possibility of competition. They’ve been so bad for so long that parents can petition under the Achievement School District to bring in a neighborhood charter school. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to give parents options in education. When students — and their funding — can go elsewhere, it forces school districts and teacher unions to adapt and improve.

Watch and see if legislative Democrats and their union allies seek to repeal the Achievement School District. While choices are very good for students, giving parents options terrifies the education establishment.

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