GOP’s merit pay bill ignores factors outside the classroom


Legislation introduced by Rep. Pete Lund, R-Romeo, would make it illegal to pay future educators based on their experience and advanced degrees, except for few exceptions.

Republican lawmakers are ignoring external factors that affect student learning by introducing a bill that would make teacher “performance” the primary factor in determining educators’ pay, education advocates told the Associated Press in an article published over the weekend.

House Bill 4625, introduced May 7 by Rep. Pete Lund, R-Romeo, would make it illegal to pay future educators based on their experience and advanced degrees, except for few exceptions.

Instead, the bill would make teacher performance the “primary” factor in determining pay, as opposed to its current status of being a “significant” factor. Performance would be primarily measured by student growth on standardized tests.

The AP reported Sunday that “such a policy could lead to competition in schools where cooperation and idea-sharing is essential, and punish teachers working in low-income areas where factors beyond the teacher’s control can hinder student growth.”

Basing teachers’ pay on high-stakes testing can force educators “to engage in a competitive, sort of cutthroat nature with one another,” said state Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights. “I don’t think that cultivates the type of environment we want in the classroom.”

In addition, doling out pay to teachers based on their students’ test scores could unfairly punish teachers who serve academically- or economically-challenged students, state Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said.

“There is a strong connection between poverty and low test scores among students ... and many times there are often multiple barriers to success going on outside of the school hours and outside the control of the teacher,” Brinks said.

MEA supports increasing accountability for everyone involved in education, including teachers, support staff, administrators and parents. But first, policymakers must provide more support to school employees — instead of continuing to slash education funding and pass laws that attack teachers and education support staff.

Furthermore, there must be a reliable method of evaluating teachers that takes numerous critical factors into account, instead of just relying on test scores. The Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness is working on a comprehensive teacher evaluation system, but its proposal won’t be ready for another month, and the earliest the MCEE’s recommendations could be implemented is fall 2014.

The House Education Committee held a hearing last week on House Bill 4625, and is expected to take additional testimony Wednesday morning. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, told the AP she hopes to have the House vote on the bill before lawmakers leave for their summer break in July.

MEA members are encouraged to contact their legislators and ask them to oppose House Bill 4265.