MTA responses to governor's educational plans

On Bonus Pay Plan:

It is clear from this proposal that Governor Mitt Romney is completely out of touch with what our schools, our teachers and our students need. This is political grandstanding, not genuine education reform.

These rehashed bonus pay proposals are inequitable, ineffective and divisive. They defy logic.

If the governor truly wants to help improve student achievement, his first step should be to reverse the hundreds of millions of dollars in state education spending cuts that have occurred on his watch and before.* If he has another $69 million to spend, that money would be far better spent by targeting help to low-performing schools, reducing class sizes, extending learning time for struggling students and using other proven strategies.

[* Chapter 70 state aid to education has been cut by $427 million since FY02, when adjusted for inflation and changes in enrollment.]

The governor's plan is riddled with inequities and absurdities. What's worse, it gives good teachers an incentive to flee our inner-city schools for the suburbs. Why should an AP calculus teacher in Weston receive a $2,500 bonus for which a remedial math teacher in Worcester is not even eligible? By what stretch of the imagination does that help our students with the greatest needs?

In addition, by limiting so-called "performance pay bonuses" to one-third of all teachers in a district, this plan would arbitrarily deny extra pay to excellent teachers. It is uniquely designed to destroy collegiality in a school, undermining the growing recognition that teachers need to collaborate more – not less – to improve student learning. All the educators in a school, as well as all the teachers who came before, contribute to students' success.

Basing teacher pay in part on student test scores provides a disincentive to work with low-income and learning disabled students, whose test scores and rate of improvement may not match those achieved by their more privileged peers. At a time when we need to attract highly qualified teachers to work with our neediest students, the governor has come up with a plan to drive them away.

The best way to attract and retain excellent teachers -- in math, science and every discipline --is to pay all teachers a fair and competitive salary and provide them with the tools they need to help their students succeed. Those tools include small class sizes, up-to-date textbooks and equipment, adequate time for teachers to collaborate and more learning time for struggling students.

On Plan to Give a Laptop to Every Child:

We believe that all middle school and high school children should have a computer or easy access to one. Fortunately, many of them do. For those who don't, a targeted program may make sense. However, we do not think it is a good use of $54 million to give all middle school and high school students free, taxpayer-funded laptops, whether or not they need them.

Summary: Gov. Mitt Romney's Bonus Pay Plan

(1) Provide $5,000-a-year bonuses to new teachers, including those who do not go through normal licensing process, as well as certain veteran math science teachers. It would also allow these teachers to opt out of the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System and instead receive 401(k) contributions.

Total cost in FY07: $10.5 million

(2) Require all high schools to offer AP calculus, biology, physics and chemistry, and provide $2,500 bonuses to teachers of those AP courses if at least half their students score 3 or better on the exam. Teachers could receive a maximum of two such bonuses a year.

Total cost in FY07: $3.5 million

(3) Provide $5,000-a-year bonuses to teachers in any subject who receive an exemplary evaluation based on criteria to be determined by the DOE, specifically: "Evaluation will be based on data on growth in student achievement, as well as peer and principal review." This evaluation system will not be subject to collective bargaining. The district must pay half the bonus, except in the lowest-performing schools, where the state will pay 100 percent. Only up to one-third of all teachers in any district are eligible.

Total cost in FY07: $55 million
Total FY07 cost of Governor Romney's bonus pay plan:  $69 million