Iowa, California Tackle Performance Pay

Published April 1, 2001

While teacher union officials in Iowa are jumping into the performance pay pool with both feet, union locals in California are draining the pool.

Iowa Embraces New Pay Structure

In Iowa, Governor Tom Vilsack will introduce legislation that will create the first statewide teacher performance pay system in the country. Vilsack, a Democrat, worked closely with the Iowa State Education Association and briefed its representatives on the contents of the proposal.

As the proposal currently stands, teachers will be assigned to one of five “career levels,” and the state will set a minimum salary for each level. The first level will be “Provisional Licensure,” a standard two-year probationary period. This will be followed by “Career 1” and “Career 2,” “Advanced” and “National Board Advanced.”

Once past the probationary stage, teachers can spend their entire careers in “Career 1” if they so choose. However, they will be eligible to advance to “Career 2” after three to five years and completion of a locally negotiated professional development program. Reaching the “Advanced” category requires taking on additional responsibilities. Finally, teachers can choose to apply for national certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and move into the highest pay category. In addition, there will be school-based bonuses for student achievement.

The plan does away with automatic increases for years on the job and graduate credits, though the price is high–as much as $250 million just to implement it over the next few years. And the state will need to exercise some oversight once the system is in place. ISEA has told its members that local associations “could negotiate incremental steps between the career stages.” Too many intermediate incremental steps and the state may be out a quarter-billion dollars for the same salary schedule with a fancy new name.

California Quickly Backpedals

In California, under intense pressure from United Teachers Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Unified School District quickly dropped its own performance pay plan and is in the process of acceding to the union’s salary demands. The local teachers union in the South Bay Union School District in Southern California is advising its members to turn down a $750 bonus for improving school test scores.

“To single out people or whatever at schools and say ‘You did a better job,’ I think that kind of flies in the face of professionalism,” Southwest Teachers Association President Frank Cherry told the San Diego Union Tribune.

Mike Antonucci is director of The Education Intelligence Agency, an organization that conducts public education research, analysis and investigations. His weekly Communiqué is available at or from [email protected].