Independent candidate for District 8 House Jason Bjorklund supports merit pay for teachers. I've mentioned previously that measuring teacher performance is tricky; I'll need to ask Bjorklund at the first candidate forum just what specific metrics he'd use to determine which math teacher gets a bonus.
But it occurs to me as odd that merit pay comes up for teachers but not for any other public servants. Why would we focus so much attention on making teachers prove their worthwhen there are so many bigger fish to fry on the public payroll?
If we're going to talk merit pay, let's start at the top. Let's experiment with the most highly paid, most powerful public employees first and work our way down.
In the education system, for instance, let's start with merit pay for our university presidents. Enrollment up at DSU? Good for you, Dr. Knowlton! $5000 bonus. Dip in retention at SDSU? Oh, sorry, Dr. Chicoine: that's $5000 off your salary (though he can make that up by attending one Monsanto board meeting). If merit pay works with our university presidents, we can phase merit pay in further down the ladder: add our top VPs and administrators one year, maybe deans and department chairs the next, rank-and-file professors and instructors after that.
Same in the K-12 system. Don't start with the teachers: start with the superintendents and principals. Or maybe go bigger: since the K-12 system is the constitutional responsibility of state government, apply merit pay first to the people at the top of the power pyramid: the governor and the secretary of education. If schools across the state see their ACT scores go down, nick Governor Rounds's and Secretary Oster's pay $1000 each.
We could even apply this principle at the local government level. Take Lake County. Dwaine Chapel, executive director of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, makes over $100,000 a year, more I think that any public official, elected or otherwise, in our county. Chapel will tell you the LAIC is quasi-public-private, but his salary is paid for essentially by tax dollars. Why don't we test out merit pay on his position first? Every month that unemployment goes up, chop that paycheck by $1000. For every new business that opens its doors, $1000 bonus.
If we see merit pay produce results for the LAIC, then we can try it at other levels of local government:
- Give city engineer Chad Comes a bonus for the year if there are fewer water main breaks and sewer backups.
- Give states attorney Ken Meyer a bonus for a higher successful prosecution rate.
- Give city finance officer Jeff Heinemeyer a bonus for higher satisfaction ratings in the next Citizen Survey.