Peer pre$$ure

Team spirit is paramount in the eyes of teachers at Bellaire Elementary in Hurst, Texas. That's how they explain their decision to reject--by a vote of 45 to 2--a $90,000 merit pay grant from the state. Texas's pay-for-performance plan is the biggest in the nation, rewarding high-performing teachers in high poverty schools. But teachers at Bellaire and approximately 2 percent of the Lone Star State's other 1,160 eligible public schools have refused the moolah (disbursed to schools to help them set up their merit pay systems), saying the program creates an inequitable and competitive environment. Rejecting the startup money means rejecting possible bonuses which will be paid in the spring. "Our teachers have a team spirit, and many felt this money would just pit teacher against teacher," said Bellaire principal Bea Cantu. This "teamwork" argument is oft-cited within the walls of the education system. But somehow players on professional sports teams manage to live with themselves--and create a winning spirit--even when the quarterback gets a bonus or the pitcher makes ungodly sums of money. Chalk it up to the strange culture of education--the heart of Soft America--which might take more than a few extra dollars to change. 

"Some schools pass up bonuses," by Terrence Stutz, Dallas Morning News, October 2, 2006

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