Denver's honeymoon: Over

All hail ProComp!, we once were impelled, for it hath shown that teachers' unions and reformers can work together for good. Not so fast. Now we learn from Education Week that Denver's teachers' union, "in a recent newsletter, called on teachers to prepare for a strike if negotiations [to reform ProComp] fall through." ProComp, you may recall, is Denver's well-meaning but rather weak-kneed merit pay plan, enacted in 2004 through a much-ballyhooed union-district partnership. It was understood that the program's specifics would be renegotiated every three years. Thus, the city's school district (which just posted big test score gains), led by Superintendent Michael Bennet, recently proposed changes to ProComp that would raise the starting teacher salary from $35,000 to $44,000 and would bump from $1,067 to $2,925 the bonuses that teachers who work in hard-to-staff schools, or who teach subjects such as math and science, could earn. These changes are specifically targeted to attract more high-quality teachers and increase retention. The union, however, doesn't get it--it's stonewalling Bennet's proposals and wants a 3.5 percent increase in the salaries of all educators. How a 3.5 percent boost will attract new, talented teachers to the district and then retain them is unclear; it's also unclear how the union's plan is different from the imprecise, across the board salary schedules to which ProComp was intended to be an alternative. Work with the unions, yes we can?

"Model Plan of Merit Pay in Ferment," by Vaishali Honawar, Education Week, July 28, 2008

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