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Chan Lowe: Teacher merit pay


The concept of teacher merit pay appeals to our Republican legislature and governor because it makes sense at a surface level, is a neat, simplistic solution easily comprehended by the public, and has the added benefit of weakening the hated teachers’ unions, which are part of the power base of the Democratic Party.

From the teachers’ point of view, there is no allowance made for students’ sheer stupidity, bad luck of the draw in one’s class roster, or working in schools whose families find it more difficult to spare the time to get involved in their children's learning.

It is true that unions are formed in order to collectively assure that workers receive compensation in line with the work they perform. Without unions, each worker must negotiate alone, and historically, that has led to exploitation.

While unions have done much to better the condition of the working class throughout history, a downside is that they become safe havens for underperformers whom the system would otherwise shed for ineptitude. In the case of education, this is not only wasteful, it shortchanges the students.

There is no easy solution to this problem. Merit pay is a blunt instrument, and will probably not lead to any improvement where it matters, with the students. It will, however, lead to a more dispirited and resentful workforce, which could well end up harming them.

We need a more nuanced, intelligent, multifaceted approach. Unfortunately, that isn’t politically expedient.

Categories: Economy (197), Florida Issues (258), Rick Scott (16)
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If the end result is to have a highly educated and literate society, the major change is a focus on the individual learning needs of each child rather than the equal protection and treatment for all. If a student is struggling in reading, there needs to be an immediate intervention. Unfortunately, since public schools allocate an equal amount of money per student, this is not always financially feasible. Find a tutor that can effectively work with that child. We need to stop funding public school equally per child, which I know sounds difficult and harsh. The school system right now values equal protection ahead of their original goal of educating our best and brightest to their full potential. We have stunted the development of kids in an attempt to level the playing field, which no one agrees on what that should actually look like. Not all public colleges cost the same to attend, why not offer the same school choice for our high schools?

Chan Lowe makes and exceptionally silly argument against paying for performance. In essence, Lowe is claiming all teachers are alike and should be paid that way. It is reminiscent of "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". Where everyone always ends up having the same needs.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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