Oklahoma Lawmakers Analyze Merit-Based Pay for Teachers

By Clough, Sarah | THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 12, 2007 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma Lawmakers Analyze Merit-Based Pay for Teachers


Clough, Sarah, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Oklahoma Education Association President Roy Bishop and House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, squared off Tuesday over whether raising Oklahoma teachers' pay to regional averages needed to happen before a merit-based pay system is implemented.

In his presentation before the House Education Committee on teacher merit pay, Bishop criticized the Legislature for allowing Oklahoma to rank last in its region of seven surrounding states and 47th in the nation for teacher salaries.

Cargill said the OEA was proposing a false choice between higher standards and accountability and higher wages.

"I believe in the 'and,' not 'either/or,'" Cargill said.

Bishop said merit pay was not a novel idea and had historically failed because such plans have not been adequately funded.

"Historically we've been promised the same thing with no results," Bishop said.

Cargill said the state has invested in public education in record amounts for the past three years, and that it must be coupled with increased accountability and higher standards.

Bishop said he didn't believe OEA was asking the state to choose.

State Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore, said the Legislature had fulfilled its obligation for teacher raises, but that other states were raising salaries as well.

Oklahoma has improved from the $2,600 per year it was trailing in annual salaries; the state is now about $1,200 below the regional annual average.

The committee also heard a presentation from Randi Kirchner of Education Minnesota, a teachers' union that participated in the implementation of an alternative pay system in 2000.

The program allows school districts to opt in, with a few districts giving the options to individual teachers. The program is controlled at local levels with benchmarks and determining which tests and other evaluation methods will be used to assess student gains. …

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