The Alaska Journal of Commerce (AJOC) has published three very interesting pieces this week focusing on teacher pay, performance bonuses and student performance. All pieces are very readable to the lay person.
In “Small Alaska school district remains alone for performance bonuses”, the author reports on the Chugach School District, which was the first in the nation to implement a merit pay system that rewards teachers and administrators based on both teacher and student performance. The system has had some positive results but the superintendent cautions that the system may not work in other districts and is not a “magic recipe.”
In “AJOC EDITORIAL: How much is enough?”, AJOC points out that most public discussions about teacher pay in Alaska leave out important factors. “In sum, teachers in Alaska earn more than the average worker, they pay less in taxes and health insurance premiums then [sic] the average worker, and they have a more generous 401k match than virtually any other worker.” The editorial goes on to put these discussions in the context of disastrous unfunded teacher pension liabilities in many other states. Alaska was very fortunate to take action in the past which allowed us to dodge that bullet.
The final article, “Already among largest education spenders, advocates argue for more” covers school funding, teacher pay and benefits. Our own David Boyle weighs in on the conversation. The AJOC author states:
“As a percent of total income, no state spends more on education than Alaska, also according to NEA data.
How that translates into keeping teachers and recruiting more to fill a current backlog of vacancies creates the apparent contradiction of Alaska already spending huge sums yet not spending enough, according to the dozens of educators and advocates who descended on Juneau in April during budget talks.”
Our take? Teachers, who perform one of the most important jobs in our communities, should definitely be compensated well. We must look not just at teacher pay but at overall education spending–and most importantly at educational outcomes. Are we educating our students to succeed in life? Giving them nothing less than an opportunity to succeed is unacceptable.