Teachers eager to talk pay reform, union leader says

Pay-for-performance raises for teachers is a topic Darren Cook, president of local teachers union Mesa Valley Education Association, expects to hear about more frequently as a new educator evaluation system begins statewide this year.

It’s a topic he says the 900 members in the union don’t want to shy away from.

“There is a view the union is entrenched in how we do things and nothing could be further from the truth,” Cook said. “We think reform is very much needed.”

Starting this year, teachers will be evaluated in accordance with Senate Bill 191 to determine whether they are effective. A rating of ineffective this year and next year could lead to a teacher losing their tenured status.

The bill does not include any provisions for paying teachers more or less based on their evaluations, but Cook said it does open the door to the possibility of teachers earning bonuses for improving their performance. Whether that means bonuses for attending extra trainings, earning top evaluation grades or some other measurable achievement is yet to be determined, Cook said, but he’s willing to explore possibilities in discussions he plans to have this winter with District 51 school board members.

School board members Jeff Leany and Ann Tisue have each expressed interest in exploring teacher pay reform. The board’s newest members, Tom Parrish and John Williams, have yet to take a public stance on the topic as they research its pros and cons. Board President Greg Mikolai said during his re-election campaign this fall he is unsure if the idea is feasible because he fears it would either require some teachers to lose pay so others could get more or require the passage of a mill levy override to get more money into the District 51 budget.

Cook said pay-for-performance is not a “silver bullet.” He also said paying for a salary change will likely mean floating a mill levy override in the years to come. He said he also wants to make sure school board members consider other changes alongside a salary alteration, including more planning time and professional development for teachers. He also wants to avoid unintended consequences, such as teachers swapping schools or students to improve their chances of getting a bonus.


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