The merit pay provisions contained in Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 153 (Kasich’s Budget) have been contentiously debated by both sides for their, well, merit.  While supporters might claim that it brings these public sector jobs in line with the private sector, opponents will fiercely debate the lack of evidence that these methods have proven to work.  When merit pay existed in the union-busting Senate Bill 5 legislation, it was easy to draw the conclusion that it was a power play by the Republicans, but now that merit and performance pay language has been lumped into the budget, one must look for an economic benefit to Ohioans; we must identify the way these measures balance Kasich’s $8 billion* deficit.

* It’s not actually $8 billion

So let’s presume for a moment that this premise is correct and that merit pay will help solve Ohio’s deficit while improving education.  A win-win for Ohio.

Let’s identify the problem through the eyes of proponents:

We pay good teachers more, but I’m going to suggest that we hold all teachers accountable. Teachers who can’t teach shouldn’t be in the classroom. … If we’ve got teachers who can’t do the job there’s no excuse for leaving them in the classroom. But the good ones — we’ll pay them more.
–  John Kasich

A teacher-pay system that judges educators on student performance would reward the best teachers, allow “teachers that need improvement to get the help they need, and allow ineffective ones to be removed from the system.”
–  Robert Sommers, director of Governor Kasich’s newOffice of 21st Century Education

The real focus on K-12 pay for performance should be on rewarding the top 25 percent of teachers that when compared to their peers excel in terms of the academic achievement of their pupils. And then there is the bottom 25 percent who are below their peers. Get those who underperform help or help them move on to a new career.
–  Matt Mayer, president of the Buckeye Institute

Gov. John Kasich’s budget and the recently enacted Senate Bill 5 seek to move the state toward evaluations that identify the impact of individual instructors on student learning, in order to inform decisions around retention, pay, hiring and dismissal. This is a huge opportunity to raise the needle on student achievement.
–  Terry Ryan, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Most Americans work and thrive in a merit-based system. In a work setting in which supervisors know they will be judged on the performance of their subordinates, supervisors have every incentive to fairly reward the productive, nurture the promising and weed out the ineffective.
–  Columbus Dispatch

Quick Summary:

  • Teachers will be paid based on performance
  • Effective teachers will be rewarded and paid more
  • Promising teachers will be nurtured to improve
  • Ineffective teachers will be fired
  • Student achievement will improve

Consider then, the Budget Bill (p. 1772) that sorts teachers into one of four categories based on evaluations: (a) Highly effective; (b) Effective; (c) Needs improvement; (d) Unsatisfactory.  If we construct a pay scale based on these assertions using the current Ohio average teacher’s salary ($55,958; Ohio Department of Education) as our baseline and those four categories we might end up with a salary schedule that looks like:

This schedule would significantly reward Highly Effective teachers over their peers, keep Effective teachers above average, and provide a large financial incentive for improvement to teachers who are evaluated in the bottom two categories.  Additionally, the range of $45,000 from low to high approximates the range found in numerous existing teacher-district contracts.  In order to estimate the economic effect of this over time, we need to project the annual change.  Under the current system where most teacher contracts include step increases and/or percentage raises, the average state teacher salary has increased 3% per year.  Contained within the proposed changes to the State Teachers Retirement System is an drop in the annual Cost of Living Adjustment for retiree benefits to 2%.  Since this number could be argued to more accurately reflect the current economic climate, and since we’re simulating this scenario, we’ll assume a 2% increase in these salaries.  Therefore, a ten-year projection of the salary schedule looks like:

Under the current system, the of steps and raises, the average salary projects to be $75,070, so this model would appear to slow down that growth of teacher salaries.  But the chart above, and the current system, make assumptions that are intended to be shattered.  The current system based on experience keeps teachers predictable spread out along the array of salaries, allowing for an easy calculation of averages.  The chart above makes the same assumption that teachers will be equally distributed.  But remember that on of the reasons for this change, according to Robert Sommers, is to “reward the best teachers, allow “teachers that need improvement to get the help they need, and allow ineffective ones to be removed from the system.” So, instead of there being an equal distribution of teachers among these four categories, permitting for that easily calculated average, the model proposed by this bill will seek to aggressively shift teachers to become Highly Effective.  This will be accomplished by firing those teachers who are unsatisfactory and replacing them with new teachers who will “get the job done.”  As a result, teachers on the left side of the pay scale will be dropped, while the remaining teachers will improve due to the financial incentives of the merit pay system, the testing of teachers, and the Governor’s other education reforms, and will migrate or remain to the right.  Over that ten year period, the distribution of teachers will shift dramatically to the right side of the chart as shown below (initial distribution of 25% is based on Buckeye Institute comments about teacher quality):

So, when teachers have dramatically improved thanks to Governor Kasich’s education reforms, we will have the vast majority of teachers rated as highly effective.  Other than questioning the sanity in this narrow vision of cause and effect, very few people would complain about an outcome like this.  A rating of Highly Effective by 80% of our teachers would mean a dramatic increase in student achievement in Ohio.  BUT, this outcome would come at a significant price.  With so many teachers moving into that higher pay scale as intended by Kasich (“But the good ones — we’ll pay them more”) and Sommers, the average salary does change a bit from the previous chart:

Instead of the average salary of teachers dropping from the current system’s projection of $75,070, the reform model and performance pay should actually increase the average teacher salary by an additional $14,000.  For an individual scale, that might sound fine, but consider this AVERAGE applied across the 109,365 teachers in Ohio.  Each year, exactly as the Governor’s Reform Model desires, teacher salaries would increase at a faster rate than is currently happening.  Over a ten year span, the increase in costs would total nearly $12 billion as shown on the chart below:

So sure, maybe that’s their intent all along, to put more money into education and educators, we can’t know for certain.  But can’t we question how this aligns with the Governor’s plan to reduce the $8 billion* deficit?  Has anyone seen the secret documents that actually increase education funding in Ohio by over $1 billion in 2013-14?

Still not $8 billion

And how do  we know that the Governor’s Reforms will work in this manner?  So sayeth the The Jobs Budget: Reforms Book 5, p. 5

The reforms we will implement are aligned to what successful schools require. These reforms will allow great teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards to ensure student results. The Governor‘s reform agenda will move Ohio from being a manager of the educational status quo to becoming a model that other states will emulate.

Let’s get real.  Not a single soul in the Statehouse believes that this effect will occur because not only is the premise of financial gain as an incentive for teachers off-base, no one in the Governor’s office or legislature is discussing the prospect of increasing the education budget in this capacity any time soon.  Unless they start setting aside HUGE amounts of money (this doesn’t even factor in the Teacher Incentive Pay provision) for education, you’ll know that they don’t believe their own rhetoric either.  REAL planning takes a REAL belief that the change will occur.

Simply more evidence that Mr. 49% doesn’t qualify as a REAL Governor.


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