Teacher pay bill expected to pass, but educators are worried

Published: Mar. 10, 2011 at 4:16 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 20, 2011 at 3:16 AM EDT
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By Taylor Kearns - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There could be a dramatic change in the way South Carolina schools are funded. The House has approved a measure that gives districts more money to educate poor students by changing the way teachers get paid. 

Automatic yearly raises would be out, and a new incentive plan would be in. But many south Carolina teachers have concerns about the bill, and are worried that student performance will weigh heavily on how they're compensated. 

Governor Nikki Haley and State Superintendent Mick Zais are both Republicans, and both campaigned on basing teacher pay at least in part on how their students perform. This bill could allow that to happen, and that has some teachers worried.

Teachers can find plenty of materials at Educational Wonderland that are intended to help their students succeed. Soon that success could be tied to their paycheck. "It's just unrealistic," said Tara Farmer, who has been a South Carolina teacher for 18 years.

She and others fear the bill could clear the way for compensation linked to student achievement. "There's too many factors, and too many of them are beyond a teacher's control," said Farmer. "It's not that the teacher's not doing the best she can do, it's not that the student doesn't want to succeed, but there are a lot of factors out there that goes into whether a student's successful or not."
The bill does not lay out a new pay scale. Instead, it calls for an "incentive compensation plan" which would be designed by a committee of teachers through the Department of Education. It also gets rid of automatic pay raises, and lets districts decide whether to give teacher's pay increases each year.
Supporters of pay-for-performance say it would mean more accountability, and "even the playing field" for teachers in lower-income districts. "They would have the same opportunity to make what they would in a Spartanburg or Richland 1," said Representative Bakari Sellers. "You could go to a Bamberg, Barnwell or Orangeburg and make up that gap, recruit that teacher to make up that gap by simply saying there are bonuses that are there based on this system."

"I don't think teachers are going to want to go to the places that are already struggling to perform," said Farmer. "It's not a resistance to accountability, we just need something that's fair and realistic."

The bill is expected to pass, but we won't know how teachers will be evaluated or what factors will be included in the incentive compensation plan until that committee gets to work.

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