According to Education Intelligence Agency, a confidential memo from National Education Association President Reg Weaver to union officials says John Kerry is backing away from his pay-for-performance proposal under union pressure. EIA writes:
Senator Kerry gave an education policy speech at a California high school on May 6 that expressed support for higher pay for math and science teachers and for those who work in hard-to-staff schools. He also stated the need “to find ways to reward teachers for excellence, and to reward the students’ teachers who obviously show tremendous success.” Kerry said that greater achievement “ought to be able to command greater pay just the way it does in every other sector of professional employment in the United States of America.”
After the speech, Kerry’s campaign released a press statement declaring the candidate “will establish new systems that reward teachers for excellence in the classroom, including pay based on improvement in student achievement.”
Kerry met last week in Washington, D.C. with NEA leaders.
In a memo dated May 21 and disseminated widely to high-ranking NEA officials nationwide, Weaver described what he called “a very positive meeting in which the Senator expressed strong interest in working closely with NEA and outlined his support for a number of NEA priorities.”
On the issue of performance pay, Weaver reported, “We raised our concerns that the Kerry campaign used the language ‘pay-for-performance’ in his press release, although the Senator himself did not use those words in his remarks and the formal policy document did not use it. The Senator clarified that the campaign did not intend to use that language and would not do so in the future. He asked that I convey this point to NEA leaders.”
Weaver went on to note Kerry’s commitment to fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act, to advance early childhood education programs and to “roll back the Bush tax cuts” to pay for education and health care. Weaver’s memo did not mention Kerry’s proposals for differential pay, teacher testing, or expedited teacher dismissal procedures.
In a May 7 speech to the Democratic Leadership Council, Kerry said, “Yesterday, I proposed the most far-reaching reforms in teacher pay in our nation’s history.”
Whether or not Kerry uses the words “pay for performance” in the future is irrelevant to the central question: Will those reforms survive the resistance of education’s most powerful special interest group?
I’m taking it on faith here that EIA got a copy of the memo. That said, it sounds all too plausible. Kerry is missing a chance for a “Sister Souljah moment” in which he openly defies a Democratic constituency to prove his independence.