Merit pay for teachers won’t work without school choice, argues Cato’s Marie Gryphon in the Orange County Register.
Measuring merit without a competitive market is like landing a plane in a snowstorm without instruments. What makes a teacher good, and who should decide?
. . . Merit inflation is one common problem. Decades of union pay scales and job security have engendered an A-for-effort and cookies for everyone teaching culture. When Texas and Tennessee adopted merit pay, principals insisted that all their teachers were above average, which forced those states to shut down their programs as too expensive.
On the other hand, capping awards would invite administrators to hand out the bonuses to their favorites.
Basing salaries on student scores is problematic too. Rewarding high scores favors teachers in wealthy, well-educated areas; rewarding progress penalizes teachers whose students do so well already there’s little room for improvement. And linking pay to test scores encourages cheating.
Merit pay won’t work in schools as it does in the private sector until parents can take their business elsewhere if they don’t like the quality of teachers, Gryphon writes. If a school has to please its parents, it will pay more to keep the best teachers.
Of course, parents may know who’s the best third grade teacher, but rarely choose to leave a school because their child got Ms. Mediocre instead of Mrs, Ideal.