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Obama Tells Teachers Public Schools Should Consider Merit Pay


Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told the largest teachers union Thursday that performance-based merit pay ought to be considered in public schools.

Teachers at the National Education Association’s annual convention have expressed concerns about merit pay, which is gaining favor with lawmakers, including those currently rewriting the No Child Left Behind law.

Teachers say they worry that linking their pay to their students’ test scores would be unfair to teachers who have students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Teachers also say it isn’t fair to offer merit pay only to people who teach courses that are tested, like reading and math, but not to those who teach subjects like music or art.

Obama said teachers’ salaries should be increased across the board, but he also said there should be fair ways of measuring teacher performance and compensating teachers accordingly.

“If you’re willing to teach in a high-need subject like math or science or special education, we’ll pay you even more. If you’re willing to take on more responsibilities like mentoring, we’ll pay you more,” he said.

The Illinois senator said it’s possible to “find new ways to increase pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them and not based on some arbitrary test score.”

Obama said he would only support a merit-pay approach after consulting with teachers.

“What I want to do is work with teachers,” Obama said. “I’m not going to do it to you. I’m going to do with you.”

Linda Nelson, the president of the Iowa NEA chapter, said merit pay is an idea that isn’t going away.

“We need to be at the table. We need to be a part of that conversation, and that’s exactly what Senator Obama said,” Nelson said.

With more than 3 million members, the NEA is the nation’s largest teachers union.

— Associated Press

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