A fellow teacher yesterday said he finds Governor Daugaard's merit pay plan appalling. He says limited merit bonuses will turn teacher against teacher, hurt mentorship, and not improve student achievement. He says the current merit bonus plan would just promote the same sort of in-house cronyism and corruption that he sees rife in Pierre. (My interlocutor happens to be a Republican.)
Now this teacher says he is not against competition. But he would rather direct the Governor's proposed "investment" toward rewards for the top school districts. View each school district as an integral unit. Recognize those districts whose teachers work together to produce the best student results. Let districts compete to be the best, and reward those schools that produce the best results.
Now I'm not sure school-to-school competition is much better than teacher-vs.-teacher competition. But if you dig that sort of thing, you should note that South Dakota already offers a nicely market-based system that rewards those schools that offer parents the best results for their students. When parents open-enroll their kids in other districts, those districts get more funding. If you buy the value of competition in education, you should dig that, right?
Alas, the Senate Education committee voted last week to reduce those market-based incentives for school districts. Senate Bill 85 eliminates open-enrolled students from calculations of the small-school adjustment, the statutory recognition of the fact that small schools simply cost more to run per student, regardless of where those students come from. Small schools remain welcome to offer opportunities for students from out of town, but those school districts will only receive small-school adjustment money based on their resident students, not on the students whom they are able to recruit from larger neighboring districts.
The proponents of this bill, including Madison superintendent Vince Schaefer, insist that SB 85 is not about open enrollment. But it is. SB 85 is another sour-grapes response, just like last year's law restricting bus routes for open enrollers, by which big schools seek to punish small schools that successfully compete for students.
Governor Daugaard has gotten the support of the state's school administrators' association for a merit bonus plan that pits teachers against teachers. But administrators like Vince Schaefer clearly oppose policies that promote competition between his district and neighboring districts... especially when those districts cause Madison to suffer an open-enrollment deficit. The big schools just can't stand competition, and they're using SB 85 to punish those schools that can compete.