The Bait
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The Bottom Line Merit Pay Obstructs High-Performance

Texas is smart to rid itself of incentive compensation for its teachers. Author Aliyya Swaby of the Texas Tribune writes “Huberty [a Representative and committee chair for the Texas Public Education Committee] removed that portion of [House Bill 3]  and instead included a section incentivizing school districts to pay teachers more to work at high-needs campuses, in rural districts or schools, or in subjects with a shortage of teachers.”

They are keen to remove this from the bill because it does not provide the desired outcome. Rather,  it pulls away from having the faculty at schools work as intended, creating a damaging spiral to the academic success of school.

Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Don Nielsen warns of a counter-intuitive result of incentive compensation in his book Every School, “I once studied the functioning of a school district that had implemented merit pay. The outcome was not what had been intended. Teachers who received merit pay were unwilling to share their teaching expertise for fear of not getting a merit bonus the following year…Teachers who failed to get merit pay tended to ostracize those who did.”

Incentive compensation is catastrophic to students. It will decrease academic effectiveness within the school and place an already disadvantaged student further behind.

Nielsen’s analysis of incentive compensation continues, “for example, the ‘internal customer’ of a first-grade teacher is the second grade teacher. If the first-grade teacher fails to prepare the students, then the second grade teacher’s ability to advance student learning will suffer, even if the second-grade teacher is truly outstanding.”

Merit pay is unfair to the children. All faculty must carry their weight; they cannot be withholding information from other teachers for fear of losing compensation. It creates an atmosphere of distrust and places a hindrance on the next teacher’s work. Students lose when educators are set in contrast to one another in a race for preciously scarce payments. It isn’t right and should not continue to happen. Texas is accurate to remove this provision, but will it make the proper steps for the compensation of their teacher corps?

To see what type of compensation is preferential to merit pay, check out our recent article: Overworked, Underappreciated, and Underpaid?

Bailey Takacs

Development Program Coordinator, American Center for Transforming Education
Bailey Takacs served as development program coordinator to Discovery Institutes' American Center for Transforming Education and Development team. Bailey has experiences which also include: campaign management and administrative roles with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of the government. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Government from Pacific Lutheran University.
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