Does merit pay encourage more effective teaching?

Regarding Reg Weaver's Nov. 13 Opinion piece, "To boost students and teachers, steer clear of merit pay on the road to reform": One of the hallmarks of capitalism is the concept that the greatest rewards will go to those who make the greatest contribution. In short, one's pay shall be directly related to one's performance. It is shocking that Mr. Weaver, the president of the National Education Association, does not believe in this concept. After all, his 3.2 million member organization has the responsibility for educating students to function in the most capitalistic country in the world.

The system of basing teacher pay upon years of service and not performance smacks of socialism. Such a system appeals to mediocre teachers who know they will get pay raises no matter how dismal their performance. It also discourages highly effective teachers who soon realize that superior performance is of no additional value. It is essential that we retain effective teachers, and a merit pay system is an extremely important part of being able to do that.
John Graybill
Boca Raton, Fla.

Thank you to Reg Weaver for his Nov. 13 Opinion piece on steering clear of merit pay. The piece hit it right on the head. Speaking from 33 years of experience in education, the competition that merit pay has created among teachers does not seem healthy. Besides, teachers don't work in isolation. It takes working as a team of many members to help children succeed. Mr. Weaver is right to say the Bush administration's Teacher Incentive Fund is misguided. In reality, this merit-based pay system will only be a waste of money. It is interesting that they didn't ask people in the know for their opinion.
Mary Martha Miller
Los Fresnos, Texas

Union membership should be voluntary

In his Nov. 6 Opinion piece, "For unions, a Supreme test of fairness," Bob Williams wrote that if the US Supreme Court upholds Washington State's "paycheck protection" regulation in my organization's Davenport v. Washington Education Association (WEA) case, union officials' "ability to raise money" will no longer "trump the constitutional rights of individual citizens."

Yet Mr. Williams's organization filed a third-party brief in the US Supreme Court arguing that the money involved was "minuscule," since the law at issue implicated "...less than 1 percent of the WEA's total expenditures." The fact is, until compulsory union dues are eliminated (rather than just regulated), employees' freedom of speech and association will be compromised.

The central issue in the pending US Supreme Court appeal filed by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys on behalf of 4,000 teachers is whether the Washington State Supreme Court's creation of a constitutional "right" for union officials to spend employees' mandatory dues on politics will stand. Even if union officials must ask permission before spending employees' dues on a small percentage of the union's political activity, Washington's law still requires nonunion employees to pay for myriad other political and noncollective bargaining activities. That's because Washington – and 27 other states – have not yet passed a right-to-work law making union affiliation and dues payment voluntary. Aside from providing real protection to employees, allowing people to hold a job whether or not they belong to a union is the solution that a 2004 poll showed nearly 80 percent of the American people support.
Mark Mix
President, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Inc.
Springfield, Va.

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