From Iowa to Ignacio, Performance Pay Is In Trouble

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In the July 18, 2003 TQB, we reported on an innovative merit pay plan in the tiny southern Colorado school district of Ignacio. Teachers producing high student scores would be rewarded with significant salary incentives; teachers consistently producing low student scores could be terminated. Predictably, the Colorado Education Association and the Ignacio Education Association filed suit in August, alleging that the district was improperly granted waivers from six state laws governing teacher employment practices.


Iowa's statewide merit pay plan is on life support. The culprit, of course, was a budget deficit of $200 million on a $4.6 billion total budget. The pay-for-performance plan was particularly hard hit, though, receiving only $44 million where they had been projected to receive $300 million for the coming fiscal year. Iowa's plan would have replaced the seniority-based salary scale. The good news is that there is still bipartisan support for the plan, according to Ted Stillwell, director of the Iowa Department of Education. But even bipartisan support can't fix a busted budget.