Keeping the system strong, one kid at a time

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Schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan expect to lose around 800 students in the next year, about 3 percent of their enrollment. In order to stem the tide, the district is launching what looks to be a first in new approaches to teacher compensation: giving teachers bonuses if they keep students from leaving the school district.

The bonus plan, forged with the help of the local teachers' union, will make teachers eligible for bonuses of up to 1.75 percent of their salaries, provided that total district enrollment doesn't continue to trend downwards by more than 100 students next year.

The logic is not hard to understand. The more students Grand Rapids keeps, the more money it will get from state and local coffers--so why not pass along some of the benefits to those on the front line? Perhaps the crassness of this plan can be overlooked. Added to the list of "differential pay," "performance pay," and "combat pay," we can now add "sales pay." Alex Chess, president of the local union, is certainly a fan. "Everyone, especially the students, benefits if the kids remain in the system. We teachers can help recruit kids as much as possible and make our system stronger."