Rejecting teacher bonuses: Secret motives, secret ballot

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An anonymous donor recently donated $400,000 to two low-performing Nashville schools to be used for teacher bonuses. But according to collective bargaining rules the plan had to be approved by a majority of members of the Nashville teachers' union.

When put to a vote, the measure failed by a slim margin, 51 to 49 percent. In an interview, union president Jamye Merritt explained that voter turnout was low--but that union rules prevented disclosure of the actual turnout.

Teachers at the eligible schools, who missed out on a shot at up to $6,000, expressed frustration that teachers from all of the district's 130 schools were able to decide on an issue that affected just two schools. Other teachers were suspicious of colleagues receiving money from an anonymous donor with unknown motives.

Mary Ladd, Title One coordinator at Inglewood Elementary (one of the eligible schools), said, "Teachers don't get the incentive, and students are not getting the benefit of the excitement that the incentive would have pumped in. It's a lose-lose."