States Move On Hardship Pay, Pay Increases

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Arkansas legislators wrapped up their recent special session on education with the approval of several measures that will increase teacher salaries statewide but also grant bonuses to teachers and principals in high-need districts. One measure will set new minimum salaries for each of a teacher's first 15 years of teaching, while others will establish three-year bonuses totaling $10,000 for teachers in distressed areas and five-year bonuses totaling $170,000 for graduates of a master principal program serving in such districts. Representatives of the poorer regions in the state caution that these reforms may not be enough to get teachers where they are most urgently needed. Rep. Calvin Johnson of Pine Bluff, chairman of the House Education Committee, commented, "I have a mixed reaction...I think we failed to do all we should have done on that particular issue."

Ordered by the courts to overhaul its teacher salary system, Tennessee officials have announced a significant funding increase for districts across the state. State funding for salaries will now be based on a single state-wide, rather than a variety of district-wide, averages; smaller districts expect the change will make them more competitive with historically wealthier ones. The funding increase is also expected to provide a 2 percent raise statewide.

No Child Left Behind provides a $3 billion pot of federal money for states and districts to improve teacher quality and we think Mobile County, Alabama, has the right idea on how to spend it. The Mobile County school board is allocating $1.8 million of its federal funds to attract highly qualified teachers and principals to five struggling schools. If selected for the program (a process which seems to consist of a good interview and an essay written by the teacher explaining how he or she intends to raise student achievement), teachers will receive a $4,000 bonus at the start of the school year and another $4,000 at the end, depending on standardized test results of the students. The bonuses will continue for up to five years. Mobile County is the first district in the state to offer incentive pay.