Teachers have Market-Based and Performance Pay, but no Union Representation

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Our district team looks at teacher contracts and documents from over one hundred districts in the Tr3 database. We recently analyzed Douglas County School District's, (Colorado) updated policies which include some unique changes.

Douglas County is home to Colorado Springs and the 3rd largest school district in the state. Until this fall, Douglas County participated in collective bargaining and even earned praise from the US Department of Education for the collaborative work of the district and the union. However, in September 2012 the Douglas school board voted to no longer negotiate with the union and instead came up with its own policies to govern teachers. This is legal in Colorado since collective bargaining is allowed there but not required.

One of the major changes Douglas County has implemented since its break from the union is a new market-based,performance pay system. The district determines a teacher's base salary according to his/her experience, education, skills, and teaching position (i.e. kindergarten, secondary math, or special education) along with the ratio of vacancies to applicants in that subject area. The performance pay is determined by the teacher's evaluation, 50% of which is based on student data. The district is also developing an additional bonus pay system that factors in lesson planning, professional growth, leadership and student and parent surveys.

As a former teacher, I wonder how all these changes are viewed by Douglas County teachers. If I worked there, I think I would welcome the new performance pay system, since it provides opportunities for more feedback, professional development, and financial rewards for success; but the market-based pay system seems confusing and stressful. There isn't an explanation of exactly how the base pay is decided for each teacher and whether market changes could cause the base pay to drop. I might also wonder why, after years of working together on innovative policies, the district no longer wants to work with the union.

Tara Williams is an analyst with our District Policy Team and former teacher.