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Testimony of Reg Weaver - Appendix

September 10, 2007

(Submitted as an appendix to NEA President Reg Weaver's testimony to the House Committee on Education and Labor, September 10, 2007)

The profession of teaching should offer a brilliant and rewarding field for professionals committed to the success of their students. Unfortunately, today's teachers still struggle with fundamental needs. Too often, teachers barely make ends meet, find insufficient support for quality professional development and are inconsistently compensated for assuming additional, demanding responsibilities.

Compensation systems must be designed to firmly establish teaching as a respected profession and improve student learning through improved teacher practice. A comprehensive pay system must support factors shown to make a difference in teaching and learning — the skills, knowledge, and experience of classroom teachers.

NEA supports key strategies that can meet these goals. Congressional leadership can accelerate the advancement of the profession of teaching and improve conditions for student learning through the actions outlined here.

  1. Express support for improved starting salaries.

    We know that quality teachers are the key to providing Great Public Schools for Every Student. In order to attract and retain the very best, we must pay teachers a professional-level salary. We must ensure a $40,000 minimum salary for all teachers in every school in this country. While that is primarily a state and local government responsibility, Congress can express support for this minimum salary in the ESEA reauthorization.

  2. Through congressional action, take advantage of the flexibility of salary schedules now in place to offer incentives for teachers to gain additional skills and knowledge and for taking on challenges and additional responsibility.

    Compensation systems now have the flexibility to accommodate some immediate changes. Congressional action that takes advantage of what is already in place will make more of a difference, faster, than trying to reinvent the system.

    NEA recognizes the need in many jurisdictions to bargain (or mutually agree to, where no bargaining exists) enhancements to the current salary schedule. NEA already supports many ideas to enhance the single salary schedule. Congressional support for diverse approaches could spur needed change and enable local school districts to tailor action to their specific educational objectives.

    NEA supports:

    • Incentives to attract qualified teachers to hard-to-staff schools.
    • Incentives for the achievement of National Board Certification.
    • Incentives for teachers to mentor colleagues new to the profession.
    • Incentives for accepting additional responsibilities such as peer assistance or mentoring.
    • Additional pay for working additional time through extended school years, extended days, and extra assignments.
    • Additional pay for teachers who acquire new knowledge and skills directly related to their school's mission and/or their individual assignments.
    • Additional pay for teachers who earn advanced credentials/degrees that are directly related to their teaching assignments and/or their school's mission.
    • Group or school-wide salary supplements for improved teacher practice leading to improved student learning, determined by multiple indicators.

  3. Include in the ESEA reauthorization a competitive grant program that provides funds on a voluntary basis to states and school districts to implement innovative programs such as those listed in item two.

    ESEA offers the opportunity to provide incentives to strengthen the profession of teaching. In constructing those incentives, NEA believes that federally-supported programs will be most effectively implemented when teachers have the opportunity to understand them and option to embrace them. Therefore, any such federal program for compensation innovations must require that such program be subject to collective bargaining, or where bargaining does not now exist, subject to a 75 percent majority support vote of the affected teachers.

  4. NEA opposes federal requirements for a pay system that mandates teacher pay based on student performance or student test scores.

    There are innumerable reasons for steering away from such schemes: tests are imperfect measures; student mobility in a given district or classroom might be high, skewing the system; test scores are not the only measure of student success; single year test scores do not measure growth. In addition, a federal mandate that requires test scores or student performance as the element of a compensation system undermines local autonomy and decision making.

    To be clear: NEA affiliates at the local and state levels are open to compensation innovations that enhance preparation and practice which drive student performance. NEA underscores that in those circumstances, local school administrators and local teacher organizations must work together to mutually decide what compensation alternatives work best in their particular situation. The federal government can play a role in providing funds to support and encourage local and state innovations in compensation systems, but the federal government should leave the specific elements to be decided at the local level.

For additional information contact:
Bill Raabe, Director, Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy
BRaabe@nea.org