CUNNINGHAM: New BESE Stipend Is How To Do A Teacher Pay Raise

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved its Minimum Foundation Program formula this week. It made recommendations for increased teacher pay and school funding. Also in the proposal was a stipend for mentor teachers in the state’s mentor teacher program. The stipend will allow for experienced teachers who mentor new teachers through the program to make more money for helping to improve the education environment in our state’s schools.

I’ve mentioned on occasion that incentive-based or differentiated pay for teachers is the way to go in Louisiana, rather than just throwing money at teachers to try to keep them happy. Just handing out pay raises isn’t enough to improve education in Louisiana, because there is simply nothing in those raises to push teachers to work harder for their students. Differentiated pay, however, pushes teachers to earn that money, creating a better educational atmosphere for students.

And, ultimately, that should be where education reform efforts in Louisiana are aimed. Not into the pockets of every teacher, but into the pockets of those who have truly worked to improve how we educate our students.

Offering these incentives is the best way to draw the best out of our teachers. This particular incentive is also perfect because it avoids tying the extra money to test scores, which is a big concern for those wary of differentiated pay. Because mentoring involves helping new teachers become better, naturally scores will go up but it is good professional development for the mentors, who are focused on evaluating and re-evaluating what they do in order to ensure they are giving the best advice to the teachers they are mentoring.

I don’t disagree that Louisiana’s teacher salaries need to come up and be competitive, but this is simply not a situation where throwing money at the problem will fix it because it focuses on the wrong issue. The issue with education in Louisiana is not teacher pay, but it’s student performance and (more importantly) growth. We can have moderate pay scale increases but the truly big pay jumps have to come from differentiated pay initiatives that attract teachers and push them to working harder for their students.

If we can get the legislature to look at other measures of incentive-based pay like this plan from BESE, then we will see more real student growth in Louisiana.

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