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Teacher group proposes new system to pay LAUSD teachers

Vanessa Romo | June 4, 2014

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Educators for Excellence logoAs LA Unified and the teachers union dive into negotiations over a new contract, a local education advocacy group is weighing in with a new plan for how to pay teachers.

A policy paper by Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a group founded by two former Teach for America teachers that has funding from the Gates Foundation, suggests instructors willing to work in hard-to-staff schools should earn higher salaries, and the district should provide extra pay for educators who take on leadership roles and demonstrate an “effective” application of professional development and impact on student growth.

The proposal has gained the enthusiastic support of Superintendent John Deasy and the raised the interest of two school board members — Monica Garcia and Steve Zimmer. All three attended an event yesterday to present the ideas. It’s unclear yet how the union’s new leadership would regard such changes,

“I don’t just automatically get to set policy, otherwise I would take your papers in and stamp them,” Deasy told the audience of more than a hundred educators.

He congratulated E4E members on their “forward thinking ideas” but cautioned them saying, “This is minority thinking in LAUSD.”

The policy recommendations — including teacher pay tied to student performance — are intended to stem a potential teacher staffing crisis: Waves of teachers will soon retire, enrollment in education graduate programs is down nationwide and the average teacher turnover is five years.

Before running out to attend a nearby high school graduation, Deasy gushed over the plan calling it “phenomenal, enlightened, progressive, and innovative.”

The team responsible for drafting the proposal studied the pay structures of school districts in Colorado, North Carolina, Washington D.C. and New York City, which have implemented some of the same ideas.

“Our steps and lanes system just isn’t working,” Angela Campbell, a member of the policy team and science teacher at Polytechnic High School told LA School Report.

The district determines teacher salaries based on years of experience — known as steps — and degrees and professional development credits earned — lanes. Science, math and special education teaching positions, which are hardest to fill, receive a bump in pay.  (Before the recession these teachers were also entitled to a retention bonus every few years.) These terms have been set over decades of negotiations between the district and UTLA.

“I’m interested in what [UTLA President-elect] Alex Caputo-Pearl has to say about this,” Garcia told LA School Report.

“I’m interested in in improving student outcomes and improving graduation rates,” she continued. “If that has anything to do with differentiated pay structures, then I am extremely interested.”

Over the summer, E4E’s policy team will gauge the interest of other board members. They have plans to meet with each member as well as the Superintendent.

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