In a move of incredible cheapness and stunted vision, the school leaders of Tipp City, Ohio, have decided to institute performance based pay. It's a good look at just how ridiculous such a system would be.
Tipp City is a bit north of Dayton and has a population of just under 10K. It used to be named Tippecanoe, and was later Tippecanoe City, but there's another Tippecanoe in Ohio and so Tipp City had its name changed. This was apparently a big deal. Fun fact: Kim Deal of the Pixies is from Tipp City.
The school district actually conducted its own phone survey, and respondents overwhelmingly rated the district's education excellent, and its use of tax dollars good.
But the phone survey also touched on another issue facing Tipp Schools--
Tipp City lost many teachers last year to higher paying jobs and nearly 40% of teachers reported they were looking or planned to look for jobs elsewhere. Do you think this is a very important, somewhat important, or not very important concern?
61.1% of respondents (who were overwhelmingly old and without children in the system, because apparently this phone survey was run during the daytime) rated that a Very Important Concern. It came in behind older schools' lack of modern facilities, and the too-small, run-down sports stadium as an important issue for the district. However, because this is Ohio, a state in which schools must go hat in hand to the voters for everything, the survey also checked on support for raising taxes to pay for holding onto teachers. From this we learn that there's a certain percentage of folks who want teachers to stay-- they just don't want to pay for it personally.
So why are Tipp City schools having a personnel problem? They spend less per pupil than eighteen of the surrounding twenty districts. Their personnel problem might be that the teachers have been frozen on their salary step for four years, and for two of those years they have had no cost-of-living increase, which means two years of real-money pay cuts. Working for Tipps is worse than working for tips.
In fact, things have gotten so bad that Tipp teachers are in the midst of forming a union. Seriously. This is playing well locally:
“I am incensed over the fact that we stand on the precipice of having
a union in this town,” resident Pete Schinaman said. Schinaman is the
co-chair of the levy campaign. He asked the board what could have been
done to prevent the teachers association from forming.
Which brings us back to the merit pay.
This is not merit pay as in "additional pay above your step." This is merit pay as in "we're scrapping the entire pay scale and replacing it with this." The proposal is that teachers rated "accomplished" get a 1% raise. (Yes, that's 1 %, with a 1.) "Skilled" teachers get a .75% raise, and "developing" teachers get a .5%. Some quick math tells us that for someone currently stranded on a $50K pay step, the resulting raise will range from $500 down to $250.
So, still losing real dollars every year. I can't imagine why these teachers felt the need to unionize.
I am not sure on which planet this classifies as "trying to retain talented and capable teachers." I'm pretty sure that it sends a clear message and the message is, "If you're waiting for us to finally reinstate a decent pay program, you can stop waiting and start freshening up that resume."
Meanwhile, while other Ohio superintendents are standing up to the state over high-stakes testing, Tipp City's super has sent out a letter reminding parents that while they can opt out, they really shouldn't because it will have bad consequences for the schools, the community and maybe their child, and if they want to opt out, they'll have to do it in person or by phone. Did I mention that administrators can earn up to 3% raises?
So, good luck to you, Tipp City Exempted Village Schools! You have identified a problem and a need, and you have responded to it with a resounding thud, an idea so small and unhelpful that it seems more like mockery than a real attempt to help your teachers thrive and survive, like leaving a one cent tip for the wait-person instead of stiffing them entirely. I hope you enjoy your new union, but if you're worried about that, don't fret, because teachers will probably be too busy packing to bother joining in the first place.