Innovative Colorado school board takes free market approach to paying teachers

Jun 13, 2013 by

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. – The Douglas County school board is adding to its reputation as the most innovative group of school leaders in the U.S.

Reuters reports that beginning next month, the district will begin paying its 3,300 teachers based on the concept of supply and demand.

The district’s various teaching jobs will be divided into five “salary bands,” Reuters reports. Educators in hard-to-fill positions – such as high school math and science teachers, special education therapists – will be paid at the top level, or salary band.

Those in easy-to-fill positions – elementary teachers, art and physical education teachers – will be paid at a lower level.

No current Douglas County teacher will be hit with a pay cut, but they could see smaller merit bonuses if they’re found to be earning more than their market value, Reuters reports.

To our knowledge, Douglas County is the first public school system in the nation to use a free market approach in paying its teachers.

A Denver Post editorial notes, “In many school districts, teachers are still paid according to what is essentially an industrial model, as if they were manufacturing widgets. Their compensation marches up mainly based on the number of years worked and education credentials, as if instructors were interchangeable.”

The Douglas County school board can implement this common sense pay system because it voted in 2012 not to recognize the local teachers union as the bargaining representative for district teachers.

That means the board is free from all those “Thou Shalt Not” rules that fill teacher union contracts. That allows the Douglas County board to be innovative in how it manages the school district.

And it’s been quite innovative.

In the past few years, the board has adopted a number of “controversial policies, including expanding the number of charter schools and providing vouchers to help students pay tuition at private and religious schools. The voucher system is being challenged in court,” Reuters reports.

Some Douglas County parents and teachers – presumably those in a lower salary band – are upset with the new policy.

“To say that elementary teachers are of less value than middle or high school teachers – that’s just unacceptable,” one parent told Reuters.

Actually, it’s the free market that’s determining the teachers’ financial worth, not the Douglas County school district.

Terry Grier, superintendent of Texas’ Houston Independent School District, understands that and supports what Douglas County school leaders are doing.

“It ought to be the wave of the future,” Grier told Reuters.

Innovative Colorado school board takes free market approach to paying teachers – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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