Will LAUSD Ever Adopt Merit Pay For Teachers?


Michelle Rhee, the hard-charging chancellor of Washington D.C.'s public school system, won a major battle over performance-based pay the other day, which now ties teachers' salaries to classroom results not seniority and improves teacher evaluations.

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines

That news coming out of the nation's capital makes us wonder what kind of progress the Los Angeles Unified School District has made with the same thing.

The quick answer? No progress whatsoever.

It isn't all that shocking.

In an L.A. Weekly cover story titled "LAUSD's Dance of the Lemons," Beth Barrett pointed out that in the past decade, "LAUSD officials spent $3.5 million trying to fire

just seven of the district's 33,000 teachers for poor classroom

performance -- and only four were fired, during legal struggles that wore

on, on average, for five years each. Two of the three others were paid

large settlements, and one was reinstated. The average cost of each

battle is $500,000."

With such an ongoing struggle to merely fire bad teachers, it's no surprise that "merit pay" hasn't been championed and pushed through by LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines or teachers' union president A.J. Duffy.

So far, the only bona fide advocate among LAUSD honchos is Yolie Flores, the board of education vice-president, who supports merit pay for all district employees.

Flores is something of a reformer in the mold of state Senator Gloria Romero, who's battling to become the next state superintendent of public instruction. Both women have met strong resistance from teachers' unions and various public school officials whenever they try to bring real reform to local and state classrooms.

LAUSD, as a result, appears to be years away -- or only one new, and gutsy, superintendent away -- from possibly adopting a merit pay system.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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