Last week Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell called for a two percent raise for Virginia teachers in exchange for lengthening the probation period for tenure from three years to five, adding incompetence (defined as receiving “one or more unsatisfactory performance evaluations”) as cause for termination, and streamlining the grievance process. McDonnell put forward a similar proposal a year ago that died in the legislature. Never mind that teachers in Virginia haven’t had a state-supported salary increase since December 2007, as McDonnell’s press release points out. Is the trade on the table, just under $1,000 a year for the average Virginia teacher in exchange for a higher risk of losing their job, a good offer?
To see what amount would induce teachers to make the trade, the real world and the academic literature has some examples of where this trade has played out:
- In the spring of 2011, Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna offered his version of the trade with a $335 increase in salaries for teachers (about a 1 percent raise) in exchange for, among other things, creating short-term contracts, adopting comprehensive teacher evaluation systems, and instituting a performance pay plan. The package of reforms dubbed the “Luna Laws” all went down in public referenda in last month’s election.
- Last year AEI released a paper from Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs arguing that teachers were paid 52 percent more than market rates, including an 8.6 percent job security premium that took into account lower unemployment rates and security provisions that protect a teaching position that they argue already pays a wage and benefit premium.
- Education Sector conducted a survey in 2003, 2007, and 2011 asking teachers whether they would “personally be willing to trade tenure for a pay increase (e.g., $5,000 per year), or would the pay increase have to be A LOT higher.” The numbers haven’t moved much from 2003, but in 2011, 30 percent would take the trade, 31 percent said the money would have to be “a LOT” higher, and 25 percent would rather not make the trade, period. Fifteen percent weren’t sure.
- The District of Columbia Public Schools is in its third year of offering teachers a version of the job-security-or-higher-pay trade. Highly effective teachers who teach in high-need schools and subjects can earn base salary raises up to $25,000 in addition to annual bonuses up to $25,000 if they give up the potential for a contract buy-out if they are excessed in the future. A teacher making $51,000 a year was eligible for a base salary increase of $12-18,000 (24-35 percent).
In the most recent year for which data are available, about 80 percent of the DC teachers accepted the deal in exchange for higher salaries, while 71 percent accepted the bonus. And, as we might expect, the higher the rewards, we see a greater percentage of teachers accepting the offer. Additionally, all of these numbers have gone up from Year 1 to Year 2, suggesting that teachers are becoming more confident that the District will hold up its end of the bargain.
These sorts of trades hold promise as a way to permit teachers to choose between lower pay with more security versus greater accountability with more recognition and higher compensation. But the size of the salary boost matters and the examples above suggest that Bob McDonnell’s offer is not likely to be very enticing.
Photo Credit: Grant and Deb Photographers