Identify then pay good teachers

(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

The General Assembly is considering legislation that could prove helpful to school districts looking to attract and reward good teachers. The bill, which has passed the House and is under consideration by the Senate, would give districts the authority to negotiate higher pay with individual teachers despite the salaries district-wide negotiated with teacher unions.

The state’s largest teacher union, the Indiana State Teachers Association, is against the bill because it “would cause division” among teachers and could lead to disparity in pay because the subjects most in need of teachers who could be lured with bonuses are math and science classes, which tend to be dominated by men.

The legislation is a reasonable response to the state’s teacher shortage. The number of first-time teaching licenses issued by the state Department of Education has declined by 33 percent over the past five years. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, Senate Education Committee chairman, says school districts should have more flexibility to fill teacher vacancies. “We need to have our school corporations be able to respond locally to school shortages,” Kruse said.

Amen. In fact, “greater local flexibility” is a good idea in all areas of education, not just teacher salaries. The further up the chain of command we go, the less about local needs is known. So most decisions should be made locally, the fewest federally. We are doing it exactly wrong.

And addressing the teacher shortage is not the only reason to let districts negotiate individual salaries. Outside the cloistered environment of a union operation, it has long been recognized that rewarding excellence is the best way to encourage excellence.