A statement from teachers at Bushwick Community High School, Bushwick, Brooklyn:
Our school, Bushwick Community H.S., rejected the bonus pay program.
It was a long staff discussion, where we came to consensus that we didn’t want to offer any perceived support to this idea through our participation. The discussion was not so much about whether or not the program is a good idea for schools (we pretty much all agreed that it is not), but whether it was worth giving up the money to make a protest that will just be symbolic as DOE/UFT pushes this program through regardless.
In the end, we agreed that the arguments against this program are strong and principled enough that we couldn’t pass them over. The main arguments we discussed were:
-The program implies that we do not bring our full effort to our jobs, and only money will motivate our work. As teachers, we are thoroughly insulted by that suggestion.
-Singling out schools with marginalized students for such “combat” pay speaks to a bigoted mindset. Of course the schools can use more support, but offering it to teachers suggests the hardship is located with them as they “deal with” students who are cast into deficit-model roles of “problem children”.
-There are much more effective and direct methods of using money to improve schools. Any “bonus” money should be going into such programs at the direction of the school community.
-The program utilizes reductionist measures of education which will be easy to manipulate, and the DOE will be able to paint any picture it would like of how merit pay works in order to justify expanding this program to a larger scale in the future.
-We do not trust the DOE and their intentions for schools, the UFT, and standardized testing with this program. From experience, we do not believe they have the best interests of teachers and students in mind, and we will not be bought into jumping on board with their latest initiative. Also, here are two letters to the editor we wrote to the NY Sun after they did an article on the program and framed it as teacher support for merit pay:
-“As reported in “Weingarten Sees Support for Merit Pay”, we teachers at Bushwick Community H.S. will not be participating in the bonus pay program. It is a misguided step in educational policy, and we refuse to give it further momentum by joining. The premise of the program- that we have not been giving our full efforts toward students’ success and we will now step up to our job only because money is dangled before us- is downright insulting.
It is a clumsy analysis of public education to believe that the complex challenges facing schools boil down to teachers waiting to have their motivation purchased. If the Department of Education is serious about serving the high-needs schools identified for this program, these available funds should go directly into educational initiatives developed by each school community striving to meet those needs everyday, not into some contest for bonus pay.”
-“In response to the article “Weingarten Sees Support For Merit Pay,” my colleagues and I turned down the proposal because it was insulting and ridiculous. Implicit in the offer are the underlying beliefs that: 1) teachers are currently not trying to do their best and 2) teachers are only interested in their paychecks. Our priority as teachers has always been, and continues to be, the education and success of our students.
Our dedication is to our work. To accept this offer would imply our values were otherwise. The “success” of the program is a foregone conclusion and a farce. A year from now, undoubtedly, many schools will be lauded for having met the benchmarks. Bloomberg and Klein will trumpet the success of this pilot program. In fact, these schools would have achieved the exact same improvement without the bonuses. If there is a school that wouldn’t have improved were it not for cash incentives, that’s shameful.”