New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's favorite whipping boy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, says he could support merit pay in classrooms so long as schools, not individual teachers, are rewarded.
The man who was hoodwinked by Christie during last year's budget debate is in support of a merit pay bill that rewards schools for exceeding educational expectations, which could be debated before the Legislature recesses for the winter holidays.
Perhaps not wanting to enter partisan territory or anger his democratic teacher base, Sweeney stayed clear of staking a position on merit pay proposals for teachers given the topic's political nature.
A merit-based system of pay for teachers has traditionally been republican boilerplate and adamantly opposed by Democrats , who rely heavily on teacher support at the ballot box. Barack Obama isn’t impressed with the stodgy system of the past and he’s worked in concert with his education secretary, Arne Duncan, in putting forth a bipartisan system of performance-based pay. The fetish of bipartisanship is something that moderate politicians love, but Obama’s definition of bipartisanship has been much too much to do with Republican wants and demands.
A merit-based system is definitely a proposal worth exploring and eventually implementing, but it’s important that teacher pay is not measured by Standardized Testing scores, which is something Gov. Christie has suggested. After all, why would you employ a new reform using out-of-date criteria. That would be like trying to put a stamp on e-mails.
Sweeney controls which bills get posted for discussion and votes in the Senate, so clearly his opinion matters a lot. After getting fleeced by Christie on the budget, don’t expect Sweeney to take on anything that’s Christie-friendly.
Michael Hayne is a comedian/VO artist/Columnist extraordinaire, who co-wrote an award-nominated comedy, wrote for NY Times Laugh Lines, guest-blogged for Joe Biden, and writes a column for MSNBC.com affiliated Cagle. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.