Miami Herald: Broward Teachers Union wins grant for pay plan

Oct 13, 2009

The Miami Herald published this article on October 13, 2009


The Broward Teachers Union received a grant Thursday to develop a new compensation plan that will use student scores on standardized tests, among other things, as one of the factors in determining teacher pay.

The $125,000 prize — awarded for the first time — comes from the American Federation of Teachers, a national union that established an innovation fund for education reforms in public schools.

“Some people will be surprised that these proposals come from teachers unions,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told reporters Thursday. “But the truth is that our unions are not afraid to take risks and share responsibility for student success.”

Teachers unions have often opposed performance-pay models, saying they sometimes lead principals and districts to play favorites.

President Barack Obama has supported paying teachers based on performance as part of his vision for transforming public education.

The BTU proposal, called Education Professionals Incentive and Compensations System, or EPICS, will be designed with teacher feedback and include student data like test scores to determine teacher pay.

“The importance of this initiative is that it connects compensation for education professionals with raising their students’ achievement in meaningful ways,” BTU President Pat Santeramo said in a statement. “We welcome change as long as it has a chance of improving the professional lives of our members and increasing their students’ learning.”

In addition to BTU, seven other unions received the grant Thursday.

BTU hopes to get matching grants to increase funding for its pay plan proposal, union spokesman John Ristow said.

The BTU has been negotiating with the school district over raises and benefits since June. Teachers in Broward want an average 4 percent pay increase, which includes advancement for years of service.

The district isn’t offering any raise but will pick up the difference in employee health insurance.

The $3.3 million in the innovation fund comes from AFT and five private philanthropic foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The Broward school system has been a finalist the past two years for the prestigious Broad prize for urban school districts.