By Ben Velderman

NEWARK, N.J. – Roughly 300 Newark public school teachers are confident enough in their teaching ability that they’re bypassing the automatic pay raises guaranteed in their union contract for a chance at $12,500 in performance-based bonuses.

performancepayUnder the terms of the Newark Teachers Union’s groundbreaking contract, “teachers with advanced degrees – about half of the city’s teaching force – can choose to stay with the traditional salary guide, which rewards teachers according to experience and academic degree,” or they can opt for the bonus pay plan, which is based on exemplary evaluations, reports

Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson told that the number of willing takers – about 20 percent of the 1,650 eligible teachers – was encouraging.

“We thought that was pretty exciting,” Anderson said. “We didn’t expect more than that. I think it is human nature to choose what you are accustomed to.”

Anderson noted that the biggest raises for veteran teachers are in the traditional pay schedule.

That means that 80 percent of established educators acted in their economic self-interests by staying in the old system. That’s perfectly understandable, but it makes the decision of the 20 percent even more impressive.

Union President Joseph Del Grosso said most members want to see how the new teacher evaluations – which include classroom observations from fellow educators – play out before making the switch to performance-based raises.

“I think a lot of people want to see how it works, that it will be a fair and equitable evaluation process,” Del Grosso told the news site. “Since it’s something new, I think a lot of members want to take their time.”

Not all NTU members were given the choice, however. Beginning teachers – those with only a bachelor’s degree – were put on the performance-based pay schedule automatically.

Newark’s new teachers’ contract also gives stipends to educators who work in low-performing districts, and “who will be required to put in extra hours of training and instruction,” notes.

We share Superintendent Anderson’s appreciation for the 300 brave souls who are willing to forgo the safety of the union crowd and to be evaluated for their effectiveness in the classroom.

Union leaders like to prattle on about the need to elevate the prestige of the teaching profession. We think the decision of these 300 Newark teachers is the essence of true professionalism.

We salute them for their individual courage – and their union for having the courage to let their members think and choose for themselves.

Let’s hope this idea catches on throughout the rest of the nation.

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