This letter is about two issues regarding public education: merit pay and tenure.
I am opposed to merit pay and urge our legislators to vote against it. Merit pay is based on measurable test scores. Test scores are often lower in low-income areas, where children do not have the benefit of good books, discipline and concerned parents in their homes. We still have great teachers who want to teach these children, even though they know that test scores will be lower. The test scores do not take into account how much improvement a child has made and how much that child has changed his or her attitude toward school, thanks to a patient, professional direction from the teacher. It is a real achievement for D students to work their way up to being C or B students, just as it is a real achievement for students to achieve an A. Their teachers should be rewarded equally.
Please, please do not take us back to the days when qualified teachers lost their jobs because someone could be hired for less money. Or because someone of influence had a son or daughter who needed a job. Or because a board member did not want that teacher to be his child's teacher in the year ahead. Those things happened. I was born in 1926, so I can remember them. Teachers acquired tenure to prevent those injustices which would surely take place again without tenure.
A real concern is the tenured teacher who does not work up to standards and gets away with it because she or he has tenure. I served on the school board in Liberty for 12 years, and we had this problem. What did we do? The board hired the very best possible teachers and administrators. The superintendents and building principals gave those teachers constant surveillance and instructions. The teacher's negligence was never overlooked. It was difficult to fire a tenured teacher, and it rarely happened, but it can be done. Liberty has the well-deserved reputation of having excellent schools, honoring tenure and not using merit pay. So does Columbia. Let's keep it that way.
Donna Jones is a Columbia resident.