Merit Pay Could Be in the Cards for Cleveland Teachers

As negotiations continue between the Cleveland schools and teachers union, merit pay for teachers is a main issue, but dscussion could potentially restore at least some of the $13 million in cuts made Tuesday and avoid larger cuts next year, writes Patrick O'Donnell at The Plain Dealer.

District officials asked the state legislature over the summer to institute a merit pay system. That didn't happen, but Mayor Frank Jackson has continued to call for "systemic changes" in teacher pay.

Negotiation documents show that the district continued to press for merit pay. The documents from the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) also show that the district, as of August, was seeking pay cuts of 10 percent, along with eliminating 13 paid holiday and training days and having teachers pay 20 percent of health costs.

The Cleveland school board voted to make $13.1 million in cuts to comply with the state's requirement. The cuts include eliminating preschool and busing for high school students after January, wiping out summer school and cutting extracurricular activities and spring sports, other than baseball and softball, which are independently funded.

Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke said that his union has offered concessions in the last two weeks that would spare many of this year's cuts, but he declined to offer details.

Jackson said that "piecemeal" and short-term wage concessions won't solve future deficits.

"Our issues are systemic," Jackson said. "Even if there was an agreement reached as far as this year's budget, we'd be facing a much larger deficit next year."

Merit pay and teacher evaluation have been major issues across the state. The legislature ordered the state school board to set a teacher evaluation plan by the end of the year that uses measures of student academic growth, like test scores, to make up 50 percent of a teacher's rating.

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