The article regarding merit pay that appeared in the March 1996 Catalyst contained comments and assumptions not necessarily based on fact. To suggest that only IEA [Illinois Education Association] opposition caused Springfield leaders to “put on the brakes” diminishes the vocal and effective efforts by both the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union to halt this onerous legislation. It took the combined efforts of all of us, including the Chicago Public Schools, to slow down both House Bill 1000 and Senate Bill 1239, the bills amended to contain Arnold Weber’s pay-plan language. Depending on the whims of the House and Senate leadership, merit pay could still pass before the end of session.
In our research on Weber-style merit pay plans around the country, we could find no good example of success. In some cases, entire schools are rewarded for high performance—very different from Weber’s concept. When the lack of evidence that so-called “merit pay” improves schools was suggested to supporters it was brushed aside. Once again, Chicago could become the test lab for untried programs.
Our biggest complaint regarding Arnold Weber’s comments in your article is his totally inappropriate “surprise” at our opposition to merit pay “since the CTU barely put up a fight against last year’s reform package.” What planet was he on last May? Does he not remember that House Bill 206 [the Reform Act amendments] was introduced and passed almost overnight? Has he also forgotten that the language of this massive education overhaul was not shown to anyone but his fellow business representatives until just before being rammed through the legislature? And what about our lawsuit that is still pending in the courts? What sort of “fight” display does he want? We did not “accept,” we fought back and continue to fight against any legislation that treats Chicago and its children unfairly.
Thomas H. Reece, president
Chicago Teachers Union and
Illinois Federation of Teachers