Bonus Pay Debate: Detroit Teachers' Union and District Leader Differ over Merit Boosts

April 16, 2019, 11:41 AM

Whether Detroit teachers sould be rewarded for standout performance depends on which local education leader is asked.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District since 2017, says yes. Terrence Martin, Detroit Federation of Teachers president, dislikes a new state requirement for bonuses beyond negotiated salaries. Legislators three weeks ago amended the Michigan School Code to say districts must add merit pay to compensation policies for teachers and administrators.

In Detroit, Martin's union and the district are negotiating pay levels for the last year of a three-year contract. Teachers got a seven percent raise over the first two years.

Nikolai Vitti and Terrence Martin

Chalkbeat Detroit, an education news site, shares Vitti's and Martin's voices in several recent posts. Here's what each says, complied from statements and public remarks.

The superintendent:
'We can be more competitive'

"We believe there is a way to . . . add performance pay for individual teachers and teams at schools that dramatically improve student achievement."

"We have to be OK with paying teachers, or certain principals, more if student achievement moves at a faster rate." 

"The board and myself are committed to raising salaries, primarily for those teachers who've been in the district the longest."

A uniform raise "doesn't increase salaries in a competitive way. . . . The opportunity for the bonus is to give more money in a shorter amount of time that's not recurring. We're trying to put as much money in teachers' pockets in the shortest amount of time possible . . . so we can be more competitive when we're trying to recruit."

"We believe we can go deeper with pay, and broader, by focusing on performance pay. This will just be another layer of increasing pay. It won't be the singular way to do it."

The union president:
'Something that is fair for all'


"The union is fundamentally against merit pay. The reality is the law says what the law says. We're going to abide by the law."

[He vows to fight other efforts to treat some union members differently, senior reporter Lori Higgins writes at Chalkbeat.]

The DFT wants "to make sure we take care of and impact in a positive way the entire group, the entire workforce. Those are the things we are working on at the bargaining table."

"I don't think we can truly move the school district forward in a positive way and impact students the way we need to, and raise student achievement, if we begin to parse out different groups. We have to collectively show that we are serious about stabilizing the workforce."

"The union is interested in . . . doing something that is fair for all members. However long that takes, that's how long it takes."

-- Alan Stamm

Read more:  Chalkbeat Detroit

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Potd_img_5632_557 Police in riot gear last night at the protest in downtown Detroit.

By: Jack Thomas