Friday, February 15, 2008

Quinn Floats Bonus Pay For Teachers

Special to the Sun
February 12, 2008

Middle-school teachers would receive bonus pay for working in low-performing schools under a proposal the City Council speaker is expected to announce today at her annual State of the City address.

Under the proposal, teachers who work in certain schools would receive between $5,000 and $10,000 a year. The pilot schools would be drawn from a list of 51 low-performing middle schools identified by a task force Speaker Christine Quinn created last year. "Look — we have to admit that some schools are harder to teach in than others," Ms. Quinn will say, according to excerpts of the speech released by her staff. "And if we are going to convince our best teachers to go there or stay there we have to be willing to experiment with different approaches to compensating them."

According to the speech, Ms. Quinn, a likely mayoral candidate in 2009, will push to expand the program citywide should the results prove satisfactory.

Mayor Bloomberg has made various forms of incentive pay, such as bonuses for teachers whose students perform well, a central aspect of his education policy. Some principals currently receive bonuses for taking over low-performing schools.

Mr. Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers launched an incentives program, Lead Teacher, providing certain teachers who work in troubled schools with bonuses of as much as $10,000. The program is scheduled to lose its central funding in June as part of the $500 million in proposed education cuts in the mayor's preliminary budget.

Ms. Quinn's proposal drew praise yesterday from a parents group, the Coalition for Educational Justice, which has advocated for incentive pay to attract qualified teachers.

"We're excited they're thinking about putting a plan into action," a parent leader for the group, Zakiyah Ansari, said yesterday. "Unfortunately many of our schools, especially the ones they're talking about, are often plagued with unqualified teachers who don't have proper mentoring and are overloaded with large class sizes."

The Daily News reported yesterday that an outside consultant, Dan Gerstein, had been paid $12,000 in public funds to write the speech, drawing criticism from some government watchdogs as an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.

Ms. Quinn yesterday attended a congressional hearing on the subprime mortgage crisis at City Hall, where she warned that large numbers of city residents in parts of Brooklyn and Queens were facing foreclosure due to subprime loans. "We could have a ripple effect that could erode entire neighborhoods," she said.

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