Friday, May 2, 2008

Teacher Merit Pay Program Added to School Finance Bill by Senate

The Senate, sticking to its guns on a bipartisan bill to implement performance pay for teachers in Colorado, added an amendment creating the program to the annual school finance bill Thursday, sending a rebuke to the House after a committee of that chamber killed an independent bill on the subject.

Sens. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, Sue Windels, D-Arvada, and Peter Groff, D-Denver, convinced their colleagues to add the substance of SB 65 to HB 1388. SB 65 had been killed in the House Appropriations Committee.

The pay plan would establish a $2 million fund to help launch efforts by school districts to cultivate and retain teachers based on their performance.

SB 65 aimed to make $2 million available in seed money to all Colorado school districts for programs that those districts design to reward their teachers. The bill set some basic criteria, such as that the programs must be designed to help close the achievement gap between different groups of students. However, any district applying for some of the seed money would be free to come up with a specific program that best addressed its circumstances.

Denver Public Schools recently implemented a performance-pay program on its own, and Douglas County Schools also have such a plan in place.

Gov. Bill Ritter has indicated his support for Spence's proposal to implement performance pay programs for public school teachers.