More money! Wait, maybe not

The Washington Unified School District in Sacramento wants to attract high-quality teachers to work in its worst schools. So it plans to pay those teachers more. (Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed something similar statewide.) This is a rather pedestrian practice in the real (meaning, non-education) world. So, of course, the local union is outraged. "Does he think teachers are whores - that you have to pay them more to do this?" asked one union spokesman. Another teacher thinks it's "very dangerous" to use money to incentivize teachers because tough schools will be swamped with cash-hungry teachers who don't have kids' best interests in mind. So follow the circular argument: All teachers are good teachers and deserve high and equal salaries; but "combat pay" attracts only the bad, money-grubbing teachers; true teachers work for love of children, not money; however, low salaries dissuade people from becoming teachers. And Gadfly can believe six impossible things before breakfast. Another thought: If teachers are never motivated by money, would it be OK to sock every California teacher with a 15 percent pay cut? Would they do as much, or little, as they do today if they weren't paid at all? After all, we shouldn't insult these people by implying that they're interested in money.

"West Sac 'combat pay' fight," by Michael Kolber, Sacramento Bee, May 23, 2005