Our View: National Board certification bonuses worth the cost

As taxpayers, there should always be concern when elected officials dole out public funds in the form of blanket raises for government employees without some sort employee accountability. We have never been a proponent of “blanket” raises or “across-the-board” pay increases, especially when it comes to public funds. Employee pay raises should be strictly based on merit and individual performance, as well as for promotions. First of all, across-the-board-raises are a waste of public funds, and as importantly, unfair to those public employees who excel in their work and see an under performing co-worker receiving the same pay increase without earning it. It does little for morale, creates employee hostility and sends a strong message to those workers who try to better themselves that their efforts to improve their job performance aren’t all that important. By the same token, we have to question the logic of those individuals who question the value of an incentive program that is working to improve an employee’s professional skills. One particular case in point involves the Arkansas Department of Education leadership’s idea to end a bonus plan for teachers who excel and obtain the National Board Certification. The decision by the state Department of Education to abandon that idea can probably be attributed to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who we can imagine had a lot to say in the matter. From what we’ve been told, this is a very rigorous process involving classroom observations, course work and work to demonstrate a higher level of expertise in the field of teaching. All that is then submitted to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. They then judge those submissions which we’re told is a multi-year process, and the teachers who have gone through that will testify that it has greatly helped their ability to deliver education in a classroom. And get this: According to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, Arkansas typically ranks among the top 10 states with the most new national board-certified teachers. We have to concur with House Minority Leader Michael John Gray, D-August, who said, “I’ve really got to praise the governor for taking the lead here and saying, hey, this is an important program that deserves more time and more vetting than simply just running it through a rules change. We need to come up with some solutions to maintain this program.” About $13.8 million a year has been allocated for the program, which has been growing quickly, and we’re told, spending will exceed the amount appropriated by fiscal 2018. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile expenditure of our tax dollars in that it provides better teachers, better education and a better way to reward those public servants willing to better themselves.

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