Education Week has a good review of the Democratic candidates’ positions on education in the February 27th issue (front page). It seems that for choice proponents, Obama has a bit of an edge. He has said that he’d consider vouchers, while Clinton has said that vouchers are not an option.
Both have endorsed mild forms of merit pay, although Clinton wants teachers and unions to have input. We all know what unions want. Better pay for some, maybe. As long as it doesn’t mean that bad teachers are let go or get a reduction in pay. Clinton also endorses increases for all school employees at schools that succeed. Of course, this doesn’t encourage an individual teacher to stand out, and it rewards those who are just along for the ride.
Clinton does support market factors in determining pay for hard to find teachers, which is a strength of her position. On the other hand, Obama sticks to the check box mentality for extra pay. He has suggested that extra skills or tasks might warrant new pay. Depending on what he means by this, it could be just another check box mentality. If he means that learning skills that are in great need would be rewarded, then that may make some sense. Still leaving much of this up to schools and individual districts or to charter schools competing with traditional district schools for teachers gives a better picture of what really motivates people to teach as well as ensures capable teachers and not just teachers with certain degrees or certificates.