Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Teacher Pay on Oregon Ballot

Most policy issues are too complicated to warrant direct democracy. That's why -- like 'em or hate 'em -- we elect presidents, governors, legislators, school board members, and the like to do that detailed work. The general public, by and large, doesn't have the time (or interest?) to wade into these issues at a level of depth that they require. Such is the case with teacher pay, especially when the issue is how it can fairly and accurately be tied to student outcomes. That's complicated stuff.

Oregon begs to differ. Oregon allows such complex issues to be voted on by direct public referendum. In fact, it leads the nation in such "voter" initiatives. Now, Oregon is one of my favorite places, but on this issue, I just think it is dead wrong.

The Associated Press reports that Oregon's 2008 ballot will feature 12 measures in all, one of which would require that teachers be paid based on "classroom performance" rather than on experience or seniority. It is sponsored by an unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate and founder of Oregon Taxpayers United.

Oregon voters rejected a similar ballot measure eight years ago.

Hey, I'm all for thinking big and bold about how to change teacher compensation (see here, here, and here), but this ain't the way to do it.

And lest you think that ballot initiatives take the money out of politics, check out who is funding them in Oregon in 2008. For more information about Oregon's history of ballot measures, check out this handy guide from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

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