The Chancellor of D.C. Schools Michelle Rhee, a Korean-American running a predominantly black school system has been shaking up the establishment since  her arrival by firing poor performing principals and closing underpeforming or underenrolled schools.   Now she faces her biggest test with her pay proposal for the teachers.

Under Rhee’s plan teachers would be eligible for salary increases of up to 40% plus bonuses for student performance.  This could conceivably lift salaries to as much as $130,000 per year, a figure normally only seen by administrators in the system.  But this isn’t a free lunch.  In return for the opportunity to earn more money, the teachers would agree to give up their tenure for one year exposing them to the possibility of being fired by the hard charging Rhee.

So the teachers are facing a huge dilemma.  Do they risk their lifetime job security for the chance to increase their income?  The teacher’s union as one might expect is firmly against this proposal because it not only attacks the outdated notion that teachers should in essence have a job for life, but that teacher performance is actually important.

If the teachers aren’t willing to be judged on their performance like most workers are in their jobs then they shouldn’t be teaching.

One would normally think that such ideas or actions might be the brainchild of a conservative reformer but in this case there is nothing further from the truth.  Rhee is a Democrat who has even been praised by Obama during the campaign for her efforts and is now fighting the very same entrenched union bureaucracy that has been a large support base for the Democratic party.

Whether or not Rhee will be successful with her pay proposal remains to be seen.  But in any event she has proven herself to be an educator who actually cares about the children in a broken system and is wlling to go against conventional norms in an effort to provide the children in D.C. with a decent education.

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