Pay Teachers More for Making the Grade?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," March 8, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, how is this for an idea? Pay teachers more who do the best job teaching their students? Well, it doesn't happen in public schools, but my next guest says that it should and he actually can do something about it, at least in his state. That state is Massachusetts. And he is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. He joins us from Boston.

What's the plan, Governor?

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, Neil, it's pretty straightforward, which is teachers that are experienced in science and math or advanced placement teachers should each get $5,000 bonuses at the end of the year.

And those teachers that are deemed by their colleagues — that's other teachers and principals — to be among the top third in their class should also get an extra $5,000 at the end of the year. I think it's about time that we recognized that teachers have different qualities and skills, and the very best should be promoted and given better pay. And we ought to encourage people who have science and math skills to get into teaching, because we need them very badly.

CAVUTO: Wouldn't this disadvantage those in disadvantaged areas, Governor, where there is mediocre improvement, unlike those in wealthy communities, where you could have measurable improvement?

ROMNEY: Well, we're able to test our schools in Massachusetts. We have been testing for a number of years, and found out where our failing schools are.

I'm proposing as well that we take faster action to intervene in failing schools. But there's no question that this program to provide additional pay to our better teachers is something that would help, particularly in the areas where our schools are most troubled.

And we have learned a lot about this from our charter schools. We have a lot of charter schools across our state. They're doing very, very well in many instances. And, as we look at why they're doing so well, it comes down to two things. Parental involvement, that's the most important. And number two is, they treat teachers as professionals. They pay them right. They give them the kind of recognition and credit they deserve.

And that's something that we're going to have in our school systems.

CAVUTO: What do you do, Governor, to the ones who don't measure up?

ROMNEY: Well, ultimately, people who are having a hard time making the grade, we want to make sure that they get the teacher development they need, and we support them, and we find a classroom where they can be successful.

But, in the rare instance that a teacher isn't able to do the right kind of job, of course, they ought to move on to a profession where they can do the right job. But that's basically not our problem here. Our real problem is to make sure...

CAVUTO: Well, sure it is, right?

No, well, wait a minute. It is, right? I mean, if they're not delivering, and you can't get rid of them, because it is very tough to get rid of teachers, almost as it is to get rid of professors at the college level, you have got to have the stick to the carrot, right?

ROMNEY: There's no question about that, Neil.

And you have to be able to remove a teacher that can't perform. I don't argue with that.

But our problem in our public schools, particularly in our troubled areas, is not that the teachers aren't up to the job. They are, by and large. It is, instead, that the parents haven't been sufficiently involved with their child. And, therefore, I'm proposing as well that all our parents in troubled school districts get a parental preparation course, preparing the parent to learn how to support discipline, homework, and the strict study habits associated with education. But, then, I want to pay the better teachers more money, and, then, those teachers that aren't making the grade, expect them to move on to another job.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you this. There are going to be teacher union types who are going to say that you are out to get them. How are you going to ask that — answer that?

ROMNEY: Well, nothing is further from the truth.

What I'm out to do is help our kids. And it is really time that we put our kids and the parents and the teachers first, and the unions far behind. The unions have a responsibility and a role. That's fine. But I have a responsibility to assure that the kids in my state are getting the kind of education they need to compete on a global basis. And we're doing well in our state.

My kids rank number one of all 50 states on the nation's report card that just came out. But being number one in this country doesn't mean a lot if this country is number 27th in science and math globally. So, it's time for us to get behind our parents, the kids, and the teachers first. And that means treating our teachers like professionals that they are, and giving them the respect and the compensation they deserve.

CAVUTO: Do you think this would resonate nationally?

ROMNEY: You know, I don't know how well it resonates nationally, but I know it resonates well here, particularly among our parents. And in those schools that are the most troubled — and a lot of minority kids are in school districts that are not performing well — they really want to see change.

And just paying the same people more money to do the same thing isn't going to make a difference. And they recognize that rewarding the very best teachers, encouraging math and science teachers to get in to the profession, and getting parents involved in the process of their child's education, recognizing that education is a partnership between the parents and the teacher...


ROMNEY: ... that's going to make a difference.

CAVUTO: Governor Mitt Romney, good having you back. Thank you, sir.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Neil.

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