Status Quo in Congress Holds Back Teacher Incentive Fund Growth … Somewhat

Alyson Klein, one of the ladies who cover happenings related to education on Capitol Hill for Education Week, reports about an important committee vote yesterday:

A bipartisan effort to boost funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund by an extra $100 million went down to defeat today during the full Senate Appropriations Committee’s markup of the bill funding the U.S. Department of Education in fiscal year 2010.

The bill already includes $300 million for the TIF, a teacher performance-pay program that is currently funded at $97 million. The proposed increase in the failed amendment would have been paid for by taking $100 million out of the federal State Grants for Improving Teacher Quality program.

TIF provides competitive grants to state agencies, school districts, and charter schools that develop quality performance pay programs for teachers and for principals.

As my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has outlined in his issue paper Denver’s ProComp and Teacher Compensation in Colorado (PDF) and elsewhere, local Colorado school districts have applied for and received a significant share of TIF grant money. Besides Denver, they include Eagle County, Harrison (El Paso County), and Fort Lupton.

Our K-12 education compensation system badly needs a serious overhaul, and tying payment both for teachers and school leaders more closely to performance must happen. It’s good to see at least one Congressional committee approve a tripling of the TIF budget.

But at the same time it’s sad that lobbyists for the status quo National Education Association and their ilk successfully fight to keep a significant amount of money tied to less effective programs — money that could have been used for TIF to make an even bigger impact in improving quality teaching in our nation’s schools.

But what else can you expect from the NEA?