Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Superintendent On Merit Pay: Teachers 'Are Not Widgets, They're People'

Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

Monroe County Community School Corporation superintendent Judy DeMuth speaks to a gathering at the Bloomington Country Club on Wednesday, August 24.

The new superintendent of the Bloomington-based Monroe County Community School Corporation is no fan of teacher merit pay.

In an interview Wednesday, MCCSC superintendent Judy DeMuth called the state’s mandate to districts on implementing merit pay systems by the start of next school year “unfair.Here’s what she told StateImpact:

I really believe that a great teacher’s a great teacher and by instituting a merit program where you give them 500 more dollars or 750 more dollars isn’t going to change a great teacher… I think there’s a lot to be said about letting good teachers doing what they want to do and not throwing a token amount of money on them and expecting them to improve their performance, that’s not going to do it…

I think [merit pay] tries to institutionalize a process that we know. We’re working with children, with their lives at home, and all of their capabilities they bring to the classroom.  [Teachers] are not widgets, they’re people.  And we talk with them and work with them as people, so I am apprehensive about that as a model of merit pay.

But merit pay is something DeMuth won’t have to address directly for the next four years. MCCSC signed a new four-year contract with its teachers before a new state law took effect, skirting limits on what the two sides could bargain over and the contract’s length that took effect July 1. A merit pay system is currently not in the contract.

We’ve reported that Indiana districts signing lengthy contracts before the law took effect wasn’t uncommon. As MCCSC human resources director Peggy Chambers told us in July, many districts are in a holding pattern, waiting to see how merit pay implementation (among other state-mandated changes) plays out in other districts.

The Indiana Department of Education is piloting a merit pay program in three school districts this year.


  • Bilgewater

    Teachers have never been motivated by money. By instituting merit pay, the state wants teachers to be more competitive, but teaching is a collegial effort, not a competitive one. Why would I share my excellent teaching methods or materials with a colleague if I have to compete with them for a higher paycheck? I’m somewhat offended that someone would offer me more money for being a great teacher. I didn’t enter the teaching field for a big payoff.

    Furthermore, I understand that merit pay will be based on test scores (if I’m wrong, I hope someone would correct me here). The class I teach are not directly correlated to any standardized test.

    Where is that merit pay money coming from after Governor Daniels cut the Ed. budget by $600 million in the last two years? My school corporation has cut and slashed, and reduced employees, programs, and available resources. Where will they get the money for merit pay when they can barely make payroll? I’m afraid that with the loss of collective bargaining rights (and loss of tenure protections), school corporations are going to look at teachers in the highest pay bracket and start looking for “creative” ways to cut costs; they’ll either look for an excuse to fire an experienced teacher, or perhaps look for ways to “encourage” teachers to retire rather than keep them on payroll.

  • StateImpact Indiana

    Do you think that tenure protections create better teachers? The state has argued that tenured teachers have little incentive to innovate and that many teachers simply subsist once they are tenured.

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