Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sorting out CMS teacher performance-pay dollars

At last night's school board meeting, Kaye McGarry sparked debate when she unsuccessfully tried to use the board's 2011-12 budget request as a vehicle for shelving Superintendent Peter Gorman's controversial teacher performance-pay plan. She asked that local dollars supporting performance-pay be diverted to save teaching jobs.

But along the way, the question of what exactly CMS spends on performance pay became a bit confusing. McGarry gave the Observer and other board members a copy of her motion. It had attached to it several budget charts she said she got from the staff. One chart said CMS' performance pay effort will cost $1.26 million in 2011-12, including $451,879 in local money.

When Rhonda Lennon asked if that was the right number for local performance-pay dollars, Gorman said it didn't include local money being spent on another performance pay project, the federal TIF-LEAP pilot. McGarry pointed to another chart accompanying her motion. That one listed $3 million as the amount of local dollars CMS will spend on TIF-LEAP in 2011-12. After a few minutes of back-and-forth questioning in which Gorman struggled to make sure he understood what McGarry was defining as performance-pay, the superintendent said TIF-LEAP and the $451,879 project were part of performance-pay. He said they together would cost about $3.5 million in local dollars.

Got all that straight? I didn't last night. I used the $1.2 million figure in my story, accidentally conflating it with both McGarry's chart and a $1.25 million figure in CMS' formal 2011-12 budget plan. (That figure's actually tied to the new performance-pay tests the school system is creating. Confusing, indeed).

CMS is running a number of projects focused on increasing teacher effectiveness and testing the concept of performance-pay. Many are supported by separate grants, separate pots of money. It gets pretty hard, even for board members and reporters, to stay on top of it all.

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