In the past, President Obama has indicated heâ€™d be supportive of teacher merit pay and charter schools. Today, he made that support official in his first major presidential speech on education:
His solutions include teacher pay and charter school proposals that have met resistance among members of teachers unions, which constitute an important segment of the Democratic Party.
Obama acknowledged that conflict, saying, “Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom.”
Despite their history on the issues, union leaders publicly welcomed Obama’s words, saying it seems clear he wants to include them in his decisions in a way President George W. Bush did not.
Teachers unions might be wise enough not to sound bitter today, but make no doubt they will fight Obamaâ€™s â€œteacher payâ€ idea if the president is indeed talking about merit pay and not just better pay for certified teachers. And it seems quite likely, based on the statement, that Obama is talking about linking bonuses and raises to in-classroom performance — an important change which teachers unions would do well to help implement rather than keep resisting.
In addition to wanting to allow for more charter schools, Obama also said heâ€™d like to see the time students spend in public schools increased. While he didnâ€™t specifically reference the fact that our nation still operates the school year on an agrarian calendar, his willingness to support more time in the classroom is a positive sign that our nation might finally consider adopting a school schedule in line with modern realities, with breaks spaced out through the year and not lumped together in the summer.
All in all, Obamaâ€™s education speech was more a description of his education philosophy and not an announcement of any new programs. However, itâ€™s great to see he is leaning towards ideas whose time have come.