In a previous incarnation I taught secondary school here in Tampa and in Philadelphia. They were inner city schools with all the usual connotations and euphemisms for tough neighborhoods and challenging students. Mordant references to “combat pay” — as in, “How about some?” — were hardly infrequent among the faculty.
Now I see where the Hillsborough County School Board has voted unanimously to actually offer extra pay to teachers in its poorest schools, which invariably are the toughest for teaching. The goal is to halt the inevitably — and understandably — high turnover at such schools, which only adds to the formidable task of teaching the neediest students in the poorest schools.
Some 700-800 teachers are expected to receive an additional 5 percent in pay in a program funded with federal dollars that are typically earmarked for recruitment, retention and staff development. Those who qualify for the bonus will also be attending regular training seminars and working with mentors.
This is not, of course, a panacea for high-poverty schools. It doesn’t ameliorate poverty. But it does address one key variable: faculty. As in improving chances for a better, more stable one.
Call it a concession to reality and well worth the investment. The better the faculty, the less likely it will be “combat pay.”