By Steve Gunn

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s State Board of Education is considering a new statewide minimum teacher salary schedule that would eliminate automatic, annual raises for all teachers, according to the

Democrats and leaders of the Tennessee Education Association – the state’s largest teachers union – don’t like the idea.

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Most union collective bargaining agreements contain pay scales allowing most teachers to receive an automatic raise each year, and more money for taking advanced college classes and earning advanced degrees.

The new state plan would eliminate the number of salary steps from 21 to 4 and “abolish incentives for post-master’s training and doctoral degrees,” the news report said.

Gov. Bill Haslam said the new pay scale was designed to allow local officials to decide “if they want to have a differentiated pay structure,” the news report said.

We assume that Haslam and his fellow Republicans in Nashville are tired of giving raises to teachers simply for showing up year after year, or for taking college classes don’t make them better instructors.

The proposed plan seems much simpler, and would be ideal for districts that are planning to implement merit pay programs. A 2007 law already allows districts to offer differentiated pay based on their own priorities, according to the news report.

Districts would not be forced to dump traditional pay scales. Those that do would have to devise their own versions of the new plan and determine how teachers would move up the new scale.

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They could reward teachers whose students earn higher test scores, those who work in hard-to-staff schools, or those who instruct higher-priority subjects, according to the news report.

Legislative Democrats and union officials complained that many teachers might go years without earning a raise under the new system. They wondered if that might drive some teachers out of the profession.

If that happens, so be it.

It’s high time for public schools to start using compensation as a way to reward excellent teachers, encourage mediocre teachers to improve, and convince bad teachers to find other work.

Giving a raise to every teacher every year, regardless of their performance, does nothing to increase the likelihood of children receiving quality instruction.