Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bush Doubly Embarrassed by “Teacher Incentive Fund” Timing

The bonus money for teachers in the President’s No Child Left Behind education program couldn’t be doled out at a worse time. Bush’s signature initiative sets high standards and pays educators for achievement measured by test scores and classroom evaluations. While No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 a different incentive plan, corporate stock options have a 12-15 year record. Stock options work on the same assumption as teacher bonuses. The better students or stock prices perform, the more pay for those responsible.

Bush’s face should be beet red as American corporate chiefs cheated on a widespread basis by backdating stock options. Apple’s corporate star, Stephen Jobs recently apologized for his role in mishandling options while 3 other CEO’s got canned. As many as 30% or 2,000 publicly traded companies manipulated their stock option grants to maximize executive pay. The Texas Education Agency is holding up bonuses for 700 schools as it investigates possible cheating. It is spending $500,000 a year just to analyze the test data for malfeasance.

Some say the President is shameless for giving out $42 million in bonuses right before an election. A teacher lobbyist even called the timing “suspicious”. Yet, half the money appropriated for bonuses is being carried over as many applicants didn’t qualify. That doesn’t sound like a resounding success.

While teachers are smart, they may not be willing to sell their souls and cheat for a performance bonus like America’s CEO’s. That or the program hasn’t been in operation long enough to distort behavior. Wait 12-15 years and see if 30% of schools are cheating to get their No Child Left Behind bonuses. If so, America can be proud that teachers are as crafty as our corporate execs. Will we still worry about an “education gap” in that case?

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