Newark teachers will be paid on merit, giving teachers who ace their evaluations bonuses of up to $12,500, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten announced on Morning Joe on Friday morning.
“We all decided we needed to do something different,” Christie said. Newark schools serve 37,000 students but have struggled to attract and keep good teachers. The AFT represents Newark's public school teachers.
The contract will provide $5,000 bonuses for teachers rated "highly effective," with $12,500 bonuses set aside for "highly effective" math and science teachers in the most troubled schools.
Unions have long protested tying teacher pay to performance, but teachers' grades will include peer evaluations from their colleagues, which aims to make a fair deal. “Newark teachers have more of a voice than they’ve ever had before,” Weingarten said. “This is a dynamic new contract that’s fair to the teachers and most importantly, good to the kids,” she added.
It took years for both parties to strike a deal: Christie long opposed raises based on the length of a teacher's tenure, and teachers unions across the board have protested tying pay to student scores, particularly in struggling areas like Newark. Not only is the deal a landmark move for public education, it's a bipartisan success, Christie said. "What we're doing is we're showing that I didn't abandon my principles and Randi didn't abandon her principles," He said.
The bonuses will be funded in part by the $100 million donation by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg. When he donated the money – in the form of Facebook stock – Christie said the young tech mogul asked that it be used to set an example: “he said to me, when we got this, use this to try and make a contract in Newark that will be an example from the country. Yesterday, I got a text from Mark, saying thank you, you’ve kept your end of the bargain.”