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Teacher Benefits Should Be Fair, Not Necessarily Equal

Ryan Prosser

Growing up, my identical twin, John, and I shared everything. Even if we only had one M & M left, we'd bite it in half to be equal. Although I was never asked to do so, I like to think I would have done the same for my other brothers, too.

John and I took all of our classes together in undergrad, grad school, and law school. We team taught together for two years, and now we work in the same office as instructional facilitators.

Fairness is in my blood.

Last week, I wrote about the potential to use innovative benefits to attract and retain teachers.

The list was not exhaustive and was meant to create discussion, but I also recognized that the benefits listed might not be entirely fair. Enticing teachers with attractive benefits could be intriguing to states and districts precisely because not all teachers would take advantage of or be able to take advantage of those benefits. Does this violate the fairness principle?

As the conversation about teacher compensation continues and districts move towards implementation, should educators be idealists or realists regarding compensation? The answer to that question may very well depend on a person's view of equality vs. equity.

As we grew older, my brother and I began to realize that equality and equity were not the same concept: Equality refers to treating everyone the same way, whereas equity means taking into account differing circumstances or areas of need.

An innovative benefits program with an emphasis on equality would provide opportunities for all teachers to receive additional compensation (for example, by providing a 5 percent, across-the-board raise).

Alternatively, an equity-based program would take into consideration the circumstances of individual teachers, providing additional incentives for teachers with more preps, maternity-leave needs, or teachers rated as distinguished during the teacher evaluation process.

I lean toward the equity approach, but do not want to create a false dichotomy. I certainly think benefits that pertain to everyone are desirable in many circumstances, but want to make sure that all teachers are treated fairly, too.

Which approach do you think is more attainable? Which program is more fair? And what other factors need to be considered?

Ryan Prosser is an National Board-certified teacher in early adolescent english language arts and currently works as an instructional facilitator in the Tacoma, Wash., school district. He is a member of the CTQ Collaboratory.

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