LAS VEGAS — Not content to sit on the sidelines after his resignation last month, former Nevada State Superintendent Jim Guthrie is busy churning up ideas for how to improve education — including a plan to pay some schoolteachers as much as doctors.
Guthrie outlined a proposal this week to pay the top-performing 10 percent of teachers an annual salary of $200,000, a measure he said could elevate the profession of teaching in the eyes of the public and keep top talent from leaving for higher-paid fields.
The master teachers would work in the most at-risk schools and help spread their best practices to their colleagues.
“We’ve got to get away from the timid (ideas),” Guthrie said. “We need bold ideas.”
The proposal got mixed reactions from teachers at Robison Middle School who were interviewed by the Las Vegas Sun.
Matt Angelo, an eighth-grade English teacher, agreed that it could be a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining educators who might scoff at current pay. The average Clark County teacher salary is $66,000 including benefits, while first-year teachers start around $35,000.
A $200,000 annual salary “would definitely make (teaching) more attractive, especially for people thinking about going into business,” Angelo said.
But some feared it might attract teachers for the wrong reason and take the focus off students.
Others said it could create jealousy and a sort of class warfare between two tiers of teachers.
“(The higher salary) is a ridiculous and offensive idea,” sixth-grade English teacher Colleen Martinson said. “It would create a grotesque division between the average teacher’s salary and this salary.
“I wouldn’t accept it because it’s unjust. I’m a great teacher. We’re in this for the students. We need to focus on them.”
Guthrie said his plan would be cheaper and more effective than Gov. Brian Sandoval’s current proposal to expand full-day kindergarten programs and apply more funding toward English language learners.
Clark County School District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said the district likes the idea of paying teachers better. But with a tight budget, she said it’s not possible to ramp up salaries right now.
She also raised concerns about how the master teachers would be selected. A reliable, trusted method of evaluating teachers would need to be in place before implementing performance pay.
“First, you need a good system to define an exemplary teacher,” Fulkerson said.