Proponents Hail Plan As Historic While Those Against It Say It's No Sure Thing

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The city of Newark will become the first in the nation to pay its teachers based on their performance. It is a controversial plan that is being watched across the country.

The Speedway School has come a long way, but the Newark school district itself has been struggling with low test scores for years.

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Now, teachers will have an incentive to push students — bonus pay. It will be based on a number of factors, including test scores and peer evaluations.

“We’ve never had that. It’s been … an administrator I say ‘You’re effective’ or ‘ineffective.’ Now that there is actually a team, so peers are able to rate peers,” Newark principal Atiba Buckman told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan on Friday.

Sixty percent of teachers in Newark approved the merit-based pay in their contract, which could have some of them earning as much as $12,000 in bonuses.

“You have that incentive to push harder and you want to work harder for it,” teacher Christine Loesch said.

The governor, who has backed the program, is praising teachers, saying he hopes the program becomes a model across the state.

“This is by far the most gratifying day of my governorship,” Chris Christie said. “Because the kids of the city deserve better.”

Bonuses will be covered by the $100 million donated by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The national head of the teacher’s union called the deal historic.

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“This is the first day of what could potentially be a huge breakthrough in what could tell the world public education is actually working for all kids,” said Randi Weingarten, of the American Federation of Teachers.

But the largest union in the state, not representing Newark teachers, said there is no evidence merit-based pay improves student performance.

In a statement, the New Jersey Education Association said “private money comes and private money goes and it remains to be seen how Newark will fund the contract in the years to come.”

Some Newark parents CBS 2 talked to agreed.

“I think that for the most part teachers do do their job. I think it’s up to superintendents to oversee that,” parent Manny Benitez said.

“I am not sure. That’s a hard question ’cause some students don’t do that well and some students do good,” Marta Vierra added.

The governor admitted the program is made possible because of private money and said he hopes other investors will come forward and make merit-based pay possible in other districts.

In the contract, teachers will continue to be given the chance to move up and get different bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $12,000.

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