Stuart Egan, National Board Certified Teacher in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, learned that he was entitled to a bonus of $2,000 for the students in his AP classes who passed their exams. He doesn’t want the money. He needs the money, but he won’t take it. After taxes, he will donate it to his school, which is under-resourced, like many in the state. In this post, he explains why.

Behind the bonus, he writes, is a lack of respect for all public school teachers.

Here are three good reasons he doesn’t want the bonus:

1. I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.

2. This creates an atmosphere of competition. I did not get into teaching so that I could compete with my fellow teachers and see who makes more money, but rather collaborate with them. Giving some teachers a chance to make bonuses and not others is a dangerous precedent.

3. I did not take those tests. The students took the tests. Sometimes I wish that I could take the tests for them, but if you are paying me more money to have students become more motivated, then that is just misplaced priorities. These students are young adults. Some vote; most drive; many have jobs; many pay taxes. They need to be able to harness their own motivation, and hopefully I can couple it with my motivation.

Stuart’s response reminds me of something Albert Shanker once said about merit pay: “You mean that students will work harder if teachers are offered an incentive? How does that work?”