One of former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's signature initiatives was to reward good teachers with bonuses of up to $25,000. To qualify for the full amount, teachers have to score high marks on their evaluations, teach at schools with majority low-income children, and teach a tested grade and certain subjects. Bonuses were offered to 636 teachers, but 40 percent turned down the money.
Eric Bethel, who taught at Marie Reed Elementary School, is one such DCPS superstar. He recently accepted a $20,000 bonus.
"It was very hard to turn down an opportunity to get a bonus check that was nearly half of my entire salary for a year," he says.
Bethel says he and his wife have been trying to save enough money to buy a house.
"She gave me a big hug, told me she was very proud of me, then immediately started looking up houses online," he says.
But these teachers had to agree to give up some job security. For example, they could lose their jobs because of program changes or enrollment declines at their schools.
Diane Terrell, a teacher at Stoddert Elementary School, refused her $5,000. She says a bonus shouldn't come with strings attached.
"You think you can come and wave money in front of us and we will give up everything to you. I could not do that," she says.
Two teachers were eligible for $25,000, the maximum amount. Both accepted the money.
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