Behavioral psychologists and economists have considered incentives to be a normal part of human nature for decades, if not centuries, but applying them to education still stokes controversy. For example, some people recoil at the idea of paying kids and their teachers for high scores on Advanced Placement tests that get students college credit in high school, as some schools in Northern Virginia are doing,
Matt Damon made headlines a few years ago when he went on an expletive-laced screed about teachers’ poor (not his word, but close) salaries. It’s personal to him because Damon’s mother is an early childhood education professor.
Let’s agree with Damon that good teachers should earn a lot. The job can be very demanding, and it is crucial to society. So what would it take to pay teachers a great salary — say, something around $90,000 a year or more? That’s actually possible, without raising taxes or adding to the great American debt mountain. Here are three major barriers to that.
That is what our system needs. Not third-party payers who know they can always raise premiums to cover these ridiculous costs so never bother to argue, but engaged (and sometimes enraged) consumers who refuse to be treated like patsies.