The idea should be simple. Yes, schools need reform. One solution that would both improve the budget and give incentive to improved teaching practices is merit pay. What is difficult about this solution is how to implement it, as determining merit is not simple.
The standard answer is to determine a teacher’s merit by their experience or degree level, but these have not been proven to increase student performance in every case. Basing merit upon only test data and academic student performance diminishes the importance and scope of the teaching profession. A more well-rounded option for judging would be adding feedback from the students and parents themselves through valid and reliable teacher evaluations.
If changing the base pay seems too much to give for such varied ways of determining merit, reform-oriented school boards may want to give teachers bonuses for their effectiveness instead as a smaller, but still valuable incentive. Though state spending on public schools is high and still rising, student achievement in Michigan is not. Perhaps one of the best options is giving the money back to the parents who originally earned it so that they can decide for themselves what teacher at what school has the merit to best educate their child.
Though most teachers are in the profession because they care about the growth of the students and are driven by the intrinsic reward of doing a good job, all people are also encouraged by financial rewards and recognition for a job well done. Rewarding the key people financially who can improve the state education system is a logical way to use the budget to encourage positive growth in schools.