Last week, Taos High School English teacher Francis Hahn received word the state was awarding him a $5,000 bonus due to his students’ high scores on their Advanced Placement exams.
Hahn, who is the primary breadwinner in his family, says the money would have allowed him and his wife to finally take their honeymoon. But, he says, he won’t accept the check.
On Monday (June 30), Hahn issued a press release in which he listed the reasons he would not accept the bonus from the state Public Education Department. He said other teachers taught the same students, just not the year they took the AP exam, so those teachers should be commended for preparing those students to do well on the exam just as he was.
Hahn also said he did not agree with the fact that faculty and staff who do not teach AP students aren’t eligible for the bonus, and said everyone, including custodial staff, secretaries and administrators play vital roles in students’ education, and awarding bonuses only to instructors who teach AP students is unfair.
“It takes 12 years of frustration, perseverance, thoughtfulness, dedication, and, above all, exceptionally good work on the part of all the staff to get them to the high watermark that they achieve by the time they finish school,” Hahn said in the release. “I cannot, in good conscience, accept a bonus under the false pretense of assuming that our achievements are mine alone. “
In an interview, Francis said that if you ask students, they would say the best teachers are the ones who are engaging and who care about student success. They wouldn’t necessarily point to the teachers under whom they scored highly on tests, Hahn says. Hahn was the only teacher in the district to receive the bonus.
Hahn said awarding teachers in this way is “divisive” and “corrosive.” If the state were to continue offering bonuses like this one, teachers would start competing with one another for advanced placement classes, and teachers who did not receive hefty bonuses would start to resent the ones who did, Hahn said.
He said teachers aren’t Wall Street bankers, and shouldn’t be given incentives like Wall Street bankers.
“The fact that I would need to be motivated to do my job ... is insulting,” he said.
The state Public Education Department announced the initiative more than one year ago. The Taos News asked Larry Behrens via email what other bonuses that state offers teachers and how many teachers statewide received the $5,000 AP bonus, but Behrens’ response to The Taos News did not include answers to those questions.
“While we respect the position of this teacher, we know these efforts are leading the way in helping New Mexico’s students rank first in the nation in Advanced Placement success,” Behrens said in the email.
According to Behrens, New Mexico’s Hispanic students are ranked No. 1 in the nation for success in AP courses and New Mexico’s economically disadvantaged students are ranked No. 2.