If the suspense isn’t exactly killing you on our mayoral election next week, you might find a more interesting election in the Rockies, where Denver residents are voting tomorrow on a $25 million tax increase that would fund a new pay plan for teachers.

If the measure passes, Denver teachers will be entitled to additional pay for student achievement, as well as for adding skills and knowledge, receiving good evaluations and/or for working in shortage areas. The pay would be over and above annual contractual COLAs. A teacher could ultimately increase her/his salary by $33,000 annually.

The Denver plan, Professional Compensation System for Teachers (”ProComp”) was devised by the Denver Teachers Association and the Denver school district, and has been piloted for four years. Current teachers can opt in, or remain on the existing salary scale. New teachers would be enrolled automatically. Denver teachers voted to adopt the plan 59-41 last December. Tomorrow’s vote will tell if residents are willing to increase their property taxes to pay for it. If it passes, it goes into effect in January.

Denver teachers are plagued by some of the same ills as here, including larger classes, heavy emphasis on state test scores and a history of less-than-decent district leadership. This plan, years in the negotiating, is being pushed hard by the Denver district and closely watched as a possible model of the new merit pay for other cities. Residents were sold this deal as a way to raise teacher pay with assurances of better student outcomes. Teachers seem cautious about it so far.

Could it work here? Comments welcome. The Denver plan has parallels with a career ladder study by the UFT and retention recommendations by the AFT, and it certainly puts the lie to the simplistic, top-down kinds of merit pay plans that Chancellor Klein talks about. The enormous amount of thought and effort that Denver teachers put into their plan should get our attention and respect, if not our vote. If any “merit pay” plan could fly, this one may be close to it.