Commentary

Nice Gig If You Can Get It

I’m not sure this is what President Bush’s Performance Management Agenda had in mind when it prescribed performance tied to funding.

The U.S. Department of Education gave more than $5.7 million last year in bonuses to its employees, including a student-aid official who got $71,250.

In the 2003 calendar year, more than 75 percent of the department’s employees received bonuses, with political appointees among the recipients.

Each year, the department gives some employees cash awards on top of annual raises, a practice that spans federal agencies. While officials say bonuses are a way to reward performance and help lure employees from the private sector, critics say the practice smacks of favoritism and isn’t based on measurable criteria.

An analysis by The Washington Post earlier this year found that nearly two-thirds of 1.6 million civilian federal employees got bonuses or special awards in fiscal 2002.

Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.