It’s no big secret that schooling special interest groups, such as teachers, school board, and administrators unions, oppose incentive or merit pay for rank-and-file members. Those groups prefer rigid salary schedules instead that are largely based on credentials and tenure (two factors that, by the way, have no demonstrable positive impact on student learning).

Of course, when it comes to union leadership, it appears that the salary scale works in reverse: the worse you do, the more you get paid. Teachers union leaders bleed members and still get hefty raises.

The Paterson Public School District in Paterson, New Jersey, is just the latest example of more pay for poor performance.

Located in the Garden State’s third largest city, this suburban school district has 48 schools, employs more than 580 high school teachers, has a lower-than-average student teacher ratio of 13 to one, and in the 2010-2011 school year the Paterson district spent more than $15,600 per student, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Yet just 19 Paterson high school students earned a minimum SAT score of 1500 out of 2400 deemed necessary to be considered college ready (and students earn 600 points for filing in their names), as The Daily Caller’s Eric Owens reports:

At the same time, 66 employees in the Paterson school district each soak taxpayers for salaries of at least $125,000 per year, the Paterson Press reports.

What’s more, according to the local Fox affiliate WWOR-TV:

Rosie Grant, the Executive Director of the Paterson Education Fund, said that the cards are stacked against the students in Paterson.

“These kids who are now seniors have gone through seven superintendents in their tenor [sic] at Paterson public schools and with every administration change, there's a reworking of what the schools are supposed to be doing,” she said.

However, the Paterson school district said that they no longer use SAT scores to gauge students' success.

Changing the measure won’t change the fact that students aren’t even minimally prepared for life beyond college.

Paterson has no public charter high schools. Since 2012, state lawmakers have consideredbut failed to enact—an Opportunity Scholarship Act (OPA) program for low-income children in failing schools to use privately funded tax-credit scholarships to attend better private schools instead.

Sounds like what’s going on in New Jersey is symptomatic of a much larger problem in which children are viewed as creatures of the state and therefore captive to a school system that refuses to reform. Under such a scenario, there are no rewards for success or consequences for failure—that’s why large majorities of students graduate unprepared and school officials get a free pass, along with a big raise.

This situation is nothing new in states like New Jersey with little if any parental choice in education.

Back in 2012, controversy erupted when New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) Executive Director Vincent Giordano, who reportedly was earning a $500,000 salary, told poor families who cannot afford to move their children out of failing schools that “life’s not always fair, and I’m sorry about that.”

Next time you hear parental choice opponents squawk about how expanding education options drains money from public schools, remember these kinds of public school establishment salary figures—and how all that money isn’t enriching students.