09/08/2011 09:33 EDT | Updated 11/08/2011 05:12 EST

Quebecers back merit pay for teachers: poll

A new poll by Leger Marketing shows that two thirds of Quebecers believe teachers' salaries should be based on merit.

The poll surveyed 1,005 people between August 22 and 25, and was conducted for the Montreal Economic Institute, a conservative think-tank.

The organization's director of research, Germain Belzile, said he was surprised to see so much support for the idea of basing teachers' salaries on performance.

"For the moment, teachers' pay depends entirely on diplomas and years of teaching," he said. "In fact Quebecers believe that performance should be evaluated, monitored, and the best ones should be paid more."

But Carol Ann Santella, who has been teaching elementary school for 30 years, said she doesn't think a merit system is necessary, and wonders how it would work.

"It would it be nice to be paid more, absolutely," she said. "But how they go about it would be very, very difficult."

For his part, Belzile recognizes that measuring performance could be tricky, but believes it can be done.

"It's possible to do it. It's been done well in some places, but not so well in others," he said. "But where it's been done well, it's been done at the local level."

The poll also found that 39 per cent of respondents wish it were up to individual schools to decide how their teachers are paid, rather than the Ministry of Education.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.