So Barack Obama supports merit pay.
Hillary Clinton is the accepted front-runner for the Democratic ticket, but Obama raised significantly more campaign money than Clinton last quarter. I have no way of knowing if Obama is sincere in his merit pay proposal, but could it be more than just a coincidence that he's swinging a bit to the right here in order to try to pick up some moderates and fence-sitters? After all, he has nothing to fear in such a move--if he were to become the party nominee, the NEA would support him no matter what. They've given Nancy Pelosi their 2007 Friend of Education Award, and have never supported a Republican for president (and they've been stumping for Presidents since Carter). They support candidates who send their own children to private schools, so why not someone who supports merit pay? It's not like a federal merit pay system would ever become law anyway--how could it?--so it's an easy point in Obama's favor with some voters, a point he'll never have to make good on.
The only way the NEA wouldn't support a Democrat for president is if that candidate were to be anti-union or if he/she were to support "right to work" laws. Otherwise, the NEA is an easy endorsement--just put a "D" after your name. Had President Bush said the same thing as Obama, he'd have been crucified by the NEA and the press.
This is a smart political move for Obama.
Update: EIA has more details on Obama's statement.