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Prop 74, Teachers and (Gulp!) Merit Pay

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Bloviating Zeppelin: Prop 74, Teachers and (Gulp!) Merit Pay

Bloviating Zeppelin

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Prop 74, Teachers and (Gulp!) Merit Pay

New York Post writers Marcus Winters and Jay Green say that everyone knows teachers are terribly underpaid -- just ask any teacher, union official or anyone with an interest in the money poured into public education. However, the writers point out that, as of 2002, national teacher salaries average $44,600.

Most, but not all teachers work 9 months a year -- though that has changed in some districts. $44K for 9 months? Not shabby.

Doing the hourly wage comparison, the Labor Department says firefighters nationwide earn $17.91 an hour, cops $22.64 an hour and teachers $30.75 an hour. They write:

"Yes, teachers have a vital job to do, and they should be fairly paid. But compared to the 50-hour workweeks and daily insecurity of most white-collar workers, the tenured life of a teacher is a darn good deal."

Coming up on November 8th, Fornicalians have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 74, which reads:

Proposition 74:Increases length of time required before a teacher may become a permanent employee from two complete consecutive school years to five complete consecutive school years; measure applies to teachers whose probationary period commenced during or after the 2003-2004 fiscal year. Authorizes school boards to dismiss a permanent teaching employee who receives two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Unknown impact on school district teacher salary costs as a result of changes in teacher tenure and dismissal practices. Fiscal impacts could vary significantly district by district.

As I posted earlier, if Prop 74 passes, could "merit pay" be far behind?

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney spoke about this very subject last Friday on the Laura Ingraham show. She said that Romney had been leading a charge against the political clout of teachers unions in Massachusetts by offering the idea of a $15,000 merit pay increase based on test scores of students.

He said:
What we've found is that the underperforming schools in our state are not spending less money than those doing well. Schools that are underperforming do not have larger class sizes than the ones doing better. The major difference between the better schools and the ones that are not so strong boils down to a couple of things.

One is the capability of the teachers involved and their motivation in leading the class, and the other is the involvement of parents. So we're focusing on both those areas by saying that we want to bring in more excellent teachers, particularly in math and science, by paying a $5,000 bonus to those coming in with math and science backgrounds. We want to pay $5,000 more to those who teach advanced placement classes, in other words, the best and the brightest. And then we also want to pay $5,000 more to any teacher who's able to be in the top third of their school in terms of helping their kids move from one grade to the next. And that would be assessed by their scores on their exams.

Now you'd think we're preaching heresy of some kind, by suggesting that we want to give more money to teachers. The teachers' union doesn't want more money for teachers unless it's only based on tenure. They want mediocrity not to be considered as they look at pay; they want a pay system based on tenure alone. We want to see it based on merit, on commitment, on involvement and on excellence.

Laura asked: What does this look like in the legislature?
This is going to be a campaign that takes a long time to win. I believe that our education reform plan will move forward this year, but not in its entirety. I think it's a campaign that will need to enlist the minority community. My democratic party in this state, which controls 85% of the legislature, has long received the support of unions as well as minorities. But there's a gap here, and it's going to be growing, between minorities and unions.

As the minority population recognizes that the failure of the schools is costing their kids their future, I think you're going to see the minority community, over time, realize that real reform that changes the way unions work in our schools is essential.

Laura said: Governor Schwarzennegger in California had merit pay blocked when he came up against the enormously powerful teachers' unions. How do you propose to get around that in your state?
This is the sort of thing where you do the calculation and you say, okay, there's no way you can win this. But you have to start the fight. You have to start the campaign. You have to keep fighting and campaigning for this around the country. You have to say, our kids are more important than the teachers' union bosses. Look, the teachers agree with me. The teachers want the kind of program I'm proposing. They want to be recognized as a profession where the best performers are rewarded more effectively, with a great future career and better pay.

But the teachers' union doesn't want that. They want to protect their very weakest union members. And over time, we're going to be able to wear down the unions, because the parents and the teachers are going to demand that kids come first.

Governor Romney continued:
You know, it's interesting to me that this country has proven to the world that our system, where the best are rewarded, where people have freedom of choice, where people are able to build their own success, that works. A lockstep socialist system does not work. And in teaching, that message hasn't gotten through. The teachers' unions are clinging to a model which has been proven to be ineffective. The teachers themselves, I believe, in growing numbers, and certainly parents and kids recognize that we should be rewarding the best teachers a lot better.

I want to see our best teachers paid a lot more money. And our worst teachers, I want them to get effective training or move on to careers where they can be more successful.

In my opinion, this logic is absolutely unassailable.


Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

10 17 05

Hello BloZep:
Good post, quite provacative. I am happy that parental involvement was mentioned as a stumbling block to student's success. Far too often teachers are lambasted, I think the article presented a balanced picture of problems in our educational system and I don't think I have a plm with the concept of merit pay. I just don't think test scores are a good measure unless they look at increases in test scores, rather than absolute scores. A good teacher can teach old dogs new tricks:) This might not be readily apparent to those in the state or federal govmt, but the kids may learn slower but they learn. So if test scores are to be the barometer for sucess, I hope they are able to look at overall improvements and NOT just focus on deficiencies. I bring this up because growing up in Oakland as a kid (before moving to Modesto) the kids often didn't have two parents and were economically marginalized. They didn't have as much preparation in skill and learned a bit slower due to that. What is your opinion on this?

Mon Oct 17, 09:50:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

It's good that you should mention the parental issue -- it's obviously a HUGE measure of the success or failure rate of children -- as well as the presence or absence of a father in the family structure. I am of the opinion (and believe research as well as good ol' common sense would support this) that there is nothing like a full, loving, two-parent household. I'll be writing about these issues shortly. Kids need what Mom brings to the picture, and absolutely need what Dad brings as well -- the Yin and Yang of child rearing.

Mon Oct 17, 01:21:00 PM PDT  

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