Ernie Banks, Dan Marino, and Barry Sanders were among the greatest athletes to ever play their game. They have something in common with today’s public school teachers. They were doomed to spend their careers with terrible teams and organizations.
I love teachers and want them to be paid fair market value for their results. My beef is not with teachers, but with the dysfunctional public school system.
This whole thing about the market value of teacher skills would be so much easier if they were listed on Craig’s List or EBay. The unions don’t want you to know this, but there are alternatives to determining actual market value for teaching skills. Unfortunately, for those who were promised that you would never have to use math again after 9th grade, as with Santa, the Tooth Fairy and Unions, you were, uh – misled.
For years unions have promulgated urban legends about market value of public school teacher that have been debunked so well by others that I’ll just refer you to them and summarize a few points here. https://www.heritage.org/education/report/assessing-the-compensation-public-school-teachers
- “The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.” (Public school teacher are paid comparably to other professions.)
- “Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private-school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculum.” (Private school teachers’ compensation represents the free market value of teacher skills.)
- “Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.”
“We conclude that public-school-teacher salaries are comparable to those paid to similarly skilled private-sector workers, but that more generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers, including greater job security, make total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels,(emphasis mine) equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year. Teacher compensation could therefore be reduced with only minor effects on recruitment and retention. Alternatively, teachers who are more effective at raising student achievement might be hired at comparable cost.”
Teachers are not leaving in droves for other careers or for private school teaching jobs – at least not for money, because they get paid less and have far worse benefits and job security.
But let’s look at it from the other end. If we didn’t have to worry about those pesky budgets and could pay anything we want, could we improve education by paying teachers more?
Let’s assume that the union claim that increased salaries will increase educational quality is correct. That must mean that the current teachers are withholding education from our kids, right? Apparently, over beers at Fox and Hound, they all agreed “we can do a better job, but, eh, let’s…not. When they give us more money, we’ll amp it up by 7.658%.”
Okay, that seems too organized for people who think carrying signs and wearing red tee shirts improves their image in the community. They are probably doing the best job they can. So, what does paying them more accomplish? Yeah, yeah, I know. If we don’t pay them more they will go into non-teaching careers where they make less or into private schools where they make even less but have nice buildings. Right (sarcasm font).
Sure, over time, better compensation should help to recruit and retain good people (in a free market). But if it is really about higher salaries, let’s conduct an experiment. Have public schools offer a total comp package with higher salaries but lower benefits, 401K instead of pension, etc. Oh…and let’s kill tenure. That is a stupid socialist (I know, redundant) concept that does not help good teachers but costs millions to protect poor ones. Of course, new teachers lured by higher salaries and willing to forego lucrative benefits may not be the sharpest tools in the shed, but we could begin to quantify the total compensation package.
So – If we agree that more money will really increase the quality of teachers, but will not improve the quality of existing teachers, we would have to pay new teachers more but not existing teachers, right? I cannot wait for the union meeting on this.
It is Not Cost, it is Value Dummy
If U.S. public school performance was kicking butt in the International Education World Cup, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. It is far easier for people to get behind paying a premium for a championship caliber team.
Unfortunately, by any unit of measurement now employed, US public schools are performing poorly. In 2015, the US was ranked 38th among 71 in math and 24th in science. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/
If a business was performing at that level, it probably wouldn’t have made it to 2016. In professional sports, our team would already been on its third coach and second general manager. Imagine that your cable company was ranked 38 among 71 instead of just “Comcast sucks”. You’d probably be trying to “cut the cord.” or strangle yourself by it. Before that happens, businesses are usually sold and or a new management team is brought in to fix the failing entity. Many people simplistically think this is just a matter of raising salaries, upgrading workstations, repairing facilities, focus groups and a few peppy slogans.
Wrong. Those things may also need to be addressed, but what has to happen is a change in the culture.
Changing culture means major changes in core values, processes and people.
Higher salaries, new facilities and upgraded equipment, etc. are wasted on a failed culture whether it is a business or public schools. It is like putting makeup on a corpse. It may make the family feel better, but dead is dead.
Change is painful and almost nobody welcomes changes –least of all the ones responsible for creating and promulgating the dysfunctional culture. The people who usually most need to change or be changed are the ones who derive their position, power and income from the dysfunctional culture.
In the case of public schools, this means the unions, school boards and administrators and unfortunately, some teachers and other employees.
The change process is so well worked in many industries that there are whole courses on the Cycle of Acceptance.
So, unless I missed the bulletin about pigs flying over the frozen fields of hell, public schools are not signing up to change their culture and as a result are pretty much doomed to struggle to achieve mediocrity.
I am not saying we shouldn’t work to improve public schools. But unions aren’t going away any time soon and they are the single greatest detriment to improving public school education. Unions and administrators will die before ceding power. I have to give them credit though; they are masters at using the immature minds of children who are not going to be marching for stricter discipline and harder coursework any time soon.
I was a banker often charged with trouble shooting dysfunctional banks. Typically those were purchased, or “merged”. Often the acquired entity was so bad that it could make it appear as if the acquiring organization was suddenly in decline. One of the solutions was to divide the combined organization into the “Bad Bank” and the “Good Bank”. The Bad Bank was gradually liquidated and worthy pieces incorporated into the Good Bank.
Something like that probably needs to happen with public schools. That may be the de facto effect of voucher programs, charter schools, STEM schools and the like.
The major criticism of voucher programs is that it will cause good students to abandon public schools and create a greater concentration of poor students (both educationally and economically.) That is probably true, but it seems unfair to penalize productive kids because the grownups can’t get their act together.
Unions are a socialist construct. In any exercise, the socialist answer to “equality” isn’t to improve lower producers, it is to drag the higher producers down. That is exactly the case in today’s public school system. The challenge is to allow both top students and less capable students to reach their highest potential, not to reduce all to the lowest common denominator.
Instead of increasing salaries for teachers, why not use some of that $120 billion for deserving low income students to attend schools with better records of achievement? How about vouchers to trade schools for students not college bound? (I didn’t invent these ideas, they have been attempted several places and squashed by union resistance.)
But what about those kids who don’t want to or can’t learn? In the current culture, they are hidden and camouflaged like people with poor vision who memorize the eye chart so they won’t have to wear glasses. Teachers have their classes disrupted and their time usurped making their performance look worse than it really would be under “normal” conditions. If we want to help good teachers, shouldn’t we want to fix that? Wouldn’t it help us to know how deep the hole is? Right now those students are hidden “short poppies” https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Tall%20poppy – in the field.
Wouldn’t our educational dollar be better spent paying more for teachers specifically trained for those who need it rather than across the board increases or for the nominal (if any) benefit of paying a teacher with a masters degree more to teach 8th grade algebra? Wouldn’t smaller class sizes be better spent on those who need more personalized attention?
“What gets measured, gets managed.” Teachers and schools need to have their salaries and budgets tied to their performance. It is “Denial” to say that it can’t be done. It is not easy, but it also doesn’t have to be created from scratch.
How about taking a few pages from education in other industries? Business of all sorts train multitudes of people for results – knowledge, communications, problem solving, etc. The armed forces train millions of recruits from basic culture and knowledge to highly skilled technology. Some of these trainees are the very ones failed by our public schools.
It is true that teaching children is different. Dealing with ADD, dyslexia, and other issues complicates the teaching processes as well as teacher evaluation. But difficult isn’t the same as impossible. Maybe an evaluation system like those used in gymnastics or diving where there are points for execution with a modifier for degree of difficulty could be made workable. These other education systems may not answer every issue, but surely they know a lot about learning.
There is no “sound bite” solution to any complex issue. The answer is rarely if ever a matter of flipping a switch on one or a few big things or it would have already been done. I don’t have all of the answers here, but don’t our kids deserve a better culture for learning?