Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tenure damages the Teaching Profession

The Rochester Education Association is our community’s MEA unit – our local teachers union. Its President wrote an opinion piece that appeared last week in the local paper:

Rochester Eccentric: Earning tenure an important milestone (05/11/08)

She writes, “The sense of celebration was contagious in the school district's Harrison Room when it was announced that 74 teachers had recently earned tenure.”

She’s right. The recognition and celebration of tenure has become an annual event on the agenda of the Rochester Board of Education, and the mood is always upbeat.

But for all of the positive things teachers do, it’s a shame that the school board cannot find better things to publicly celebrate. The countless individual accomplishments made by teachers both in and out of Rochester's classrooms seem far more worthy of a celebration than a change in employment status.

Tenure is certainly an important ritual in the culture of educators, but only because the teacher unions continue to perpetuate the notion that teachers need to be “protected” from some oppressive and ignorant opponent. Like many of the current practices in education, tenure may have made sense at some point in our history, but it now seems outdated and unnecessary today. It’s hard to see how it’s good for the teaching profession, and it seems unhealthy for public education.

Even the tone of the op-ed was one of “pre-emptive defense”. For those outside of “the family”, tenure is indeed a controversial and unpopular law.

A new report from The Education Sector, “Waiting to be Won Over” shows, “Almost seven in 10 teachers (69 percent) say that when they hear a teacher at their school has been awarded tenure, they think that it’s “just a formality—it has very little to do with whether a teacher is good or not.”

Becoming tenured does not translate into increased pay for a teacher. It does not trigger additional responsibility. There is no change whatsoever in the teacher’s professional duties.

The Eccentric op-ed reinforces tenures real purpose: “A rite of passage for all teachers, reaching tenure status means they are no longer "at-will" employees.”

Tenure has absolutely nothing to do with teaching children, or rewarding great teachers. It is nothing more than a unique one-sided law in which the government intervenes and regulates the employment relationship between an employer and an employee.

For many of the countless teachers who have become tenured over the years, tenure has little value. Top-notch professionals earn our respect – and their position in the classroom – by creatively engaging our children, and constantly challenging them. Their efforts, skills – and results – provide security, and they don’t need laws to protect them.

Instead, the tenure law serves as the biggest weapon in the MEA’s arsenal, its sole purpose
apparently being to protect those teachers that don’t belong in the classroom.

The article claims this concern is a “misconception”.

Misconceptions about tenure are perpetuated, though, when administrators shirk their responsibilities.

There are ample opportunities for them to utilize the evaluation process as an opportunity to alert teachers to areas in their performance needing attention.

Tenure protections are in no way meant to override or replace effective supervision. For those who stumble along the way, a healthy and respectful partnership between the Education Association and administration can get an underperformer back on track.

Technically, there is a process for addressing those who are gross “underperformers”. But it is a painful and cumbersome process that attempts to bury administrators in paperwork, eliminate the use of objective and meaningful test data, and drag out the process for an absurdly long time. The pain an administrator must bear to remove an “underperforming” teacher is considerable, so it’s logical that they will only go there in the most extreme cases.

Even teachers agree. From the Education Sector report:

According to teachers, not only do the system’s incentives lock in teachers who’d rather leave; its rules make it hard to push colleagues out when they really should not be teaching. Well over half of the teachers surveyed (55 percent) say that in their district it is very difficult and time-consuming to remove clearly ineffective teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom but who are past their probationary period. Only 13 percent say this is not the case. And almost half of teachers (46 percent) say they know a teacher in their own building who is past the probationary period but who is clearly ineffective and shouldn’t be in the classroom.”

It is these bad apples – protected by tenure and the MEA – that spoil the reputation of the teaching profession as a whole. Eliminating tenure privileges, and enlisting the help of the MEA to help police it’s ranks, would be a far more effective way to help teachers, students, and public education.

I’ve pasted below the Eccentric article in case the link doesn’t work:


May 11, 2008

Earning tenure an important milestone

The sense of celebration was contagious in the school district's Harrison Room when it was announced that 74 teachers had recently earned tenure. A rite of passage for all teachers, reaching tenure status means they are no longer "at-will" employees.

Tenure was awarded in 1937 and amended in 1993 by the Michigan Legislature.

The Tenure Act provides for probationary periods, regulates discharges or demotions, provides for resignations and leaves of absence, created a tenure commission and established the concept of the "continuing tenure of office of certificated teachers in public educational institutions."

It's hard to imagine this idea as being controversial when you see the fresh faces of these eager professionals. It's not unusual either to hear stories told with affection from many satisfied students and their families about their interactions with these relatively new staff members.

If you want your teachers to make the necessary commitment to their students, they naturally need a sense of security which is an important by-product of gaining tenure. Once tenure is earned it is no simple "cake walk" from here to retirement, though. Pressure to perform comes from all corners: MEAP, NCLB, MMC, NCA, SIP, MLPP, AP, PLC and under the watchful eye of the public.

The teachers strive to continually incorporate best practice and build positive relationships with students and parents. The success of our students is at the core of our mission and as fellow Education Association members we commit to guiding each other in continued quality performance.

Misconceptions about tenure are perpetuated, though, when administrators shirk their responsibilities.

There are ample opportunities for them to utilize the evaluation process as an opportunity to alert teachers to areas in their performance needing attention.

Tenure protections are in no way meant to override or replace effective supervision. For those who stumble along the way, a healthy and respectful partnership between the Education Association and administration can get an underperformer back on track.

Gaining tenure has afforded these beginning employees some contractual protections besides those afforded them through the operation of law. For example, if the unfortunate circumstances of layoff should occur, temporary and probationary teachers will be the ones to be put on notice first.

The newly minted tenure teachers are just completing four years of probation (two years for anyone who previously earned tenure in another Michigan school district). Their performance during that time has been deemed satisfactory under the scrutiny of their building principal or departmental supervisors. In addition, each teacher has also completed 210 hours of professional development, 90 of which had to be completed on their own time.

Probationary teachers are required also to work with an assigned mentor and to develop goals for their performance in consultation with their supervisors.

Please join us in congratulating the newly tenured teachers in Rochester. We invite you to watch them, too, as their contributions over the coming years strengthen the fabric of our school community.

Cathy Perini Korreck is president of the Rochester Education Association.


Anonymous said...


I'm a teacher and I agree with your opinion on tenure. In this time when courts protect the interests of unfair decisions of employers, tenure is a noose around the neck of both sides of the education field. Adminstration is burden by employees who don't perform, and teachers are burden with knowing that their single most goal, meeting children's needs, is not happening in a few classrooms. It is not wide-spread but it is something that shouldn't continue.

Not only is adminstration's hands tied by this process, but so is the union's in some respects. Sometimes they become the defense attorney for the guilty. I'm sure these instances are uncomfortable for them.

Union's should provide counsel and direction, and adminstration should work hand in hand with them to guide the employee toward a successful career. They also together should be capable of sitting together and deciding when the help they are giving is just not working. This should not be a quick process and needs strict guidelines, but the idea of tenure spits in the face of self improvement and accountability. Once your in not much can get you out, short of a felony. said...

I can't speak as a teacher but I can speak as the SON of a public school teacher, the BROTHER of a public school teacher, the cousin and nephew of a half dozen others and the friend of several others.

And almost every single one of them agrees completely with you, Anonymous.

Thanks for what you're doing for our kids.


Bill Milligan said...

I'm a teacher--but I've been other things in life as well: self-employed, an at-will employee in a shop, a teamsters member, now an MEA member. I've experienced just about every employment situation one can experience.

I have tenure, I think the system is necessary, and I know unions are still very, very, very necessary. Yes, still today (rolls eyes).

Tenure started why? Because teachers were "at will" and getting canned for having the audacity to get married or have a kid. And that's not even getting into areas where teachers had to watch voicing their opinions. And we want to go back to that...why? Oh, because the human animal has evolved into such an honorable and noble entity in the past few decades that making the entire planet "at will" employees will result in everyone getting treated fairly and respectfully.

I've got a bridge to sell you, Mike (and those that support this nonsense). Email me and I tell you where to send the check.

I'm sick of people complaining that teachers can't be fired before (gasp!) due process is served. Just think of all the money we could save if we could just arbitrarily can their behinds with zero recourse!

Yeah, let's go back to the good old days of no unions, no worker rights, no tenure. As Mike said, we're all nice, honest, outstanding citizens who don't need any checks and balances.

Good grief.

I get it: the fat cats on corporate boards who keep the hourly workers under their thumb at threat of moving overseas don't understand, nor do they like, an employee having any say, power, or leverage. And those damn teachers set a poor example for the control of the rest of the worker bees with those hard-fought and hard-won rights.

Blog all you want. Tenure will disappear in this state when Hell freezes over.

You want WW III from teachers (who, btw, are good citizens and tax payers) you go for it.

We'll be ready.

Bill Milligan said...

As a follow-up, I will say that I have not experienced the rubber-stamp tenure process that Mike alludes to here. Where I'm at, you're on probation ("at-will") for 3-5 years that includes constant evaluations and accountability. And, no, 100 percent of teachers don't get tenure at the end of that process.

Even after tenure, it's a myth that teachers can't be fired. All tenure does is ensure them due process.

Those bad-mouthing tenure are taking the lazy way out: they want to be able to do whatever they want to employees and not have to be accountable for it or make a case for it.

The truth hurts, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

To the first poster here: where do you teach? Just curious. You admit the problem isn't "widespread," yet you advocate dismantling a system to get at the very few? Doesn't make sense.

And your the "MEA has to defend the guilty" comment. Again, due process. Shouldn't EVERY member of a union be afforded legal counsel and due process? Do you also advocate waiving due process in the private sector and our court systems? Scary.

Again, administrators and board members need to do their jobs and stop whining about how much work due process is. Get over it already. If you can't handle due process or don't believe in it, don't cash the paycheck or don't go up for re-election.

We need people who aren't lazy and who believe in individual rights.

Anonymous said...

At will ,right to work, outsourced, privatized, are all buzzwords for SHAFTING the common workers while a few fat cats rule.

I think Mike does a real good job of reinforcing why unions are still needed.

The process is far from perfect and yes tenure is more of a right of passage. However it is still important for all the reasons Bill noted.

Mike seems to have a real axe to grind with unions. I don't know why. The poor union endorsement of 2004 put him at that board table.

With any luck he can get them to support his next run.

Bill Milligan said...

In higher ed, about 66 percent of teachers are "at will" (contracted by the course, most with no benefits). Our school adjuncts outnumber full-timers 3-1 (which is fairly steady stat across the board in higher ed).

It's a system where people with master degrees and PHds make near-minimum wages.

Disgraceful. Pathetic. Outrageous.

But the right-wing bean counters LOVE that kind of stuff! Look what the market dictates!

Now let's work on the minority who do have rights and tenure.

Those of you in K-12: don't kid yourself it's just a higher ed issue here I'm talking about. When the unions are gone and so is tenure, a vast majority of your teachers will suddenly become "adjuncts."

Most of these "reformers" (translation: "we want to cut out the voice of a segment of the population involved in the education process") haven't stepped foot in a classroom as a teacher or have the foggiest idea what it's like.

I'd like to see these "reformers" teach a week or two in junior high. Those kids would eat them alive.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of these "reformers" have ever set foot inside an operational classroom. How many have wiped the runny noses of other people's kids as a Kindergarden volunteer?

Take a look at the American Axle tentative agreement.

A $20,000 pay cut and an increase of about $2500 in contributions to their benefit packages. That is a total of $22,500 per year in disposable and mostly necessary income. We can all discuss the merits of over paid non-skilled labor, but many in politics want to see our educators with advanced degrees get this kind of deal too.

This is the straw man for the "reform" that is coming.

So to those of you out there that applaud these changes I say good luck. How will you fare in this Brave New World?

Anonymous said...

Electrolux just vacated Greenville for Mexico. The "reformers" would have you believe it was those damn unions that drove them away! The truth is Mexico offered to pay $1.60 an hour and a rice lunch daily to its workers.

And yes, I find it insulting that "reformers" continually want to tie in the lumps the auto industry is taking to the teachers who should also be "getting theirs."

They can't wait for the day when they can leverage against teachers by threatening to outsource those jobs as well.

In the interim, two choices: shut up and become a teacher yourself or pipe down.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I've been quoted again "Thug Watch" at the EAG site. I wonder if I stop by Doster's office with my family wearing an "I've been thugged" Tee if he'll pose for a pic with us? Hmm...might have to try that this summer at some point.

But this is a prime example of why we need tenure. Notice I have the freedom to voice my opinion and take on the EAG without fear of losing my job. Notice that Kyle doesn't like that--he who contacted my boss last fall about me voicing my freedom of speech.

That's how it works, though, in the world in inhabits: worker bees need to be kept in line and keep their mouths shut! The way to ensure that? Destroy unions and worker rights.


Bill Milligan said...

Sorry about the typos in the previous post. Scandalous. If only tenure didn't exist, I could probably be rightly fired for not proofing before I hit the "publish" button.

Tenure is a wonderful thing. I think I'll write a poem about it. Maybe a song. Or two.

Tenure, tenure, tenure, is the thing you see,

Tenure, tenure, tenure, gives freedoms to you and me.

Whadda think, Kyle? Bobby Dylan would be proud. I'll even put it to music in the key of "D"--a fav of Bobby's.

Btw: Did you ever cut Bob a check for using his music in your video?

Not that he needs the money...and I'm sure he has no problem with his music and message being co-opted by a right-wing political group. I'm sure he swings that way ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow...did this conversation die out in a hurry. Not enough bug spray?

Mike Reno said...

Not sure what the "bug spray" comment means.

This whole "due process" discussion makes little sense to the 80% - 90% of us that are somehow able to work our whole careers without tenure, and without union "protection."

The talk that teachers would lose their jobs for having a child is utter nonsense, and doesn't even merit discussion.

The other comments really have nothing to do with tenure, but are instead idealogical perspectives on unions. I'm not here to discuss that; I'm here to discuss what's best for kids, and what's best for public education. I'm sure there are other blogs that focus on unions.

Bill Milligan said...


That's the problem: you don't put yourself in teachers' shoes, you insist they put themselves in yours. Hey, I'm happy for you. Live and let live. You've gotten by in your life without tenure. And your kids were counting and spelling by age 2, therefore all-day kindergarten is best for most everyone. We get it.

But please allow those of us who have actually spent considerable time in the classroom as teachers decide what's best for us (or at least pretend to listen to us)--and I promise I won't try to tell you what's best for you and your computer business.


Mike Reno said...

As soon as you are elected to my board of directors, Bill, I will gladly accept your suggestions.

And while I'm on this Board of Education, I'm going to focus on what is best for the children. At times that will be at odds with the ancillary and tangential desires of the adults in the system. Tenure is a great example of just such a conflict.

I've pointed out why I think tenure is bad for public education. It's sole purpose is to protect the bad apples, and that is not good for the kids.

Your only argument seems to be some outdated hypothesis that suggests tenure is the only thing that stops teachers from being mistreated and abused. You seem to suggest that every administrator is some sort of oppressive buffoon that will dismiss teachers for frivolous reasons at a moments notice. That's simply absurd.

I'd love to hear one solid example of how tenure benefits our children. Make it something tangible... not some "power to the people" rhetoric.

Bill Milligan said...

I've provided several good reasons in this thread alone, Mike. But here's a boatload of good reading for you:

That source is no better no worse than your "non partisan" source used earlier to support your position.

This really boils down to an economic argument (a common, sometimes hidden, theme at this blog and others like it). You want to be able to "do as you will" with employees on whims--whether those whims be not liking someone or simply lopping off part of the budget without breaking a sweat.

The increase in non-tenure faculty also leads to an increase in what I call "transient" teachers: teachers hired by the course or the by the semester or the year who do not participate in school committees and other vital infrastructure that daily and directly supports students (see my previous posts). You'd know that if you spent time in the hallways, Mike.

Tenure also protects academic freedom. And, contrary to your lazy quip that tenure only protects the bad apples, I can provide you concrete examples of VERY GOOD teachers who have had political entities (including board members) come hard after them because of their views on any number of "controversial" topics. Email me.

You chide me for hanging onto some "outdated" view of the necessity of tenure, yet you hang onto a view that hasn't been supported since the Garden of Eden pre-apple bite: that the human animal is this benevolent and fair entity that will "surely" treat all other human beings with fairness and respect--so let's do away with all the checks and balances and make everyone at-will because we don't need worker protections!


And stop this nonsense about tenure protecting bad apples. Bad apples can be gotten rid of. True, in the tenure system ALL participants are afforded due process and I understand how the right crowd loathes that and would rather just not be bothered by such trivialities, but, sorry, that's life.

Your turn ;)

Anonymous said...

The whole discussion of merit pay, bust the bad unions, and that tenure hurts assumes that all administrators are good and fair at heart. It further assumes that all administrators operate from the same rule book.

They are not.

Many buisness owners like Mr. Reno have done well in their benevolent dictatorships.

In Michigan you can fire any one of your employees at will. you don't even need to provide a reason. That works good for a landscape company or software copying facility. No merit. No job. No problem. It is a dictatorship without much government regulation. (help)

So what to the good teacher trapped in a bad district? We hear all about the "bad apples" but what about the shining examples that embarrass their administation by succeeding in SPITE of them? Not because of them?

We require our teachers to have a Bachelors degree plus teaching certificate training. That is almost the equivalent of a Masters degree. We start them off at less than $40,000 per year and expect them to take continuing education on "their dime".

So Mike, what do you pay for a medium to great Masters degree employee? I bet more than 40k.

Now we take that teacher and add several years to their experience and more required training and we use the step system to get them up to maybe 60k or 70k. By the way, steps are too expensive to the district. This needs to change.

Then the administration and regulation changes and this experienced teacher is no longer respected. This is because this teacher trys to follow the law regarding special education.

We then see three more sub-administrators added in the district to "help" this teacher do their job. Each individual administrator acts as if they were the only important boss providing conflicting directions. Each has their own definition of the law, Michigan and Federal. Each has their own agenda and their own vision.

This direction "help" is usually mutually exclusive in direction.

Do you see the friction building here?

This is a REAL example of a REAL retired Oakland County district teacher.

By this time the teacher now near the top of the pay scale. They want out and don't have enough time to retire. The dysfunction of the many bosses is too much.

But any other district will start this teacher off at the 40k wage and WITHOUT TENURE! And with a serious loss of retirement benefits.

So Mr. Know It All, what does this teacher do?

So after the second hospitalization for cardiac stress and angina the teacher retires early.

So again when it comes to different and varried intrepretations of the regulation, which one of the four individuals makes the final decision on policy and class lesson plans?

The teacher?

Boss #1?

Boss #2?

Boss #3?

By this time the half decade attempts to please them ALL have all failed.

The ONLY thing protecting that teacher was TENURE.

This teacher was recognized by state and county administrations as a high performer and a leader in special education. This teacher was not liked by the administration but was effective in teaching the "unteachable".

Again it was tenure that allowed this teacher to make a difference to the students for over a decade.

This teacher convinced the 15 year old that getting pregnant is NOT a good idea because that baby won't fill the void in the students life.

This teacher taught enough math to the students so they could actually balance a check book. So they could figure out how to set the mixture of soap and wax at the car wash.

This teacher believed in making tax payers out of special ed students NOT more dependants on government.

The administration did not see things that way.

So again it was tenure that was helping the students.

This retired teacher now volunteers in Pontiac because volunteers are truly "at will" employees.

Oh yeah, they don't get paid.

But this teacher can now help kids without the multiple administrators "helping".

So is this "solid" enough for an example?

Or will it just be dissmissed as anecdotal?

Bill Milligan said...


Your example makes too much sense and is too compelling, therefore we will have to dismiss it. Instead, let's search high and low for the National Enquirer-esque example of a teacher doing drugs or sleeping with an underaged student as convincing proof we need to get rid of tenure.

:rolls eyes:

I'll tell you what is ruining teaching and I'm dead serious: this fascination with bringing the business model into the classroom. And, not surprisingly, the ones leading the charge on that are corporate types who haven't spent a day in the classroom as a teacher. Ever.

Mike Reno said...

The story sounds a bit melodramatic.

This one lone fighter survives two heart attacks presumably caused by an inept administration bent on denying services to special education students. Tenure was the only thing protecting her from the evil school board, the evil superintendent, the evil assistant superintendents, and the evil special education director. I'm sure the incompetent principal and the three bumbling "sub-administrators" were plotting against her also. And she had no support from her coworkers.

Without hearing both sides, it's hard to assess.

And it also puts me in the awkward position of trying to defend administration and board actions. This is awkward because school boards and administrators often contributed more than their fair share to public education's challenges. Most teachers I've encountered seem to be pretty effective at delivering the instruction they're asked to deliver. My concern with Michigan's public education system focuses on WHAT they've been asked to deliver, which is determined by central office administrators.

Drama aside, your point instead seems to be that tenure defends the teacher who wants to buck the system. Yes, there is certainly value in challenging dumb decisions that managers make. It happens in the private sector all of the time. It's what drives and improves the enterprise. But it's usually not done in an insubordinate way; a way that would lead to dismissal.

And yes, sometimes people get fired for not following the company rules. And while you may not think that is fair, I guess I don't see how anarchy would be a better way.

But perhaps the most important point in your story was the line that read, "But any other district will start this teacher off at the 40k wage and WITHOUT TENURE! And with a serious loss of retirement benefits." For those curious about that statement, let me explain. Most districts have policies that will start out every new hire teacher at step 0 -- the entry-level wage -- regardless of their experience. This means if you are 15 year veteran, and would like to move to another district, then you must start over on the pay scale. It's perhaps the most bizarre practice I've seen in public education.

In your story, our hero could not simply go to another district where she would be more appreciated because she would be forced to see an unreasonable drop in her income.

Your poor teacher was trapped by a goofy system designed by her union!

This practice places "golden handcuffs" on teachers, who are essentially trapped in a district once they join. If they don't like what is going on in a district, they are certainly welcome to "vote with their feet", and move to another district. Of course, if they do, then they'll see a 50% pay cut.

Another MEA practice designed to "help" it's members.

It's these artificial and unnatural practices that remove the natural "checks and balances" which allow the private sector to function. If you have a company run by a bunch of dopes, you are likely to see the talented people leave to go to better companies. A large exodus of talented people eventually reduces profitability, or reduces customer satisfaction, etc. At some point the board of directors will change management. Or the company will go out of business.

But in public education, you stymie management from removing poor performers with tenure. A "golden handcuff" policy keeps talented people trapped with bad managers. And the schools never run out of taxpayer money, regardless of whether they are effective or not.

Bill Milligan said...

Lol...what'd I'll tell ya?

*sigh*...I guess better reading and examples can be had at the EAG site about MESSA paying for sex change operations and the MEA protecting convicted felons.

Good grief..."melodramatic."

Bill Milligan said...

More good reading:

And I will call out the notion that unions are behind new hires (even experienced ones) starting at zero steps. In my personal experiences, administration has not only been complicit in that but happy to do so: they LOVE it when older faculty retire and they can bring in new blood (even experienced blood) at much lower steps. That whacks the budget down overnight!

I will go so far as to say that in my personal experience that issue has been mostly administration driven. Can't speak for everyone, of course.

You're trying to tell me, Mike, that Rochester would want a system where they had to pay top-pay scale to new hires? Come, now.

Mike Reno said...

I don't speak for Rochester Schools, Bill.

And you are misrepresenting what I said. I never all new hires should be a top of scale.

But I can tell you that any district would probably welcome the opportunity to hire a few experienced Math and Science teachers for secondary. In order to do that you'd need to bring them in at the appropriate pay level. What on earth is wrong with that?

I've mentioned this several times at board meetings. I can assure you that the problem here is not the administration.

Bill Milligan said...

Fair enough, Mike--though I will say we're now starting to get off topic a tad and that there are previous points that haven't yet been addressed.

Anonymous said...

I never mentioned the board in the melodrama. I never said that the extra bosses and administration had ill will or bad intentions.

I stated that they all thought they were the ONLY source of direction and that the direction is and never was coordinated. The regulation is flawed and conflicting. But in all fairness you can't correct that.

The stesss of trying to serve too many masters in the current system is beyond belief. The system is not evil just broken. Yes the union was no help. Yes the school principle was no help and did in fact disslike this teacher and want them gone.

Some other teachers tried to help. But again in a bad situation what do you do? "The nail that sticks up must be pounded down".

As for being hand cuffed and or stymied, YOU the board members are just as guilty as the unions.

Just like the car companies, both sides agree to those contracts. The buck stops at leadership. That cuts both ways.

If you want to reform the system, do it! Simply waiting and whining and then voting no is NOT leadership.

Don't expect Lansing to crush the union influence its too political and takes too long. Lead them to the better solution.

You are trying to beat them into submission. They are all too willing to fight. But you know that. That is the real intent here is it not?

You like the private industry examples. Look at American Honda and Toyota. They have kept the UAW out of their plants for about three decades. That's 30 years. That's an entire career in the plant for some.


They must have a better way of treating their employees than the home town teams. They certainly never pulled an American Axle on them or they would vote a union in in a second.

They have a vote every now and then and the vote always fails. Why? Maybe they are respected and compensated well enough that unions are not necessary. So what to do here?

A good start would be the pay gap that traps good teachers. When private industry needs great talent, they have to pay the going rate. And sometimes with a signing bonus. How does that fit within the RCS budget?

So what is the going rate for a top notch math or AP science teacher? 40k? (LOL) That same person can make twice that in the private sector to start.

You say that our current contracts cost too much. OK. What would you have to pay to weed out all the low performers and jump straight to the merit system?

You, the Macinac Center, Dick DeVos and many others want teachers to pay 25% of thier benefits. OK. What is the expected dollar amount? What is a reasonable starting wage and benefit package?

You are not speaking for the board if you answer these questions. Just going on the record.

You throw the rhetoric out there about the unions but what if they were gone? What will you pay on the street for someone that will tollerate 30 kids in a middle school class room and still shine? What will it cost to get them to perform well enough to qualify for the merit pay increases in this perfect model?

I have the basic qualifications to teach the math and or the AP science. However I need two to three more years of university work to get the teaching certificate to qualify.

What can you offer me ($)to give up my 6 figure salary and benefits to do this?

Put a number on it!

What I see on this site is contempt for the bargaining unit and most of its membership.

You offer much more of an offensive here than any leadership. Unless your intent is to get the unions to dig in further. Then we go right back to the tenure issue and all of its ramifications.

So don't dance. Man up and put forth some numbers. Go on the record with your thoughts.

I think 40k is too low. I think the steps are too steep and cost too much. I think we need a merit system so that top scale teachers are compelled to keep reaching for greatness.

So in my world you need about 50k to 60k plus a benefit package with 80-20% co pay and a $900 deductable. I expect that Blue Cross package to cost about $1000 per month to cover a family of 4.

I put mine out here. Where are yours?

Bill Milligan said...

The core problem is that the term "reform" is often used as euphemism that translates "cut teacher unions out the equation and out of the conversation." That simply is flawed and politically fatal thinking. There is no reform that can happen where the goal is disenfranchising a current participant in the process.

As for the comment in the previous post about getting the union to "dig in" even more, we see evidence of that most recently with the blundering efforts of the EAG in Gladstone and the recent board vote of "no confidence" in GR against the GREA.

That stuff does the "reformers" more harm than good and only strengthens the union, its leadership, and its support.

Marty Rose said...


So it's "reform" that's got your shorts in a knot.

Does "progress" work for you Mr. Militant? Or are you content to collect your tenure-protected, taxpayer-funded paycheck while you spin your complacent wheels for the next decade?

Meanwhile Anonymous sneers "Just do it!" at regular guys like Mike who VOLUNTEER their time to try to improve learning opportunities for students.

It's your right to be in the tank for the union, but get your stories straight.

If it was really about helping kids learn, folks with phD's in high demand fields like science & math wouldn't have to do time in ed- school to teach.

But it's really not about the kids. It's about jobs for "grownups" and dues
for the club that protects those who excel, as well as those who take up space. And that's the travesty.

BTW, many "top notch" AP teachers -the kind whose students' test scores bear up well to scrutiny - make $75 - 90 K for their September - June gigs. It's not a bad deal. These folks don't need protection. They're professionals.

Bill Milligan said...

What do you do for a day gig, Marty? The "best" ideas seem to come from those who haven't spent time in a classroom and would probably get lost in their own local schools.

I don't "need" tenure (I'll make my teaching evaluations open to anyone who wants them). But I will see probably a half-dozen administration changes in my tenure and several board overalls. I'll sell you the same bridge I'm selling Mike if you think that petty politics and personal vendettas don't get in the way of "good teachers" doing their jobs from time to time.

And sorry where you work (and Mike) that you don't have tenure or a strong union. That's your problem. Work on it. And stop being so pompous about foisting your belief system onto me.



Marty Rose said...

I do my job & steer clear of blowhards who whine about how tough we've got it working in schools.

"I don't 'need' tenure."

That's the point, hothead.

Bill Milligan said...

Sounds like you've got the life you want. I've got the one I want as well.

I support your right not to have any rights if that's what you want :)

Speaking of hotheads, the name calling really isn't very becoming.


Marty Rose said...

“Rights” that hurt kids & schools by harboring & promoting those who can’t, don’t or won’t do the job are wrong.

The problem with tenure is that it protects the good, the bad & the ugly.

This doesn’t sit well with folks who don’t enjoy our “rights”, Bill.

The stakes are too high. When people are powerless to do anything about their kid getting stuck with a dud (or worse), that’s an injustice.

This hurts the students and the system & gives all of us a bad name.

Ain’t nothin’ to cheer about there, hombre.

Anonymous said...

There has been ample evidence provided in this thread (all of it completely ignored by those who are against tenure) of the necessity and benefits of tenure.

The trouble is you want to throw the baby out with the bath water: to get it at the small sample of teachers who need discipline, you want to not only do away with due process for them but for everyone.

Sorry, that "ain't nothing to celebrate."

Marty Rose said...

That “small sample” looms large when it’s your kid, my friend.

Contrary to what you may choose to believe, due process is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, not the MEA.

Bill Milligan said...

I have two daughters who have gone through the public school system and two sons starting on the other end. I don't need someone to tell me about "my kids" and what is or isn't happening in their schools.

That you would advocate doing away with due process for the sake of "my kids" is pretty scary and exactly the reason we do need tenure.

Marty Rose said...

YOU may not, Bill.

But some parents who don't enjoy our priveleged window on "what is or isn't happening in their (kids') schools", do need someone to tell them.

The "due process" canard may be effective in scaring some, but not all.

Tenure holds too much potential for abuse & harm, real & imagined.

Not worth the negative rap.

Anonymous said...

You are all missing the mark here.

Even without tenure a lazy administrator won't discipline bad or reward good.

So what is that solution?

Mine has been that when my kid got a put in an overloaded Second grade class with too many "large personalities", I made lots of effort to get a better Third grade teacher to make up for it. Than she got "dud" in Fourth Grade. I got on the back of my principle.

I guess Marty here and Mike to some extent want Lansing to do my (the parents) work.

Tenure or no tenure, administrators that are afraid to deal and or reward are the REAL problem.

Any union employee can be disciplined and or rewarded. It just takes an administrator that will "man up".

Yes, just do it!

Marty Rose said...

A nice place to end this is where we started, with the first comment to Mike's thought-provoking blog entry:


I'm a teacher and I agree with your opinion on tenure. In this time when courts protect the interests of unfair decisions of employers, tenure is a noose around the neck of both sides of the education field. Adminstration is burden by employees who don't perform, and teachers are burden with knowing that their single most goal, meeting children's needs, is not happening in a few classrooms. It is not wide-spread but it is something that shouldn't continue.

Not only is adminstration's hands tied by this process, but so is the union's in some respects. Sometimes they become the defense attorney for the guilty. I'm sure these instances are uncomfortable for them.

Union's should provide counsel and direction, and adminstration should work hand in hand with them to guide the employee toward a successful career. They also together should be capable of sitting together and deciding when the help they are giving is just not working. This should not be a quick process and needs strict guidelines, but the idea of tenure spits in the face of self improvement and accountability. Once your in not much can get you out, short of a felony.

May 18, 2008 11:29 AM

Bill Milligan said...

Why end with that one? Why not end with a post from a teacher with an opposing view--or the post that provided a plethora of links and data supporting tenure?

Just curious.