Monday, July 28, 2008

MEA Misses the Mark in it's Rebuttal

I recently wrote an opinion piece advocating that we find a way to better reward those teachers who excel. I wrote, “Ideally, the Michigan Education Association -- the state's largest teachers union -- would be part of the solution.”

Last week the MEA gave some indication of how they felt:

Detroit News: Pay system rewards right traits for teachers (07/21/08)

In it, MEA President Iris Salters advocates for maintaining the status quo. Well, actually, she advocated for more money for everyone.

Her point was that knowledge and experience are the most important factors to consider in compensating teachers. I agree those are certainly important factors, but only if they are effectively applied and produce results. The current system doesn’t consider whether a teacher is having an impact, and doesn’t reward those who are.

Ms. Salters also raised a common misconception about merit pay systems when she said they favor, “teachers whose students receive the highest test scores”. Were that the case, she’d have a point to back her opposition. But effective merit pay systems are designed to reward the annual GROWTH in student achievement for students of all learning levels, not just the top students.

Furthermore, despite what Ms. Salters might think, merit pay is not just about scores. I specifically said, “Subject matter and teaching environment also deserve consideration, all in an effort to reward teachers who are truly making a difference in areas where they're most needed.” The expression, "Teaching environment" is oftentimes the politically correct way of referring to
economically disadvantaged schools, which would include “the neediest children”.

Her rebuttal also used the tired old MEA line about reportedly low teacher salaries. On the surface, the salary comparisons she included might indeed suggest there is some imbalance nationally, but her figures only address annual salary, and ignore work schedules, health benefits and retirement. She cites national figures, which do not reflect the fact that Michigan has among the highest paid teachers in the nation. And she only references starting salaries; my point was not to look at where salaries start – or where they finish for that matter – but was instead meant to examine and challenge how the salaries change over time. I still believe that those teachers who are better at their jobs deserve more compensation and should get it faster than those who are only average – or worse.

We’ll save the detailed salary discussion for another time. For now, I’d suggest that those really interested in the facts review the government’s Bureau of Labor statistics. It’s a wealth of information, and can be found here:

Finally, Ms. Salters notes, “… in some cases where alternative pay systems have been jointly agreed to, they've collapsed because of insufficient resources to support the rewards the system deems worthy.” If the example she cited from decades ago was indeed “dismantled because the funds weren't available”, one could easily accept that the failure was more likely due to the historically poor structure of education pay systems. School boards generally lack financial acumen, and history shows time and time again that they are willing to approve unaffordable labor agreements. There is not a problem with the concept of merit pay; there is instead a problem with the way it may have been poorly designed and implemented.

An effective system would first look at what money is available, and then distribute it based on who is doing the best job.

I really think the MEA is missing the mark when it attempts to advocate for the general mass of teachers, and does so at the expense of the truly strong and successful teacher.


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


Pay system rewards right traits for teachers

While I was glad that Mike Reno noted many teachers deserve higher compensation for the work they do to educate future doctors, lawyers and presidents, I disagree with his criticism of the fairest, best understood and most widely used approach to teacher compensation -- the salary schedule ("Increase teacher pay in manageable way," July 10).

The salary schedule rewards things that make a difference in teacher quality -- knowledge and experience. A well-constructed salary schedule rewards classroom experience, promotes continued professional learning, and promotes both retention and recruitment of high-quality staff.

Alternative pay systems, such as those where pay increases or bonuses are paid to teachers whose students receive the highest test scores, unfairly punish educators who work with some of the neediest students, including children at risk of dropping out of school and children with special needs.

The fundamental problems with teacher compensation in Michigan -- and America -- are low teacher pay and lack of investment in education.

The teaching profession has an average national starting salary of $30,377, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Meanwhile, college graduates who enter fields with similar training and responsibilities receive higher salaries. Beginning computer programmers, for example, get $43,635. Registered nurses earn $45,470.

The structure of teacher pay is a local issue decided through collective bargaining between school boards and teachers. But in some cases where alternative pay systems have been jointly agreed to, they've collapsed because of insufficient resources to support the rewards the system deems worthy.

In Tennessee, a merit pay system was enacted with union support in the 1980s. A decade later, it was essentially dismantled because the funds weren't available to reward the thousands of excellent educators in the state.

To make any pay system work, the investment in education has to be up to the task.

Iris K. Salters

President, Michigan

Education Association

East Lansing


Adam McLane said...

Keep up the fight Mike. We all know the union based increase schedule rewards mediocrity and is simply antiquated.

The best I can tell, raises are not a reward for anything other than longevity. While teaching is a critically important role in our state... we should demand and reward excellence.

Of course, this is a fairy tale since most of Michigan seemingly lives in the 1980s and thinks unions are good for the state.

Perhaps its time for a charter school system to come along that actively competes with union-based schools?

Diana Huetteman said...

"the investment in education has to be up to the task..." Can anyone tell me how this is judged in the public schools? My son is autistic. I fought to have him re-evaluated in kindergarten. He had previously received PPI services until our district ran out of money. He was scheduled to receive minimal services by February of 1st grade. He was determined to be @1 1/2 years behind. By the end of 4th grade, he was 3 years behind. According to the Autism Society, he brings $29k+ in federal funds to the district in addition to his $7.3K state allotment. That's some investment! Yet the task of educating him fell to me. He started private therapies and educational programs - fast forward - endorsed by his support staff that have provided more academic benefit than anything provided by the public schools. Why is that? If I had a voucher for his education dollars I would readily spend it on products and personnel that show growth - even on one of the "neediest" and more "difficult" students.

Bill Milligan said...


You've conveniently still not answered questions presented to you in your original opinion article--yet now we're on to critiquing the rebuttal. Please rewind! Thanks in advance.

And more:

"School boards generally lack financial acumen, and history shows time and time again that they are willing to approve unaffordable labor agreements."

So by your own admission, you and your colleagues, generally speaking, don't have a clue and grope around in the dark when it comes to money (hey, your words not mine)...but, hey, let's give them even more responsibility: decide teacher pay AND devise a fair, balanced, and intricate rubric for awarding select teachers big fat raises and giving other teachers zero.

Really? Wowzers.

And I'm still trying to get you to get past the sound bites and the emotional pandering to the Right and provide specific details on how this would work--instead of flippantly dismissing the example provided of Tenn.

Bill Milligan said...

I will add that I don't agree with your assessment that school boards lack monetary savvy (to paraphrase). I think that statement is highly insulting to school board members everywhere.

No school board is this money-stupid island you make it out to be. All districts are well connected and communicate well together(MASB and many other training opportunities)--in other words, there's plenty of help, support, and "training," to go around (I think you even belong to several such groups ;)).

Hell, board members from the UP spout the same catch-phrases as board members down your way--usually word-for-word. Tactics are the same everywhere, too (start negotiations late and stall, stall, stall--teachers can't strike and they'll of course keep working no matter what you do). But I suppose it's all just osmosis and purely coincidental ;)

In addition, when boards stall and stall and stall during negotiations, there usually arises a couple more educational opportunities for the board: mediation and fact finding (and sometimes both!)

Granted, boards can choose to completely ignore the wonderful educational opportunities inherent in mediation and fact finding (much like our Gladstone Board is doing up here right now). But I digress... said...

Hey, it's Bill!

And here I thought you only liked picking fights with Kyle Olson and anyone who blogs on RightMichigan.

Props for the diversification!


Bill Milligan said...

Thanks, Nick. Hello! Mike is connected to Kyle. Just following the dots ;)

So what are your thoughts on this? Any details to add?

I will also say I don't know of any board (it might happen--I just haven't heard of it) that doesn't go into negotiations without a "hired gun" doing their work at the table. I again would suggest those entities have some "financial savvy" as it were.

Mike Reno said...

I'm glad, Bill, that you actually read and understood what I wrote! :-)

This is a bit off topic, but I'll digress in order to address your point.

Yes, I do think that collectively school boards have done a horrible job of managing taxpayer dollars.

According to several Anderson Economic reports done for the Michigan Senate (based on actual dollars), education spending by school boards in Michigan has increased at double the rate of inflation since Prop A passed in 1994.. hardly a shining example of fiscal prudence.

That's not to say that some boards don't act responsibly; I'm sure some do. But the numbers say most don't. For example, the board on which I sit gives budgets a superficial review at best. The district's $30 million fund balance is often cited as "proof" of budgeting excellence, but the irony is that every year the board approves budgets with deficit spending (oftentimes in the $4 - $6 million range). In other words, if the board's "direction" had been followed, the district would in the hole! It's absolutely absurd. Beyond that, the district has labor agreements in which the total costs are increasing at well over 6% per year, which is unarguably unsustainable.

And lest you think I'm just picking on Rochester... I'm not. Most boards are approving the same sorts of increases, but probably just don't know it. They myopically focus on the "headline raise" of 1% - 2%, and forget the impact steps have on payroll, as well as payroll taxes, health insurance, retirement, and so on.

And to your last comment... I have not talked to any board's around here that have a "hired gun"... they all expect the Assistant Superintendents or HR executives to do the negotiations. I agree that a more "savvy" board would hire a professional negotiator that could go toe-to-toe with the professionally trained MEA negotiators.

You are also correct about boards statewide "spout(ing) the same catch-phrases", and you've certainly pinpointed the right source. In addition to the propaganda, MASB conducts board member obedience training classes where they are taught to ignore accountability and board oversight.

Finally, mediation and fact-finders are great, as long as you are simply trying to follow the herd. Mediators could care less about whether an agreement is fair... they just want a settlement. Fact-finders oftentimes have a narrow view, and any board that has done it's homework should not be surprised by a single thing brought to it by a fact-finder.

And once again we've drifted far from the original discussion on the step system.

You do raise a good point that entrusting local school boards to devise alternate pay structures is a scary proposition. But even that's been done already for them by successful business leaders such as Bill Gates and Lou Gerstner. Google their name along with "Merit Pay for Schools" and you'll see various plans. Interesting stuff if you're open-minded! :-)

Bill Milligan said...

I haven't found much on Gates other than sound bites on the topic. Here's a transcript that's much more in depth (and contains quotations and answers from Merit Pay proponents).

The above article, in my view, shows a gravitational pull to the "incentive" area--which is completely different than the merit system. An incentive is pre-paid (or pre-conceived) reward for a teacher taking a job in a low-income area, for example, or having a certain degree. It's a guarantee in advance, if you will.

Merit Pay, in its purest form, is competitive and the rewards parceled out afterward (teacher evaluations, test scores). By its very nature it creates tension and suspicion, not collaborative action, among teachers and operates on a naive assumption that, much like a child eating spinach and not being spared the rod, teachers will somehow magically respond to an accountability system that pits each against the other and ramps up the Darwinistic tendencies of human nature that the business world attempts to create and exploit on a daily basis.

That there is this attempt to model education after the conglomerate, oligopoly, bottom-line global businesses is an issue that's worth debating on its own and the foisting of that view on education is what fuels this current debate, but (again), I digress.

All (fair-minded) people who favor a merit system readily admit that teachers and their union must be equal partners in the process. Where there is any pilot programs that exist that operate with any hint of success, this IS the case.

Sorry, Mike, but I still believe that is a sore spot with you. You constantly badmouth the MEA at this blog. You wrote a merit-pay opinion piece that was provocative to teachers and the MEA and pandered to entities philosophically opposed to teacher unions. You feebly said "ideally, the MEA would..." which suggests you didn't hold out any hope the MEA would want to work collaboratively to implement a plan like the one you'd back.

And, tada: you got the response you wanted from them. Mission accomplished!

You still haven't provided any details on your plan. I am interested. I serve on our college's student assessment team and am well-versed in the challenges associated with student testing and accountability, let alone teacher testing and accountability.

Any such plan in Michigan is going to require the MEA to sign off on it and be an equal partner (through its teachers) in establishing the rubric and the system. This is simply, to borrow a word from you, inarguable.

As far as the contracts being signed by districts and the contention they're not sustainable: well, something better get figured out. We're facing a teacher shortage and these jobs can't be outsourced. When that happens in the private sector, employers have to pay up.

If the current system isn't sustainable, a merit system surely won't be. Many proponents of such a system say such a system INCREASES labor costs.

Anonymous said...

OK so now you are on the record as stating that 6% is too much. you seem to like the 2.5% to 3% hypothetical rate of inflation.

So how do you give merit raises when you are knee capped at less than 3% total salary growth?

Mike: you are good at obfuscation but you won't go on the record with how a merit system will actually cost less.

Many of us believe in the merit system but you need a salary growth of more than 3% to make real merit based incentives. So how do you propose to implement it?

Also, what if a majority of your teachers make the benchmark for the big raises? Now you could have a run away budget much more than 6%.

You also NEVER went on record with what a reasonable starting pay would be. You are quick to point out that Michigan pays more on average but you won't provide anything but rhetoric.

Many of us are looking for something more than sound bites before we get in the band wagon to reform (change) the status quo.

But you only offer sound bites. There is no meat.

Bill Milligan said...

Here's a better and cleaner link to the story I tried to post in my previous entry. Sorry about the inconvenience:

diana huetteman said...

Re: edweek transcript
This is an old piece but I have to agree with the argument first mentioned in the article- merit pay is not important to the best teachers, it helps the novices and those that may leave in the first 5 years. Which is why step increases are so readily available for new teachers- we lose so many who find out that it doesn't matter how well they perform their job, they get paid the same as the least capable.

Merit pay won't help SE students who bring bundles of federal and special state dollars to supposedly help in their education. A growing number of SE children are intellectually capable of learning. The CI population is decreasing. The investment in education is there ($$$$) but the task is incomplete in the public schools. If I could take a voucher and spend it on teachers and programs that actually show progress for my child, I would. This would be the best of a market driven model. The money goes to the programs and teachers that produce a positive result.

There is a lot of fluff on teacher shortages. There hasn't been a teacher shortage in MIchigan since the 70's. Michigan has consistently produced more teachers in its college programs than the state needs. Unfortunately, the higher education requirement for teachers coming through its colleges and universities is weak. If you relocate to another state you will need additional requirements.

As more displaced automotive white collar workers flood the market for limited jobs, the pay scale will decrease for all jobs. I'm not saying teachers should make less, but that all wages in Michigan will under go an adjustment. The current manner of how districts pay teachers wages needs to be re-evaluated, not only for teachers but administrators, support staff and ancillary staff. We spend a massive amount of money on public education for very poor results and the farther the student is from the mean the poorer the results.

Mike Reno said...

Good point, Diana!

You are absolutely right that additional pay alone is not going to fix a broken system.

And, this conversation has spiraled into a discussion about "merit pay", when it's really about "normal pay".

I constantly attempt to revert back to my original premise, which is that the current "one-size-fits-all" program to pay teachers is unaffordable, and it does not reward those that excel.

I would love to be able to reward that teacher who does indeed make some sort of breakthrough and help your child, or a teacher who consistently outperforms their peers.

The idea about changing the pay system is not about dangling carrots, but is instead about finding a way to reward the best teachers, and do it in an affordable way.

Anonymous said...

Those are interesting points, but I've read at more than one conservative blog recently that part of the solution (along with merit pay) is to DECREASE the requirements in getting a teacher certificate because those requirements are deemed "excessive" here in Michigan.

I'm not taking a stand on it one way or the other here--just pointing out there is a believe system in certain circles that an important hinge in the merit system is making more teachers. Why? It's the system all business-types salivate over: more workers than jobs. Getting workers to fight over jobs like Christmas shoppers over the last Elmo Doll gives the leverage and control corporate-types want over workers.

Again, I have a hard time believing that those promoting a merit system want a system that will increase teacher pay (as per overall spending).

Mike has been asked repeatedly to back up his general assertions with numbers but he has ignored such requests--which is a giant, red flag.

I will respectfully disagree with your assertion, Diana, that all worker salaries will go down in Michigan. Education continues to be the #1 priority (or one of the top ones), there is (overall) a shortage looming (yes there is), these jobs can't be effectively outsourced, and these jobs require advanced degrees. Not to mention many who are qualified will not or can not handle the job (let alone the grief they constantly get from people like Mike when they dare to negotiate appropriate wages and benefit packages).

Anonymous said...

In other words, what is "normal" pay, Mike? You keep throwing terminology out there but not defining the terms.

And I love this most of all (and its done by every conservative in Michigan when comparing teacher salaries): The automatic assumption that Michigan teachers are paid too much in comparison. I have yet to see a single conservative say "gee, look at those places at the bottom. Those teachers should MAKE MORE."

No, it's good business when teachers make about as much as a night manager at the local video store. No one has a problem with that. Instead, those figures are ignored and the teachers at the top of the list (who are still underpaid, imo) are fixated on as being overpaid.

That's very telling. Very telling.

Acusar Falsamente said...

Mr. Bill.

Mike's original article pointed to an $85K salary after 10 years. That is for a 9 month work year, 35 hours per week, $0 contribution to their healthcare, and a fully funded pension. Not bad for an early 30-something.

Or is it?

Is it just about right? Should it be more?

It seems the question is really whether EVERYONE should get that (or more, or less), or if THE BEST should get that (or more).

It looks like you've got some sort of "if-then" thing going on that you might want to re-examine.

You seem to conclude that IF mike suggests to pay only some teachers more,THEN he must want all teachers to be paid like video store night managers. How is it that you've "connected those dots?"

Your imagination, or something specific?

Bill Milligan said...

Go back and re-read all the posts here. Better yet, start at his last entry and read those. I think it'll become clearer to you that I haven't "connected those dots." In fact, there are a very few, if any, dots to connect because Mike has steadfastly refused to provide any details, numbers, or data to back his position, nor has he provided answers to the questions presented to him here and elsewhere.

I know our political culture is style over substance, but this is getting a tad ridiculous.

Mike Reno said...

Bill, I've given answers... you just don't want to understand them.

People like you -- and Marty (the other Anonymous) -- come back to visit this blog -- and other blogs -- a dozen times a day with the sole purpose of taking potshots at anyone that offers ideas. You flit from tangent to tangent. You offer no constructive dialog.

Your questions are largely rhetorical, or serve as a preamble to some rage against "conservatives", or "greedy businesses", or whatever.

What you should really do is go start your own blog and see if you can attract readers with your ideas.

bill milligan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike Reno said...

To Marty and Bill:

We need to display a little "netiquette" here. Otherwise I will continue to remove posts that are out of line.

The idea behind the comments section is to afford readers a chance to make a comment on things I've written about, or to respond to other readers comments.

You are free to post comments about how you disagree with what I've written, poke holes in my ideas, offer your own ideas, and so on.

What I will not allow is criticism that is personal in nature, of me or of anyone else. This blog is about ideas, not about people.

Furthermore, the comments should generally be about the topic under discussion; this is not an open forum.

If you don't like these guidelines, or can't respect them or abide by them, then you are free to boycott my blog.

Anonymous said...

Let's try this.

My challenge to you is and has been strictly to the provide some numbers.

1) What is an acceptable teacher starting salary?

2) What is an acceptable merit fund as a percent of total salary?

I have repeated this challenge and you have pulled the posts. Will this one get pulled as well?

These two questions are paramount and absolutely central to the topic of "Scrapping The Steps" and Merit Pay. These are not generally about the topic but THE topic.

If you are prepared to go on the record with real numbers, I am prepared to go before the RCS board during Citizens Requesting time on the agenda. The topic will be merit pay and steps and the upcomming next contract.

We have an early discussion clause in the next teacher contract. This is an excellent opportunity to get out in front of negotiations and start reform. Many reform bloggers want open contract negotiations but that is off topic here.

I am prepared to bring a group and a comprehensive presentation to the podium. But I need numbers to get started!

We have a new board member that according to the local paper supports merit pay.

So can I assume that there are at least two sitting board members in favor of merit discussions?

Will either of these board members get into the act early to put together the numbers and a plan?

A good plan with solid and real numbers can sell itself. That way we can get "buy in" from the REA?

Without community support the remainder of the board will stay the current course.

So will you answer of delete?

bill milligan said...

I'll second the questions the above poster has asked. Is that better, Mike?

Mike Reno said...


This last post was fine. Thanks.

I'm not sure I agree that the two issues you cited are the central issues. They are simply two variables in a fairly complex question, which also includes benefits, responsibility, subject area, and so on.

I think a more effective approach might be to suggest that we more closely look at mirroring a program like TAPS, which has gained some acceptance. And as this well-designed proposition illustrates, merit pay formulas are hardly something for amateurs like us to tinker with, given the union's traditional hostility towards the whole topic.

I really think it might be best to take a serious look at a well-documented proposal that has met with some acceptance, and float it as a trial balloon, rather than needlessly starting from scratch.

Please understand I'm trying to make the case that we need change. I'm not trying to dictate what that change should be.

Here are a few additional thoughts, so you don't think I'm trying to "dodge" your questions.

Salary Levels: I will say that I think the starting pay for teachers -- maybe $38K -- is too low. I think the upper end is too low as well; I see no reason why top notch teachers who produce results should not be easily into six-figure salaries. But the financial picture -- both revenues and costs -- need to be considered in their entirety, and not in isolation. And everyone does not deserve the same.

Increases: The overall rate of compensation increases -- comprised of both salary and benefits -- needs to be limited to the antipated growth in revenue. No rocket science here. And Yes, this means the annual increase is going to be more for some, and less for others.

"Normal Pay": We need to dispell the notion that pay raises are going to be annual, automatic, and guaranteed for everyone. We need to instill the notion that expanding your skills, accepting additional responsibility, and producing results will be rewarded more than simply showing up to work every day. Together, both of these thoughts represent what I consider to be "normal pay".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a partial comittment on what reasonable boundaries might be. However your original opinion and many posts suggest that there is a win-win possible where we can raise the minimum and maybe maximums and provide merit incentives without breaking the bank. Here the math breaks down.

If a 6% wage & benefit increase is too much, is 3% acceptable or even feasible most years?

A 3% merit fund might allow for some to get 6% or even slightly more. But how do you get a contract tied to the annual roller-coaster of state funding? (we actually tried this)

In 2004 the REA and your board took the bait I put out at the podium that night in early Summer. The teacher contract increase was partially tied to any Foundation Grant increases from the state. The problem was no protection for the budget on a down side. It was aa start at a risk&reward system.

The food service that year included a $ reward in their contract for finding cost savings. Our food service is a revenue source not a sink.

Again I put those suggestions out at the open meeting from the podium. I had plenty more but these two are examples of an "ameture" making a difference.

Look up the videos from Summer 2004 and hear my other suggestions. It was within a few meetings after the May election that year. It was in the Citizens Present, early in the meeting so you won't have to sit through too much video.

So. This kind of reform is NOT beyond you or me.

Yes this is very complex and some of it may be beyond us. So let's look at TAPS. Let's poll some teachers and work on this. You may have your hands tied by a contract but I don't!

A few other details to consider.

As for taking on more responsibility and expanding skills, current law requires "continuing education". Current $ conditions add to the class size. Therefore these factors are already in play.

An elephant in the room is what about those caught low on the steps or middle? Can we sell a two tier wage scale?

The next elephant is the big one, benefits. More complexity to get an agreement.

So your last post makes it sound like you want to go slower and study as opposed to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


But it took considerable effort to get you here.

So how much of this will you and the new guy work on and what can us ametures do before the next contract?

Mike Reno said...

Well I guess I'm glad you made the effort to get me "here"... where ever "here" is! :-)

I think it would be great if you wanted to discuss the TAPS idea, or any other ideas you may have with any of your friends in the district. Let me know what you hear.


==> Mike.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember seeing TAPS links above.

Got any?

diana huetteman said...

A 2 tier pay system? That is a market adjustment in pay scales. GM announcing a 15% workforce decrease means a market adjustment for backfill hires - lower starting pay and smaller increases. As union shops vote to take 50% pay decreases - that is a market adjustment. In time, public school teachers and all school employees will be affected.

Throwing out numbers doesn't set the market rate. A declining population, an over abundance of product (call local universities for their numbers on in-state placement of education grads), the salaries offered for masters degrees plus 3 year experience at local universities/colleges for staff positions and a more realistic picture emerges on the market rate for salaries.

I'm all for paying teachers what they are worth. I'd love a parent input for determining my children's teacher's salaries. Yet each parent would determine worth differently - are district benchmarks met, are district benchmarks worthwhile?, did my child learn to grade level or beyond?, how was the material taught - in person or on-line?, is it beneficial for my child to learn this material? - lots of questions. It doesn't work that way. Just like police officers and state employees don't get the opportunity to earn what they should. (Would you put your life on the line for a starting salary of $18K as some municipalities pay in MI? - source POAM) Does the person who can spell dialogue and amateur correctly deserve more or the same as the one who claims to be proficient in math and science? How is proficient determined? Is it a passing grade of 69% on a test that you can take as many times as needed that says a teacher is highly qualified? Do those same criteria apply for administrators, support staff and ancillary staff? We pay a lot for public school education. What determines the return on our investment? How do we keep and retain effective teachers without clogging the system with dross? Would merit pay help? Teacher pay is only one part of the expense of educating our youth. How do we as a community get the most for our money?

bill milligan said...


I appreciate your views but I don't think you can connect auto-industry jobs to teaching. I know that is attempted frequently, but it's an apple to an orange.

We're not talking about making seat cushions or bumpers for SUVs. We're talking about education. I would suggest that if the connection exists as you claim, and we will see a dramatic reduction in teacher salaries in parallel to what's happening in the auto industry, there is going to be even more of a teacher shortage.

Gas prices are high; people stop buying trucks and SUVs; GM needs to shed workers. Unfortunately (for your viewpoint), education needs to happen no matter what the price of gas is or whether people are buying trucks or not.

That's the point I'm trying to make, anyway.

diana huetteman said...

Bill, does education need to happen no matter what? Some would argue that what passes for public education is just a basic skill set for tomorrow's employees. If, like my home district, less than 60% of graduates are not deemed college ready in core courses, did education happen? Does an on-line education cost the same as a brick and mortar? Is a classroom teacher really that important to education or is the daycare/childcare aspect of what passes for public school education the main attraction.

If you are really bored, look into the history of public education in the United States. While the rich have always educated their own for the sake of learning, the working/middle classes haven't approached education with the same intent. If we're truthful, not much has changed on how teachers are perceived since public education was mandated in the USA. Many expectations, little accountability, discipline problems and unequal moral qualifications based on gender - to name a few.

We could employ more teachers with smaller teacher student ratios. We could raise the bar on what makes a "highly qualified teacher". We could make use of alternate methods of teaching besides "listen and learn". We could decide to use a 80/20 plan to set school district budgets (Fordham) where 80% of the budget is allocated to direct student contact and 20% for non student contact. All these would make teachers very important and a public education relevant. But.... we don't do any of this. We say we value public education and we throw massive amounts of money to public schools. (Imagine what would happen if we took the state allocation per k-12 student and applied it to health care.)

What we have now isn't working. We are not producing a viable product. We don't teach the skills tomorrow's workers need. We don't educate the masses for the sake of learning. We don't expect accountability. We can't even teach our teachers now in college how to effectively instruct the young of the next generation. (Hard to believe, but I had to take an ebonics class for my teaching certificate. That was useless.) We're still struggling with what is a best practice and resisting the implementation of new technologies in today's classrooms. Inclusive alternative learning styles? What's that?

My point is teaching is market driven and it wages and rewards should also be market driven. The market will go through adjustments and right now in Michigan the market is going down. While a specific job may command $91k in the top of its band for the auto industry, that doesn't translate to public school teachers making the same amount. Forced retirement, layoffs and redlining can make that top band disappear for the next new hire. As for supposed teacher shortages, I have yet to see $10k+ signing bonuses for new teachers in Michigan.