6.30.2005

A new topic to rant on

Since I’ve pretty well beaten the topics of media and academic bias to death, I’m going to toss out another one that’s near and dear; public education reform.

I think this recent editorial in the NYTimes demonstrates just how messed up the current system is. Essentially the article laments the fact that 20 percent of teachers must work summer jobs the authors feel are beneath “similarly educated professionals” to make ends meet. Naturally the author’s solution for this inhumanity is to raise teacher salaries across the board.

The salient fact this editorial is missing is that there are no other remaining fields outside of government where “similarly educated professionals” belong to unions. Since the only real value of unions was to protect the largely interchangeable and disposable unskilled pool of immigrant human capital from declining working conditions it should come as no surprise that teachers are now valued by the economy as if they are interchangeable and disposable. Without exposing individual educators to the same risk/reward forces of accountability which are daily realities to “similarly educated professionals” in the private sector, there can be no real societal or economic justification for the kind of across the board pay raises the editorial proposes.

Teaching is an enormously important career and requires highly specialized skills and education and I feel it’s to the detriment of society that an anachronistic barrier in the form of teacher unions stand in the way of being able to justly reward teachers that are performing at a high level(and fire those that are not).

2 comments:

Joe said...

Call me whatever you want to call me, but 45k a year doesn't strike me as a pittance, especially if you consider that you only work 3/4 of the year. On the other hand,when they do work, teachers work really hard and have to take shit from bratty kids all day. Working very low paying jobs somewhat alters one's perception of what constitues adequate pay. Maybe if I become a lawyer, I'll feel sorrier for the teachers.

I DO think teachers need to be paid more to attract more talented people. I also think we need to pay more teachers, thus reducing classroom size. I'm also concerned about the unequal distribution of funds, such as areas where school funds are determined through property taxes, thus giving rich areas more well-endowed schools.

As far as the union critique....I have no comment about that at this time.

Andrew said...

The most productive and talented people in society tend to be highly competitive. A culture which rewards every person exactly the same regardless of performance is never going to retain these individuals. Like most states Wisconsin pays teachers only according a formula of years of experience and degree attained. So long as a teacher doesn’t toss a bratty kid out a window at some point during their career, they are guaranteed both a job and steady pay raises throughout their career. What incentive is there for improvement?

I agree that we need more, better teachers but simply throwing money at the problem is never going to achieve that.

As for how to ensure that all kids have access to a quality education, I think the best existing model to follow is the legalized monopoly/privatization of the USPS. It allows most people choice but recognizes the compelling societal interest of allowing everyone access to mail. And while I’m pretty sure Minot, North Dakota doesn’t have as many UPS stores as Chicago, they still benefit from the process improvements the USPS has had to implement do to competitive pressures they experience virtually everywhere else.