The Same Old Education Song (Society’s Slideshow)

Legislators across the nation and here in Michigan all love to sing the same ‘ol education song. I’m sure you’ve heard the lyrics before.

It goes a little like this:

Let’s raise the standards for students while we take away the means for educators to meet them.

Let’s require that all students take the ACT and then moan when the students who are not serious about attending college do poorly on the test.

Let’s throw out collective bargaining agreements and require teachers to pay more for insurance, make less money and have the right to “Teach for Less.”

Any teacher will tell you that teaching for less does not sound like an appealing prospect.

Michigan Legislature is considering a bill that would forbid teachers from contributing to their union dues electronically. It would also severely limit their ability to collectively bargain for things like higher wages, better benefits, and better retirement plans.

This asinine idea must stem from brains are rotted from being too long out of school and spoiled from too many years of high-paying government jobs. This effectively tells Michigan teachers that they are not worth the salaries, benefits and retirement plans they demand. Whenever you tell an employee he’s not worth his salary, usually he will find a place where his talents are appreciated.

The result of such misguided legislation will be no different. It will serve to drive the best educators out of the state in search of school districts that are willing to pay top dollar for top talent. Once the top talent has migrated to other states, all that will be left are ineffective educators who will work as little as possible for the measly sum that they will be paid.

Of course, there will be some who will bust their tails for their respective districts. However, once they find out how little they are being paid in comparison to teachers in other states, they will follow their predecessors right across the state line never to return.

Out of all the ways one might think of to reform education, paying teachers less and requiring them to perform more should be dead last on the list. Cutting school budgets for things like technology and books should be just above this idea on the list.

Instead, politicians should be looking for a way to improve education through investing in it. Unfortunately for big business, that may mean requiring all of them to pay taxes here, and re-evaluating individual property tax structure. It could also mean raising the individual income tax rate by one percent across the board, which would more than pay for our current deficit and leave us with a healthy reserve.

The politicians we have in office need to wake up and smell the slate board. The reason many schools are lagging in adding a technological aspect to the curriculum is that they simply do not have enough money to put enough computers in every classroom for every student.

The reason that many schools are lacking in meeting expected AYP measurements is because they can’t afford to replace horribly outdated and equally worse for wear textbooks. The reason ACT scores have dropped across the state is because for some students, college is not the best option.

However, our legislature chooses to ignore these facts, and instead chooses to point fingers at the teachers. Surely it’s the teachers’ fault that certain parents could care less about their students’ education. Surely, it’s the teachers’ fault that one in every four children is living in poverty and can’t afford basic school supplies. Surely it’s the teachers’ fault that every time money is needed for anything in this state, the education budget gets thrown right under the bus.

In order to attract businesses with job opportunities to this state, we need qualified people to fill them. In order to get our economy going, we need people with jobs to spend money so businesses will need to hire more people.

Most of all, we need our legislature to quit targeting teachers for blame and sanctions every time a situation even remotely tied to the education system affects its overall outcome.

Write your local legislator and tell them to stop targeting teachers and start investing in the future of our state. Or better yet, just vote them out of office.

4 Comments

  1. Tom Washington

    Why are there ineffective educators in the system now? Shouldn’t those educators have been gone long ago? Do you agree with the tenor system? Now you’re saying that if teachers don’t get raises every year they’ll leave. To what state?

    Look at the scale below. When you take into account the cost of living, Michigan is one of the best paying states for educators.

    A National Education Association report ranks Michigan public schools teachers as the 12th highest-paid in the nation, but above the national average of $55,202.

    1) New York, $71,633
    2) Massachusetts, $69,273
    3) California, $68,203
    4) New Jersey, $65,130
    5) District of Columbia, $64,548
    6) Connecticut, $64,350
    7) Maryland, $63,350
    8) Illinois, $62,077
    9) Rhode Island, $59,686
    10) Alaska, $59,672
    11) Pennsylvania, $59,156
    12) Michigan, $57,958

    Besides raising taxes, which is the go-to argument for most Liberals, what is your solution to the problem?

    p.s. the proper way to state complete apathy is “…couldn’t care less…”

  2. Interesting statistics. That probably represents educators who still have a job.

    Consider that in the 12 years Jennifer Granholm was Governor, the education budget for the state was cut nearly every year.

    Consider that Rick Snyder is now requiring teachers to contribute 20% of their health care costs out of pocket contrary to union agreements.

    Detroit Public Schools teachers have seen their pay cut 10% contrary to union agreement. This was after they hired a new chancellor for the district at $175,000 signing bonus, $250,000 first year salary, $350,000 second year salary, and could potentially earn $450,000 for the final two if certain goala are met. (No one is saying what those goals might be).

    A great many teahers here in Michigan took a buyout as an incentive to take early retirement. However, new teachers are not being hired. Class sizes are merely being increased.

    I’m not saying if they don’t get raises every year, they will leave. I’m saying that this union-breaking activity will only allow school districts to reduce the effective pay rate of teachers and allow them to dismiss teachers for arbitrary reasons.

    Tenure certainly needs to be reformed, but is there to protect good teachers. As is the case with any system of that nature, bad teachers benefit from something that was intended to protect the good.

    Teachers will leave if their pay is reduced, if they are forced to accept substandard health, retirement, and other benefits, and if the state continues to raise educational standards while simultaneously stripping public education of its monetary means to accomplish them.

    I have a master’s degree, and currently my pay is around $23,000 per year with no benefits, no sick time, and no prep time scheduled within the day. This is a nonunion school, and potentially a model for the rest of Michigan schools if we continue down this path. This is nowhere close to this “average rate” you claim teachers get here in Michigan.

    My solution would be to repeal Proposal A, and allow school districts to request millage increases from surrounding communities.

    I find it interesting that conservatives seem to think that the cost of goods and services for governments should never go up. They believe that governments should be able to conjure money from thin air to pay for all the civil services they demand. Lower taxes, better services is the common rhetoric.

    This is in effect saying that all public servants should never get a raise, not be eligible for paid vactation, sick time, medical benefits, or pensions. I suppose that you don’t ever have to worry about increasing your income to meet the rising cost of living in this nation. However, most normal people who depend on a weekly or bi-weekly paycheck usually do.

    • Tom Washington

      Those aren’t “My” statistics, they are from a union report. It’s not my “average rate,” it was in the study.

      http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/010rankings.pdf

      And of course they are for educators that still have jobs. What else would they be for?

      Are you implying that I don’t have to ever worry about increasing my income?
      That because I’m a conservative that I must be a rich “Fat-cat” sitting in my oak paneled library, smoking a pipe and conjuring up new ways to exploit the working man? I must not be normal then.

      I am simply asking you if you think the current system is working? I contend that it is not, and it’s not because of the evil conservatives. The problems are rooted deep inside the system and the structure of the current system needs to be re-evaluated. This includes the tenor system, the way teachers are evaluated, and how school is financed.

      If you are so sure that all these teachers will flee the state, then I have to ask why you are still here. Why not move to NY where teacher pay is near the top of the scale?

      As for John Covington, he was a failure in KC, and I’d bet most of my hard earned savings that he’ll be a failure in Detroit. This isn’t a problem that one person will solve. But to think that the teachers unions have done nothing wrong and are the only “Good” actors in the drama is intellectually dishonest. The unions need to allow some drastic changes in the way our kids our educated. Even if it means some of their members will be lost.

      As for conjuring money from thin air, Obama and Bernake seem to have perfected that art. They have printed and spent more money these past years than ever before…but that’s a whole different story.

      Thanks for the column, and good luck in the upcoming school year.

      • I agree that the sytem is failing and that it needs to be revamped. Politicians need to work first on creating an effective and universal sort of assessment to gauge teaching. There is no such assessment in place, and politicians rely on the widely varying methods of school administrators to invent their own assessments.

        I also agree that teacher tenure needs to be reformed. It was initially instituted to protect college professors from being arbitrarily dismissed by deans. Somehow the process found its way into public schools. It also provides due process for terminating an ineffective educator. Even police officers who run afoul of the law while on duty are subject to due process prcedings that ensure that they can serve on restricted duty and earn money while the investigation proceeds.

        I also agree that school financing should be reformed. By reform, I mean politicians need to invest more in our schools and quit slashing budgets to the bone. Even the most effective teachers need tools to get their job done. Take those tools away, and ineffectiveness may result. Perhaps if we stop “nation building” in other nations, our federal government might have some spare cash to invest in our educational system.

        As for leaving the state, moving costs money. Money I don’t have. Plus, my whole family still lives here. So, my interpretation of this question is: “Why don’t you just give up everything you’ve ever known to move to another state in the hopes you can get hired?” I also might have to take more classes to qualify for their teacher certification, which means that I have to spend more of my money to be qualified to teach in their state. That seems illgical as I am still several thousand dollars in debt from college in this state.

        Something that would make it easier for teachers to move from state to state would be a national teacher certification system.
        National Board Certification does exist, but one cannot qualify for National Board Certification unless you have a teaching certificate from your home state, have three years of experience, and three portfolios that highlight teaching skills prescribed by the National Board. That still will not guarantee qualification to teach in all 50 states.

        I agree that John Covington was a failure in the KC school district. That emphasizes my point: Why are we paying him this ridiculous sum of money based on a shoddy employment record? Why are we asking teachers to sacrifice some of their pay so we can bring an unproven individual into an already failing school district?

        Also, let’s not forget which president approved a plan to give $700 billion to banks to bail them out after they got burned in their own gambling schemes disguised as logical and sound investments. That was George W. Bush. Of course, much like the Reconstruction Finance Coporation’s failure during the depression, TARP failed because banks did none of the things with the money that were intended. Perhaps if the government just took over those banks and ran them as non-profit entities, they might have had that $700 billion to invest in schools.

        America’s military spending acconts for 35% of world military spending. The next ten countries after us account for the next 25%. Based on that alone, my conclusion is that public education is not a priority for this nation.

        If this nation continues to cut educational budgets and push for privatization, eventually all schools may one day rely on private companies to fund all aspects of education as a for profit industry. That will lead one day to a lesson plan that begins: “Once upon a time, Americans were able to attend schools free of charge.”

Leave a Reply