Monday, January 21, 2008

Another priceless moment from the supermajority

Tomorrow kicks off the first House Education Committee meeting, which in my mind is a sure winner for highest drama-to-bill ratio. One such bill up for discussion tomorrow is HB81 (sponsored by voucher swiiiiiing-and-a-miss voter Brad Last) which proposes a task force to study a perennial right-wing silver-bullet favorite - merit pay for teachers (http://le.utah.gov/~2008/bills/hbillint/hb0081.htm).

The 19-member task force consists of 12 legislators, a governor’s designee, 2 state school board members, 2 local school board members, and 2 teachers. In the Compensation section, it states that the legislators on the task force will be paid full salary for their time - as if they were in special session - to the tune of $100 each per meeting. And what do these same legislators deem as appropriate compensation for the teachers and the school board members? How about $0?

And…

Since all that is needed to pass official action is a quorum, four of the legislators can go home after a long day receiving lobbyists’ gifts and the remaining legislators – personally appointed by Greg Curtis and John Valentine – can still vote on whatever they want, completely ignoring any input from the teachers, school board members, and governor’s designee. Think - 8 legislators + 7 figureheads = guaranteed majority.

Or...

How about 8 "we're the good guys" legislators, 4 "you pick the label since it doesn't really matter" legislative figureheads, and the 7 aforementioned public ed figureheads? It doesn't really matter...you get the idea.

So…

Hand-picked supermajority legislators’ time – A hundo each per meeting.

Figurehead teachers’ and school board members’ time - $0.

Getting your way, lining your pocket, and feeling superior at the same time all while under the guise of warm collaboration – Priceless.

************

This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase merit pay. It’s gonna’ be a great session!

13 comments:

David said...

I'm a fan of merit pay, but this task force is ridiculous. Is there any way that we can make a fuss that might result in changing the makeup of the task force, maybe involve some citizens, eliminate the super-majority of legislators, and balance the pay between all participants?

JM Bell said...

David. Vote Democrat.

Seriously.

As long as the GOP has a veto proof majority up there, there will be no accountability.

Marshall said...

I have also wondered what the problem with merit pay is. I have a friend that is a loyal Democrat that just started working again in the public schools. She has a masters in language studies and some experience before she went back to get her masters. Yet her pay grade is based only on seniority, that is it.

So she took on more debt to go back to school to be the best teacher she can be and she is working hard to teach english as second language students. Yet her performance barely matters.

How is that fair? Is that what we want? Teachers that just punch the clock because they don't get anything for working that much harder? Teachers that work harder should be rewarded.

David said...

Thanks JM, I already planned to. Is there anything we can do to make a difference before then?

Jennifer Mayer-Glenn said...

Marshall

She is most likely in the "Master's Lane" of a salary scale. Teachers are paid higher for both education and experience. Ask her if this is true. And believe me, experience is key. I know many potentially great teachers but it requires experience to polish those abilities.

As for merit pay. If someone could propose something fair and reaasonable we teachers would likely respond positively. A larger problem is that it is the teachers who know who the good teachers are. We don't have enough time to collaborate with each other to improve what we do in our classrooms let alone put the time and effort needed for a fair merit system.

It will likely end up that a principal or district level person will be making these merit decisions and they often have no idea what is going on or what should be going on in a classroom.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer,

Welcome to the world the rest of us work in. Everyone else's pay is determined by managers, directors, vice presidents, presidents, and shareholders.

Merit pay works because the "higher ups" are on merit pay also. If the managers et al don't reward the good workers, the good workers go to work for those that do, and the managers that don't reward based on performance end up not getting their own performance or may even lose their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Merit pay won't attract new educators. "Come work in Utah where you may, or may not make more money." Let's focus on getting great teachers by paying them well. Better pay upfront means a better selection to choose from.

Silly Republicans. Merit pay means poor students wwho hold back teachers will be left behind.

Anonymous said...

Anon,

If merit pay is such a bad idea, why does the rest of the world, including higher education, embrace it? Are they just deluded?

Anonymous said...

Don't use the old "education is different" excuse either.

The "bad kids" situation exists in other occupations as well ("bad" sales accounts, "bad" engineering projects, "bad" court cases, "bad" projects, "bad" this, "bad" that, and the list goes on).

If merit pay is based on the discretion of the boss, like it is in other occupations, the boss will need to factor this in. If not, the good teachers teaching "bad" kids will go elsewhere.

Besides, even the "bad" kids need to be taught and can be expected to improve. Good managers know this.

Anonymous said...

How does merit pay help the problem we have now, a shortage of teachers.

One step at a time.

Republicans leaders seem to focus on solutions that does nothing to solve the current problem.

Aramis said...

Since when is our public education system a private, for-profit business? Teaching is a completely different ballgame than any other occupation. Teachers go to school for years and spend large amounts of money to be qualified to teach, and yet their starting salary is very low compared to other jobs of similar education level. They could work in any other field and make a lot more money. We should be focusing on paying EVERY teacher more, and making sure they have the resources they need to be effective.

Our goal should be to have an education system that successfully prepares our children for college and the job market. We won't get that by making a teachers job harder than it is. Merit pay will push scores of qualified and capable teachers to go find better paying jobs elsewhere without all of the testing, long hours, and lack of funding. If you want to make our teacher shortage worse, I can't think of a much better way.

In my opinion, this is just another attempt to undercut the teachers union and get a little payback for the voucher debacle.

That's my two cents.

Marshall said...

Jennifer,

Thanks for the clarification, I will ask my friend.

I agree that merit pay can be done wrong. We have already seen how the one size fits all testing approach is bad for Utah and I would hate to see merit pay based on that.

But there has to be a way to reward good teachers which go that extra mile. Teachers get paid too little and give up too much for us not to show them how much they mean to us.

Maybe the right time to visit this subject would be when we have the problem of too many people wanting to become teachers. Until then I think it would be worthy for us to find ways for use to stop losing our great teachers. Finding ways to pay them more would be a nice start.

Anonymous said...

What will the merit pay be based on? That should be the first question. A teacher can teach, and do everything she/he can given the time allotted in each class, but how can teachers enforce parental responsibilities that homework be done and exams studied for? Teachers can only do so much to help improve the grades and scores of their students. Is the merit pay going to be tied to grades or scores? I can tell you that if merit pay is tied to grades then either grades will become inflated, or teachers will go elsewhere to make more money.