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Teacher Compensation - Part 1 - December 3, 2010

Issue 1
The new political landscape and the growing popularity of anti-teacher positions advanced by the likes of Arnie Duncan and Bill Gates threaten our very livelihoods and devalue our work. Specifically, the references to “bonuses” for earning advanced degrees, minimizing the value of experience, and inaccurate characterizations of teacher tenure clearly reflect an attitude of hostility from those who are clueless about what we do every day. If these pundits and their like-minded political lackeys have their way, collective bargaining and job protections for teachers will cease to exist. 
Some History. If we go back far enough, before collective bargaining for teachers became common, salaries were set arbitrarily for individual teachers by school boards. Pay could be based on student performance, differentiated by teaching content area, and discriminatory (women were always paid less than their male counterparts and African-American teachers fared even worse). We seem to be headed back to this 19th century-type model.
The salary schedules with experience steps and compensation lanes for graduate coursework that we have currently are also a vestige of the past. These salary schedules, some with as many as 25 or 30 steps before reaching maximum salary, were designed to keep teachers low paid by delaying compensation. While our CH-UH schedule has only thirteen annual steps to max out, the disparity between newer and experienced teachers is still wide. 
Nearly 50% of all new teachers leave the profession after five years. It’s true that working conditions and professional supports are essential for success and job satisfaction, but a salary schedule where you reach the top in say 5 or 6 steps or levels could make teaching much more attractive and would minimize the disparity. Problem is, states and school boards would find such a change way too expensive. Moreover, the true agenda of the “reformers” is to strip away salary increments for years of experience and advanced degrees, and instead pay bonuses to teachers whose students perform well. 
Here is the essential flaw in pay for performance schemes based on student achievement: Picture a district labeled “excellent with distinction” where all or nearly all students are showing academic growth and all or nearly all the teachers are rewarded financially. Over time, the district’s budget gets tight and performance pay is cut despite the successes in student achievement. The point is that private sector market forces can not be applied to school funding and teacher performance.
NEXT ISSUE : Experience Counts
Tom Schmida, President

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