I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, October 20, 2012

More On the Newark Contract

Lou Caruso makes a very good point about the tentative Newark teachers contract:
This agreement exemplifies the power of philanthropic foundations which causes concerns of sustainability. The hope is that funds will continue to be available to payout incentive structures. The goodwill built into these new structures will erode if funding cannot be maintained. This agreement reflects though how philanthropic foundations have to power and ability to help provide incentives to produce less restrictive policies in bargaining agreements. Keep in mind, time will tell whether the agreements within this contract reflect an authentic commitment to providing incentives to attract quality teachers or reflect a coercive tactic to use short term funding to initiate structural changes. [emphasis mine]
That's the billion dollar question with the entire corporate "reform" movement, isn't it? When Gates or Broad or the Waltons or Zuckerman or the new Chicago mob or Murdoch or Tepper or any of these insanely wealthy people fund a "reform," is it reasonable to think they will continue to do so in perpetuity?

Sure, Zuck's bucks will pay for merit pay right now... but what happens at the next contract? As the Newark union president, Joe Del Grosso, says:
Still, the extent of the performance bonuses beyond this contract remains an open question. The drying up of funds has led to the demise of pay-for-performance plans in other states, and both Anderson and Del Grosso said that will be determined in the years ahead.
Let’s pray there is another Zuckerberg out there for the next contract,” Del Grosso said.
But prayer is not a plan. What happens when Zuck's bucks dry up? What happens if Newark's schools can't find another sugar daddy? Does anyone think Newark or the state will be willing to go backward on merit pay at that point?

Property tax caps and the politics of SFRA will make it nearly impossible to raise the extra funds needed to continue merit pay bonuses without affecting the entire district budget. So where will the money come from? Inevitably, it will be raised by cutting overall teacher pay. That, by the way, means capping the number of teachers who will get merit pay (more on this later).

I'm starting to see the Newark contract as a trade-off:

Newark's teachers can have a big chunk of private money right now. But there will be a long-term consequence. This question is: which is better for teachers?

Wish I knew, but I'll keep trying to hash it out here. Again: I'm not here to tell Newark's educators what to do; I'm just laying out the issues.

Stand by...

ADDING: Go back and read Lou's entire post - he makes several other really good points.


Deb said...

We already hear from charter schools that use merit pay that very few teachers ever actually get those bonuses. Let's be honest. It is a bad idea to use the Zuckerberg money, merit pay is a bad idea too. But as I read it, is anyone actually guaranteed to get a dime of that money. How many teachers do we really think will be allowed to get the ratings to warrant big bonuses?

lfcaruso said...

Pay incentive structures are not enough to motivate teachers in the classroom. Pay incentives as a consumption has to be supplemented with investments in creating clear goals, high expectations and positive working conditions. In terms of conditions, teachers need to be trained in various pedagogical approaches to promote self efficacy in the classroom. There has to be an investment in teachers' capacity.

Today's post: