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, May 19, 2012

Booker: It's All About Paying Less for Teachers

It's about time Supermayor admitted what reforminess is all about (behind a paywall - Lisa Fleisher, tell Old Man Murdoch I really can't afford this on my teacher salary...):
Borrowing a page from New York City, Houston and other cities, Newark could soon use money from the foundation started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to offer buyouts to teachers in a cost-saving move.

Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson has approached the teachers' union with the idea, which has a twofold intent: give weak educators incentive to leave and pare what she calls the district's oversize payroll.

The effort comes as lawmakers in Trenton negotiate a bill to weaken tenure protections and evaluate teachers based on student performance, which is supported by Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
"Superintendent Anderson has two hands tied behind her back," he said at a meeting of education writers in Philadelphia on Friday. "If we could fire the 300 to 400 lowest-performing teachers, she wouldn't have a financial crisis."

In an interview, Mr. Booker said he hoped the buyouts would be a temporary fix until schools can oust teachers based on performance rather than seniority. Mr. Booker, unlike New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, doesn't have control of the schools and isn't part of negotiations over a new contract. [emphasis mine]
Notice how Supermayor doesn't justify this by saying Newark's students are suffering because of a plague of bad teachers; he's interested in addressing a fiscal crisis by cutting the teacher payroll. Good to see where the priorities are.

Of course, this is merely kicking the can down the road; eventually, the younger teachers will gain seniority and start making larger salaries. Later on, we can always turn teaching into a temp job, where youngsters hang their hats for a few years before moving on to something else. That's sure to keep salaries low; but will it be good for students?


The governor took a few minutes out of his busy schedule of raising money for Mitt Romney and yelling on YouTube to comment:
The existence of teachers without permanent positions has played a part in the larger political battle to weaken tenure protections. Speaking to an advocacy group earlier this month, Gov. Chris Christie said the district was "paying them for doing nothing."

"You're paying 70 people as we speak to eat lunch, read the newspaper, do the crossword puzzle," he said. "God forbid, don't let them near any children, for the harm they would cause to those kids."

A Newark schools spokeswoman later said most of the teachers were actually teaching, and all were working. A spokesman for the governor responded that "none of them are doing what they were hired to do."
Please excuse my poor manners while I point out that no one has ever shown that these are, in fact, bad teachers. The only thing we know for sure about these educators is that they couldn't get a principal to agree to place them in a school. There are any number of reasons why that may be; yes, maybe they suck, but maybe the principals who cut them loose suck. I have no idea, but neither does the governor. That, of course, has never stopped him from running off his mouth before.

The issue here remains workplace protections and their value in the labor marketplace. Christie, Booker, Anderson, and the reformy rest want to use Zuck's money to fund a little experiment. They don't want to use the money in the classroom (heaven forbid!); they would rather spend it to set the conditions for a future where teachers don't have workplace protections, due process, or seniority rights.

They foolishly think they're somehow going to save taxpayers money and magically make the schools better by taking away teachers' non-pecuniary benefits. Well, in the short-term, they may save a few bucks; however, in the long term, this is almost certain to cost districts more.

Tenure has a worth. Howard Wainer makes the point brilliantly: when superintendents in New Jersey lost tenure, their pay skyrocketed relative to teachers. This will inevitably happen if seniority rights and tenure are eliminated from teacher compensation packages: you will have to replace their value with something else if you want teachers of equal quality. One survey suggests you'll have to replace tenure with pay raises equal to 50% of current salaries.

That is unless, again, you don't really care about teacher quality and experience very much.

This isn't that hard to understand, folks. Why doesn't Supermayor seem to get it?

"Understanding tenure's value is like kryptonite to me!"


Norma Ray said...

Funny how Booker thinks nothing of all those city council people making over $80K for a part time job—almost twice as much as state legislators. But teachers? Well now, they just have to be stopped from making anywhere near that kind of money.

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