Out in Denver Michael Bennet, the best school superintendent you may not have heard of, is locked in a debate with his teachers’ union about his proposal to shift the pay curve for teachers there a bit more toward younger teachers. Right now the big earning years for teachers (all-in, so salary and pension) is the later years and Bennet wants to change that some. It would mean that some veteran teachers who are not teaching in high-need schools or hard to staff subjects might ultimately earn less than they would under the current system, but no one faces an actual reduction in pay today. There is a lot of misinformation floating around that he’s trying to cut pay, gut the pension, etc…and the local press has thus far done an un-admirable job cutting through it and giving citizens there the facts so they can make an informed judgment. There is some talk of a protest or strike in the air with the Democratic Convention coming up but I cannot believe the Denver union, the state union, or the national NEA is that suicidal so it seems unlikely. But, there is an unmistakable generational component to the fight.
In Washington D.C. generational considerations will also probably play a big role in whether Michelle Rhee succeeds with her pay for tenure swap proposal there. In our recent survey of teachers at ES (pdf) we looked at this issue in general but not the specifics of the Rhee proposal. As the figure shows, there is some skepticism although if you add up teachers that would take the trade and those that say they would if it were more money, you can see the way through for Rhee. And, we did find younger teachers slightly more open than older ones (for instance, 35 percent of those ages 20-34 said they’d take the trade compared to just 23 percent of those over 55 while 29 percent of teachers between those age brackets said they would, and 27 or 28 percent of all age groups said they’d take it if it were a lot more money)
So, in practice in D.C., where this is going to be controversial and have national implications and consequently national involvement, the proposal’s adoption is likely to hinge on whether younger teachers in the city, many of whom came into teaching through Teach For America or The New Teacher Project stand up for the idea. Important to remember that under Rhee’s proposal no one loses tenure, it’s a two-track system and optional. The opt-in option has proven popular on compensation reforms elsewhere, like, say, Denver with the Pro-Comp differential pay scheme there. See also Wash. Post. ed board on all this here.