Charles Lane pretty thoroughly deconstructs the teacher layoff “crisis” in the WashPo. Aficionados wants more LIFO action, but he gets at the underlying issues.

21 Replies to “Next!”

  1. Recently I was surprised to discover that teachers rank third, ahead of physicians, in the regard other citizens hold for them. So the political “power” that teachers enjoy can be attributed to the support they get from their fellow Americans and not to “unions.”

    In light of this, we can expect federal dollars to go to the people who staff our nation’s classrooms and not to corporate “reformers” seeking to siphon off tax dollars for personal gain.

  2. Linda, thank you for all you do to lower the regard people have for teachers by leaving inane comments like this

  3. Why would you want to thank someone for lowering the regard people have for teachers?

  4. Let me put Pete’s comment in more polite terms:

    Linda, your comment is a total non sequitur. The debate about supplemental spending has nothing to do with whether people hold teachers in high regard. And it certainly has nothing to do with “corporate reformers” (whatever that even means).

    There actually is an interesting debate taking place about funding, and the Lane piece provides one side of the argument. Your comment doesn’t build on, take on, or add to this debate – it’s just an out of left field assertion mixed with a gratuitous insult to an undefined group of people.

    As a general rule, your comments often can be reduced to “I don’t like eduwonk or its readers.” That’s fine, it’s a free country. But you should know that your credibility has been badly undermined by your posts over time. Today’s post didn’t help.

    And edlharris, it doesn’t really matter what Pete does for a living. A lot of us come to this site not because we are teachers but because we have kids in public school and have this idea (now hear me out – I know this is crazy!) that as taxpayers with kids in the system, we have the right to engage in meaningful discussion of the issues.

  5. oh edconsumer don’t go arguing to Linda et al. that public schools should be responsive to the public at-large. that’s simply neo-con corporation speak. you know that whole democratic accountability thing has never been popular with public sector union types who think that only teachers know what’s best for how schools should operate. by extension wouldn’t that mean only CEOs of fortune 500 companies should be able to weigh in on the nation’s fiscal policy choices? i’m sure that would go over with the readership of The Nation real well.

  6. (now hear me out – I know this is crazy!)

    Oh, I’m so sorry.
    I didn’t know that, nor could have thought of that.
    Poor Catholic education at work.

  7. Oh and edconsumer (your real name?), by knowing Pete’s job (or yours for that matter) people can raise their opinions of those type of job holders.

    Max! Get serious, for once! What are you going to DO with your life?
    Max: Why is it always what will I do? “What will he do”, “What will he do,” “Oh, my god what will he do”, Do, do, do, do, do. Why isn’t the issue here who I am?
    Uncle Teddy: Because, Maxwell, what you do defines who you are.
    Max: No, Uncle Teddy. Who you are defines what you do.

  8. So the anger is because__? The same thing keeps getting written. At least come up with some new points.
    Why don’t you consider this? Working conditions at many schools is bad enough we are lucky for unions. The National Education Association protects management and essentially the government from pesky labor issues.
    Parents, are you going to encourage your children to be public school teachers? Lack of job security, a pension and a low salary isn’t going to be a problem?. Hopefully, if your child chooses to work in a challenging school, you are independently wealthy and will be able to pay for grad school, the credential program, housing and a car.

  9. “Working conditions at many schools is bad enough…”

    Ignoring the lovely subject verb agreement of that profoundly misguided sentence, let’s consider the following FACTS about how working conditions are bad for public school employees relative to employees in the private sector.

    Let’s see:

    -Most private sector employees are “at will” meaning they can be fired for incompetence without a lengthy process that costs their employer oodles of money
    -Most private sector employees do not receive GUARANTEED pay raises and GUARANTEED pensions, but instead have their compensation dictated by the fiscal health of the company (e.g. does it make a profit). I don’t see any commensurate volatility in the pay of the public school workforce if their state’s economy is in the dumps and the dollars aren’t there for a pay raise. Why should the public sector employee be the only individual immune from the market?
    -Most private sector employees get 10 days of paid vacation per year- not several weeks in the summer in addition to several holidays that MOST private sector employees do not get off (e.g. MLK day).

    Now, I’d actually like to substantively engage the latter part of your statement. You reference low salary and a lack of job security- I don’t know what world you’re living in if you think teachers lack job security. I grant you low salaries, but here’s the thing. Michelle Rhee and Linda’s so-called “corporate reformers” offered the teacher unions a deal.

    Rhee et al. were happy to give MAJOR pay raises to teachers – upwards of 100k a year – if teachers were willing to be judged on performance. This type of change in how we compensate teachers WOULD APPEAL to precisely the types of individuals that you note AVOID public education as a career. What type of college graduates seek employment in fields that are competitive and where the chance to make large sums of compensation based on performance governs employee-employer relations? Graduates of selective colleges, those who are top performers – those ones we want in the profession. The teacher unions don’t want this. They aren’t willing to dramatically change the profession. The reformers are the ones who want to make teachers 6 figure professionals, but the unions refuse to go along with these arrangements because they don’t want the accountability and performance-incentives that come along with being a 6 figure professional.

    The reformers are willing to swap low salaries for big ones TOMORROW, if teacher evaluations were made contingent upon PERFORMANCE – multiple measures INCLUDING value added improvement of their students.

    The problem is teachers want to have their cake and eat it too – bigger salaries, more job security, and less accountability. At the end of the day why should they get all 3, shouldn’t taxpayers and parents get something. They are, after all, footing the bill. This ain’t no jobs program for adults, its a schoolhouse for kids yo.

  10. My “non-sequitors” surely get people going! If it weren’t for my inane remarks, most of these blurbs would have no responses. Judging by some heated comments, I can tell that some readers understand my points quite well. Also, I think we all know that when people start with the name-calling and insults, their buttons have been pushed. When I encounter comments that don’t make sense, I just ignore them.

    While at Disneyland today, I kept thinking about Pete Bush’s remark to me, “Linda, thank you for all you do to lower the regard people have for teachers by leaving inane comments like this.” This comment captures perfectly the tone of this blog, but Pete said it much, much better than I ever did. Yes, that’s the general intent of this blog: to lower the regard people have for our public schools and our teachers. I believe it is for the purpose of privatizing our schools for personal gain. The people who wish to do so are the “corporate reformers.”

    I respond to the general tone of Eduwonk’s remarks; almost always of the “get those darned teachers” variety. The topic this time was “the layoff crisis.” My point was most laid-off teachers will probably be hired back and it will have to do with the support teachers get from their fellow citizens, and not “the unions” as if often stated or implied.

  11. As a former teacher (and now an attorney), I’d like to respond to the Hitch’s statements that teachers get much more vacation time than most private sector employees and that teachers have good job security. Regarding job security, new teachers have NO job security. They are subject to the whims of budget cuts and population shifts, and will always be the first to be let go (due to seniority rules). When I worked in California, one year all the teachers with less than 7 years in our school district were given pink slips — that’s no job security. Granted, once you’ve been in one district for 10 years, you’re pretty safe. But getting to 10 years may be tough.

    Second, with regard to vacation time, I’ve counted up the actual days per year that I worked when I was a teacher compared to what most white collar private sector and government employees work per year. Of course, teachers do work fewer total days (assuming they don’t teach summer school), but it’s only a difference of about five to six weeks per year – not three months, as many say. Teachers usually get 2 personal days per year and are discouraged from taking sick leave whenever possible. They generally work from mid-August to late June with one week for spring break and one week for winter break. A typical office employee with a couple years experience usually gets 2-3 weeks personal leave plus 2 weeks sick leave plus major federal holidays. Also, in each school I taught in teachers were forbidden from using their personal days next to any holiday weekend (even minor holidays like Presidents’ day). They were not allowed to take the Wednesday off before Thanksgiving, or an extra day over spring break.

    While SOME teachers have good job security and teachers have off SOME extra weeks per year compared to a typical office worker, it’s important not to make generalizations or exaggerate the problem.

  12. Ed / Linda – your comments are infuriatingly hypocritical. One day its parents and families know what’s best, the next its only teachers can decide what’s right. One day its teachers are underpaid, the next its money is corrupting the profession. One day its lets train and respect novice teachers, the next its lets protect our seniors.

    Please make up your minds.

  13. For the record, my comparison regarding vacation time was between private sector employees and public sector employees (like teachers). I notice though that I got absolutely no response to the second half of my post about making teachers 6 figure professionals. Wonder why that is?

  14. Hitch: My point was that in my several years working as a teacher (in both public and private schools), I found it to be very difficult to take sick days. Some districts actively discouraged teachers taking ANY sick days (for instance, a district in Richmond, VA gave bonuses to teachers with perfect attendance). In any school, taking sick days required preparing substitute lesson plans (a time-consuming process); in some districts, teachers are required to find their own substitute.

    Your WSJ article merely points out that Newark, NJ has an unusually high absence rate among teachers (I believe the article states that it is twice that of the average urban district). And I wouldn’t be surprised if hard-to-staff urban schools have higher than average teacher absence rates than most suburban schools.

    With regard to the pay of teachers, the average teacher in Virginia starts out with a salary in the upper 30K’s. Some rural districts have very low starting salaries and the districts closer to DC have higher salaries. I don’t know much about the salaries in DCPS, but I will say that exchanging job protections for teacher evaluations is a very risky business. It is very difficult for a principal to accurately evaluate a teacher based on the typical one or two one-class observations per year. Observations are inherently subjective (especially when the principal is evaluating a teacher in a subject the principal knows little about, like higher-level math or science courses).

    In addition, so many variables affect the effectiveness of a teacher (such as the number of different courses assigned at one time, whether they have taught the course previously, number of mainstreamed special education students and students with ELL, school discipline policy, etc.) that I have little faith that one 30 minute observation by anyone can really accurately determine teacher quality.

  15. And evaluation in the private sector is so spot on perfect that human resource managers and supervisors ALWAYS make the exactly correct assessment of how well each employee is performing when bonus season rolls around?

    It’s so perfect in the private sector that it works well enough there, but when it comes to teachers they are just “too different” to be governed by anything remotely resembling the human resource practices surrounding pay and evaluation used in the private sector?

    Sounds like job security for me but not for thee…

  16. Also you do realize that (and I apologize for not condensing posts these thoughts came to me after I posted)… but you do realize that you just tried to defend teacher sick leave as pretty mainstream in comparison to the private sector by noting that VA pays its teachers a bonus to show up more often!

    Do you think that is a mainstream practice in the private sector? Having worked for 4 different private sector companies I can tell you I never was offered a bonus for the “perfect attendance certificate.” In fact, my sick leave never rolled over and it certainly didn’t turn into pension money!

    Maybe in DC at the Brookings Institution with their cush benefits package – but your average private sector job is not a DC think tank and is more like an industrial supply house in waco texas where employees get their 10 days a year vacation, 5-10 sick, and a defined benefit where they too can pay toward their health care.

  17. Hitch: One comment (before I go grab lunch): The district I described in VA pays its teachers a bonus only if they take NO leave days (sick leave or personal leave) for a full school year. This isn’t exactly paying teachers for “showing up” / It’s paying teachers for having no personal life: Never getting a cold or the flue or wanting to attend a wedding or a funeral. I’m strongly against this type of policy; it’s very manipulative. It would be different if, for example, the district allowed teachers to cash out up to X number of unused leave days per year (as some companies do).

    Regarding your comparisons of private sector leave policies, I think that teachers should be compared to other college graduates, not the typical American job. In my experience, starting leave for a college graduate is about 2 weeks sick leave and 2 weeks vacation leave, or perhaps 3 weeks “general” or “total” leave. As the employee stays with the company longer, the leave time increase. For example, after three years with X company, the employee may move up to three weeks of vacation leave a year (or four weeks total leave). I can’t speak for every job in America, this is just my experience (and the experience of my college-educated family and friends across the country). Of course, there are exceptions. I know very highly paid attorneys who work in large firms and rarely take any leave… because they have so much work! But they are the exception… And they’re paid way more than teachers.

    In closing, I’m sorry I can’t respond to all your comments (although they are certainly thought-provoking, to say the least), but I can only spend so much time on blog postings!

  18. The priests, brothers, nuns and lay teachers at my Catholic schools did not receive performance pay, yet they educated many, seemingly doing a better job than public school teachers.

    Jeff, would you please point out exactly where I typed what you claimed I typed?
    Or are you so infuriated that you lumped me in with Linda?

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