By Jim Hiller of Beaverton, Oregon. Jim describes himself as "a left handed, progressive educator, with a panache for writing, reading, history and the movies!" Previously, he contributed "Bill Sizemore: Next time, talk to me first."
It’s popular among Republican circles to blabber that if schools operated more like businesses, then the schools would dramatically improve, or if not, shut down and everyone would be happy. Perhaps that’s the thought behind Oregon’s Measure 60, yet another one of Bill Sizemore’s wonderful ideas, funded by people who don’t even live in this state.
The intent of Measure 60 is to change the way that teachers are paid, from a seniority system, to one based totally on merit. How “merit” is decided is unclear, and apparently, the measure leaves it to the legislature or school boards to actually work out those pesky details (after all, it’s better to vote on something that’s not well-planned out, so people won’t attack it too much).
In fact, the measure seems to only talk about classroom teachers. What about the host of professionals that are not in the classroom? I worked as a Title I teacher, offering additional support to elementary students who were struggling in their subjects. How would I get paid? What about our school psychologist, who doesn’t actually teach? There are a host of professionals that work in a school (and I would be shocked to discover that Sizemore actually has set foot in a public school) that are not addressed by this measure.
Would the public support merit pay for other professionals? How about basing police salaries on the crime rate? If the crime rate goes up, their salaries go down. How about paying dentists based on the number of cavities their patients get? If a dentist is doing his job, then his patients wouldn’t have cavities, right? How about paying librarians for the number of books checked out?
I could debate the “merits” of merit pay (I’m sure no one has ever used that before), but that is not really what this measure is about. It’s basically yet another Sizemore attack on education that the faithful citizens of Oregon have to defend against, with their votes and their dollars. And that makes Sizemore giggle with glee! He’s for cutting government spending, but giggles when unions, charities, and senior citizens have to spend their hard earned money on advertising trying to defeat this ill-begotten idea.
But allow me to go back to my original point: Republicans would like schools to run like businesses. Okay, I’ll go for that. Let’s let schools run like businesses.
Let me see here. Since my school is now a business, I’ll consider myself the CEO of my classroom. Makes sense, right? I make all of the decisions for my classroom, and the kids learn as a direct result of my actions. Thus, I should get paid like a CEO, and use the process CEO’s use to figure out their salaries. Great!
So, I’ll go to the “Board of Directors” of my classroom to figure out how much moolah I can rake in. Since I’m the CEO, I probably had a hand in choosing some of the people sitting on this board. I’ve called up some of my closest teacher friends to sit on this board. They’ll understand what it’s like to be a CEO. For good measure, I’ll put a few parents from my classroom on this board too.
Then, the Board will have the responsibility to pick a “Compensation Specialist” to determine my salary. Of course, I’ll guide and advise the board on who to select, if not hand pick him or her. So, I’ll “recommend” my friend Julie, which the board gladly hires. Julie doesn’t bother to look at my teaching, or figure out if the students are learning (because there are so many factors that determine school success), but recommends that the Board grant me a salary of 12.8 million tax payer dollars (the current average of CEO salaries, according to Forbes). Sweet! Ka-ching! Nah, I didn’t think you’d go for it, and neither do I go for the fact that schools should be run like a business.
Sure, schools are in the business of education, but our products are people, and what a diverse product we have. The kids that walk through our doors come with a range of skills, abilities, talents and needs. Teachers are charged with providing excellent education to these souls. Not having to worry about how much they are going to get paid is the least we can do for them.