Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday's Det News Editorial Attacks Teacher Pay....AGAIN!

My thoughts about the Nov. 21st Detroit News Editorial - (Links to the article can be found in the next post below this one)

Yesterday’s Detroit News Opinion section once again attacked teachers. I have to tell you I don’t understand why we as teachers are constantly under attack. But this particular editorial was particularly sickening to me as it presented half truths and non truths as fact.

It also quoted Michael Van Beek as an education researcher. For those of you who don’t know, Michael Van Beek writes for the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy. It is decisively anti-teacher. Michael Van Beek is highly critical of teacher pay and teacher health benefits. He wants teachers to pay at least 20% toward their health benefits because that’s what the “private sector” does. I wonder if that is really true. As an educational researcher, Michael Van Beek “analyzed” the WLEA’s contract and published it to his Mackinaw Center site. First of all, in his write up, he stated that our WLEA had over 20 steps……..not true. Also, at the end of the pdf copy of our contract, on his site, a document was attached that was from the support staff’s contract. It was a tentative agreement regarding their new contract which had lawyer initials on it. How do you suppose he got that? And did Mr. Van Beek think that was part of our contract, really?

Back to the editorial…….The premise of the editorial was that teachers could save their salaries by accepting a merit pay system. Quite frankly, in all the educational research I have found and received from the MEA, nothing exists that links merit pay to student achievement. Practically speaking, if you think about this concept of merit pay and teacher pay, you can probably come up with many of the problems it involves on your own. While teachers in the classroom and their educational practices are of paramount importance, can you always control ALL of the factors that influence student learning? How many of those factors fall outside of your sphere of influence? How would student growth be determined? By Benchmark tests, by MEAP tests, by what??? Is it fair to judge your effectiveness on student scores alone? Should your pay be judged on a student’s one day of performance? If the MEAP is used in the fall, are you really the teacher whose “work” is being reflected in the students’ scores, or is it last year’s teacher? If you teach music or art or anything but English or Math, should your pay be calculated on a student’s scores on the MEAP?

This concept of Merit Pay is now being required by the Race to the Top law that was passed through our legislature last year so the Michigan Education Department could apply for Federal Race to the Top Funds. (Michigan did not qualify.) However, it does not have to be the whole determination of a teacher’s pay. At this time each individual district can bargain what student growth is and how much it needs to be and how much “pay” will be used as “merit”. But for the Detroit News to say that it is the answer to the economy of Michigan is beyond my understanding.

As teachers we are responsible for the training and education of all future citizens of the world. Everyone wants the children of today to be responsible, capable adults willing and able to make their way as successful human beings and members of society. Is there no greater goal in the world? AND YET, this article criticizes teachers who earn $83,000 a year and a handful (300) who earn over $100,000. I think that is a pretty low salary for the people who are expected to educate and prepare children for the future. AND as I type this, I sit in front of the TV and watch Brett Favre moaning that he has to go home for the season since the Vikings won’t make it to the playoffs. How many teacher salaries does he make all on his own? And, since the Vikings aren’t going to the playoffs, perhaps he should not earn as much this year. AND perhaps, since he doesn’t work but 3 months of the year (I mean….holy moly….they had to go south to beg him to come play this year), perhaps they should divide his pay by 3. And…..since he…..I’m going to stop now…..

Please read one WALLED LAKE TEACHER'S response below (besides my own!) to this Editorial!!!