January 2, 2008

Cogs Aren't Usually Inspired

Justin Katz

Julia Steiny has a good column explaining one area in which the union model is a poor fit for teachers (the best parts aren't quoted):

Traditional "defined benefit" pensions motivate some teachers to become deadwood. Teachers who have lost their appetite for the work must continue to put in their time, however half-heartedly, to qualify for retirement benefits that are far more valuable than most private-sector employees get.

In general, one of the biggest problems in public education is that the field is rife with badly designed policies that motivate the wrong behavior. Pensions are only one example. ...

... not only are the pensions themselves unsustainably expensive, they can also richly reward poor service. ...

Labor-market pundits tell us that most people these days not only change jobs, but even careers several times during their lifetime. “Defined benefit” pensions presume a lifetime of employment in the same field, in the same state. There is no way of getting the full benefit of the pension unless you stay for the full haul.

If a teacher goes into a different line of work, or even moves to a cooler school in a different state, she loses all or most of her investment in her future. Big disincentive.

The essence of the thing is that the union approach — across the board — is designed for employees who are essentially machines in the workplace. Low skilled. Replaceable. Perhaps tough work, but no real leverage in the company.

That certainly oughtn't describe teachers, who should be encouraged to find ways to remain intellectually engaged, interested, and enthusiastic. Sometimes that'll require some experimentation — risks, even. (Gasp! Did I say "risks"?)

The NEA's local brain, Bob Walsh, will declare that his organization's goal is "a high-quality teacher in every classroom," but by their nature, unions aren't built to enhance the individualism and creativity that teaching ought to require. In the union frame of mind, "high quality" is indistinguishable from "competent," and neither comes near "inspired," except by accident, which is a contingency that pensions, bumping, seniority, and white-knuckled job security increasingly prevent.

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Advocating professionalism - both in the structure within which teachers work, and from the teachers - oh, there you go "teacher bashing" again!


"That all teachers be held accountable for paying union dues, and no teacher be held accountable for performance!"

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at January 2, 2008 3:07 PM

Anyone notice how many MINUTES the GA was in session today?

Posted by: Greg at January 2, 2008 6:16 PM

Nice pitch for changing the State of RI retirement into a 401K by bashing the teachers who are required by law to provide the highest funding into the RI pension fund which by the way is now ranked the 2nd most under funded system in the nation because the State of RI has not lived up to it’s required funding (been putting in only 56%) and has altered the pension by raising age limits and lowering pension but still requiring 100% employee contribution.

Also the RI pension system is ranked one of the lowest performing pension system in the nation requiring one of the highest employee contributions with the least return.

As far as teacher quality in the classroom and incentives, The National Council on Teacher Quality: http://www.nctq.org/p/

“State Teacher Policy Yearbook 2007” that ranks 50 states in the administrative and laws enabling teachers to excel students to the highest levels of education; Rhode Island received a “languishing” grade.

The U.S. Department of Education Determination Letters on State Implementation of the IDEA
June 2007

Rhode Island Department of Education responsible for Part B implementation received a “NEEDS ASSISTANCE”

Rhode Island Department of Human Services responsible for Part C implementation received a “NEEDS INTERVENTION”

Web Site and letters:

The author of the PROJO article did not explain all of the checks and balances that are now in place with new laws and Federal No Child Left Behind Law which allows firing a teacher for non-performance and lack of continued education.

When ever RI gets into financial trouble there is always these so called experts that might never ever taught long term sin a school system or ever been in a classroom that starts bashing teachers, state employees and unions.

I’m not a teacher but have some friends that are and educators (teachers) a professional field requiring a master degree where a high school drop-out knows more about the profession and job tasking.

Posted by: Ken at January 4, 2008 1:46 AM

the State of RI has not lived up to it’s required funding (been putting in only 56%)
Posted by Ken at January 4, 2008 1:46 AM
No it is not "the state of Rhode Island" that did this it is the union corrupted Democrats in the GA. In other words-the unions.
Why? Because they knew the people wouldn't (and still won't) tolerate the exponential tax hikes required to "fully fund" these insane pensions, plus COLA's and healthcare for life. So they kicked the ball a little further down the road. The problem for the maggots sailing on the SS Union/Welfare is that we are now approaching "further down the road" and the jig is about up.

Posted by: Mike at January 4, 2008 10:52 AM
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