"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, January 19, 2007

Using a Business Model to Bankrupt Teaching

The neo-liberal cabal at Education Sector, those mainstream conservatives whose greed has brought them wheeling and dealing into the "Post-partisan" Era, have released some more toxic think tank material that is sure to be must-reading among the edu-business leeches aimed at corporatizing every remaining civic purpose in America. This piece of sludge, "Frozen Assets," has the same smell that emanates from the recent release of Marc Tucker’s bankrupt business model for state-funded corporate welfare charter school systems. Tucker Co. is in Colorado this week trying to sell the neo-liberal brand of the same snake oil that has been marketed under a different label by the charlatans who now control the Department of Education.

“Frozen Assets” fantasizes about un-freezing, nay, vaporizing, the remaining attractions to the profession of teaching, a profession that, otherwise, is in the process of being destroyed by an onslaught of rigid testing, test preparation, and behavioral control methods. The target is an estimated $77 billion in guaranteed salaries, retirement, and health benefits that now go to the nation’s underpaid and demonized teacher corps.

According the this report, there are the eight problem areas that arise from teacher contract provisions. I have taken the liberty to share or extrapolate the corporatized solutions:

Problem 1: Increases in teacher salaries based on years of experience
Solution 1: Increase beginning salaries and introduce merit raises on “increased benefits for students,” i. e., higher test scores.

Problem 2: Increases in teacher salaries based on educational credentials and experiences
Solution 2: Increase teacher salaries based on “measurable effects in terms of increased student learning.” You got it--test scores.

Problem 3: Professional development days
Solution 3: Dump contractually-guaranteed professional development days that take teachers away from jobs. Professional development “should give teachers the chance to try out new strategies in real classroom settings, it should include ongoing support after initial training, and it should be evaluated to ensure that it increases student learning.” So all approved professional development will have as its goal increased student learning (higher test scores).

Problem 4: Number of paid sick and personal days
Solution 4: Other professional employees (undefined) would take 3.06 days per 180-day year. You get the picture. No matter that teachers are exposed to every form of crud that circulates among the masses.

Problem 5: Class-size limitations
Solution 5: Citing the only piece of peer-reviewed research in this report, the author concludes that modest reductions in class size do not produce significant results. The most reliable indicators from the Tennessee STAR study show that when enrollments drop below 18 students that significant academic gains are likely. According to “Frozen Assets,” then, the modest reductions in class size called for by many teacher contracts are a waste of money. Wonder what these guys would say if teacher unions demanded a 1:17 teacher student ratio?

Problem 6: Use of teachers’ aides
You guessed it: “. . . as with many of the typical contract provisions described in this report, the research suggests that money spent on teachers’ aides does not yield increased student learning.” If there is not a direct link to increasing the bottom line (test scores), then forget it.

Problem 7: Generous health and insurance benefits
Solution 7: With abysmally low salaries compared to other professions, health insurance remains one of few financial attractions to the teaching profession. Advocating for less health benefits, look at how “Frozen Assets” analyzes the situation: “. . . Podgursky’s analysis suggests that the teacher health and other insurance benefits amount to 9.1 percent of the average salary, compared to 6 percent for other professionals.” With lower take home pay for teachers, would not any semi-literate dolt expect that the health insurance premium would constitute a greater percentage of the overall salary???

Problem 8: Generous retirement benefits.
Solution 8: See Solution 7--same thought disorder. In short, dump defined benefit pensions for teachers and put them all in 401Ks.

1 comment:

  1. The stock answer on sick days for teachers would be entertaining were it not so patronizing and wrong.

    Other employees get only 3 sick days a year? Other employees also get a break every two hours (15 minutes minimum in most states), an hour for lunch, and time off with pay to make visits to the physician and dentist. If we're going to compare teachers to other employees, let's make teachers subject to the other Fair Labor Standards Act provisions, too -- no grading at home, after hours, without overtime, no extra hours required without pay, convenient toilets and time to use them, etc., etc., etc.

    Many schools I've been in would be an OSHA citation snowstorm. Any other job that required people to wrestle with 6-foot kids trying to clobber other kids would include hazardous duty pay, and backup.

    They want to make teachers "like other employees?" Ha! If only.

    When do we stop financing corporate welfare on the backs of public employees -- teachers, cops and firefighters?