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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gates, Duncan, Friedman: Connecting the Dopes

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters (I would call it "Invisible Strings")
As the corporate education deform ship tacks following the grounding of the Oligarchs in DC, it is clear already that their new lay line is bound to take the Billionaire Boys Club into shallow waters once more.  The new strategy is based on using the current economic Depression to leverage the continued crushing of the teaching profession by paying all-powerful school CEOs a bundle and by further cutting teacher pay, while basing the remainder on test scores. Gates has some experience with this kind of management, even before the Bankster Revolution. From 2005:
Microsoft's compensation moves have created a haves-vs.-have-nots culture. Newbies work for comfortable but not overly generous wages, while veterans have a lucrative treasure chest of stock options. Now a new pay scheme, scheduled to go into effect this fall, threatens to make the gulf even wider. If they meet incentive goals, the 120 or so vice-presidents will receive an eye-popping $1 million in salary a year, and general managers, the next level down, will get $350,000 to $550,000, according to a high-ranking source. But the rest of the staff is paid at market rates.

The pay disparity is exacerbated by Microsoft's rating system. The company uses a bell curve to rate employees in each group, so the number of top performers is balanced by the same number of underachievers. But Microsoft has a long history of hiring top-notch computer science grads and high-quality talent from the industry. Under the rating system, if a group works hard together to release a product, someone in the group has to get a low score for every high score a manager dishes out. "It creates competition in the ranks, when people really want community," says a former Microsoft vice-president. 
Still, Microsoft workers have a sweet deal when compared to public school teachers.  This from 2006:
On top of the very competitive salaries and perks, the health care and benefits package, which is 100% free for all full time employees, easily adds $20K to an average mid-level professional's salary at Microsoft. Still need more convincing that this is a company you should pursue for long-term employment? Check out these additional perks:
Investment Benefits - Savings Plus 401(k) Plan -Defer up to 50% of pretax salary dollars. Company matches 50 cents on every dollar to a maximum of 6% of employee contribution.
Employee Stock Purchase Plan - 1% to 15% of after-tax salary to buy Microsoft stock at a 10% discount.
Group Legal Plan - Provides assistance with routine legal services such as real estate, adoption, divorce, bankruptcy, and wills.
Employee Assistance Program - Confidential counseling services for employees and family members.
Prime Program - Discount savings on products and services, including automotive services, computers and electronics, home and garden, restaurants, and travel.
Tuition Assistance Program - Reimbursement of tuition fees and textbooks for work-related courses.

Quoted directly from the Microsoft Employee website: "At Microsoft, people are the source of our energy. Creative people from all types of backgrounds, bringing passion and new ideas, meeting challenges, and realizing their potential. Our benefits plan and resources are designed to keep our most important assets - our employees - healthy, happy, and moving ahead at optimal speed. Microsoft benefits are generous and personalized; to give our employees the coverage they need to keep them healthy and happy."

Now, let's take a closer look at two of the most common occupations at Microsoft -

Software Design Engineer

Software design engineers work in a supportive network, sharing a passion for pushing the limits of technology in order to enable customers. The work completed by SDE's at Microsoft influence the lives of millions. Some duties include coding and designing new software, and constant team collaboration to create and build products. Annual Salary: $107,300 USD plus full benefis.

Administrative Assistant

An administrative assistant is involved in a wide array of tasks and projects including event planning, customer liaison, and website updating. This position provides an opportunity to take action, use strong problem-solving skills to bring about change, and make a positive impact. Annual Salary: $47,000 US plus full benefits
Prerequisites: Some office experience, complimented by an ability to use email and Office suite of products. Possess strong time management and team building skills. Knowledge of basic website management skills is considered a strong asset.
Polish up your resume, press your best interview garb and check out the Microsoft website. Currently, there are more than 300 openings posted nationwide and you can conveniently apply online.
Now this past week the real Secretary of Education, Bill Gates, sent out his flunky secretary, Arne Duncan, to talk about getting more "bang for the buck" as a way to push for further teacher bashing and the further basing of teacher pay and job security on test scores.  Meanwhile, the puppetmaster, himself, was in Louisville spouting the same message to state school officials:
School systems will have to find the money for merit pay from within existing budgets, Gates said. He suggested shifting money set aside for rewarding teachers on the basis of seniority or from those who attain advanced degrees. To study and develop effective ways to award merit pay, the Gates foundation is investing $290 million over seven years in the Tampa, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; and Pittsburgh school districts, as well as a charter-school consortium in Los Angeles. . . .

. . . .Schools may also save money by increasing class size, Gates said. U.S. student-teacher ratios dropped to 15-to-1 today from 26-to-1 in 1960, without improving student results, according to the foundation. Schools would save more than $10,000 per classroom by increasing class size by four pupils. They could use the money to pay the best teachers more, according to the foundation. . . . 
Now what we know about teacher pay now before these proposed "reforms" is that teacher pay is woefully inadequate already, and one of the small tangible rewards that teachers have counted on in the past is the step increase built into salary schedules across the nation.  As an example, below is a salary schedule for 2010-2011 from St. Louis, MO.  

First off, 14 percent of the beginner's $37.5K salary goes into a state retirement plan, whose eventual payouts are being slashed each year.  So the real beginning salary before other deductions is 32,250.  And Missouri teachers, like teachers in a number of other states, do not pay Social Security, which means, of course, that they will not collect it, either.  From a piece earlier this year in the Post-Dispatch:
Unveiled at last week's work session, the draft aims to reduce pensions for teachers hired after June 30, 2013, by roughly 15 to 20 percent, Yoakum said.

For example, after 30 years of service, current teachers draw 75 percent of their compensation, which includes salary and board-paid health insurance, as a pension. Under the proposal, new teachers would draw 60 percent of salary and insurance after 30 years. That would drop the pension for a $60,000-a-year teacher to $36,000 annually, down from $45,000.
Note, too, that after 10 years of teaching in some of those challenging schools in America, a St. Louis teacher makes the same as a starting administrative assistant at Microsoft in 2007.

BA A 37,500.00
B 38,500.00
C 39,000.00
D 39,400.00
E 40,153.00
F 42,040.00
G 43,467.00
H 44,771.00
I 46,115.00
J 47,360.00
K 50,358.00
L 55,570.00

Bill Gates and Arne Duncan want to get rid of these meager step increases by eliminating them entirely.  They want teacher raises (in St. Louis or Syracuse or anywhere else) to be based on student standardized test scores.  And they want to increase class size at the same time.  

Of course, the Oligarchs' ultimate solution is to turn both St. Louis and Syaracuse and every other urban system into segregated corporate welfare charter school systems, where charter CEOs can be paid hundreds of thousand per year like Canada, Moskowitz, and New Orleans corporate welfare queen, Kathy Reidlander, all the while doing away entirely with salary schedules and due process protections in hiring and firing.  
In North Carolina, where the charter cap just came off after a sweep by Republicans at the state level, one newly elected pol is already crowing about all the money that will saved when the state goes charter:
"Charter schools just make sense," explained Senator Elect Goolsby.  "They operate on 70 cents out of every dollar that go to the government run public schools and they give parents choice and education freedom.  They do everything great and they do it at 70 cents on the dollar."
What part of that 30 cents on the dollar that does not come from eliminating school libraries, art, music, drama, sports, etc. comes from cuts in teacher pay (as documented by an AFT nationwide study in 2007 that found that "the average charter school teacher salary was $41,106--nearly $10,000 less than that for traditional public school teachers." 
Now at the other prominent orifice of this corporate reform monster plops the chief middle brow scholar of all things corporate, Tom Friedman.  And while Mr. Friedman may be able to paint a convincing canvas of a Lexus under an olive tree, Gates has provided him now with an even more difficult picture to render: one that shows how these crushing realities and punishing planned funding "reforms" can be put alongside the ethereal rhetoric of building a teaching profession equal to that of Finland. The op-ed title, itself, "Teaching for America," mirrors the thought disorder that Friedman exhibits in this smelly gush of mental diarrhea:
Duncan’s view is that challenging teachers to rise to new levels — by using student achievement data in calculating salaries, by increasing competition through innovation and charters — is not anti-teacher. It’s taking the profession much more seriously and elevating it to where it should be. There are 3.2 million active teachers in America today. In the next decade, half (the baby boomers) will retire. How we recruit, train, support, evaluate and compensate their successors “is going to shape public education for the next 30 years,” said Duncan. We have to get this right.
To label such bullshit as fanciful would be flattering.  What it is, in fact, is an insult to the capacity, even, of any of the unfortunate psychologically-sterilized borderline illiterates that the segregated corporate charter is likely to turn out with a teacher corps built on ignorance, rather than knowledge and skill and professional competence.  Do these fools think anyone is believing this stuff besides the corporate media's editorial boards?

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