Monday, April 19, 2010

Teachers Aren't the Only Ones Whose Pay Isn't Linked to Performance.

The front page of the Chicago Sun-Times this morning had a headline writ big, "Teacher Pay Not Tied to Success." This would appear to be just one more example of teacher bashing, a favorite national pastime in the best of times, and in the current economic climate an even more rabid pursuit. It also comes off as part and parcel of a concerted effort to discredit teachers' unions and bust them. Apparently routine 6 figure salaries for anyone associated with the business world is okay, but $75,000 for a teacher with a degree, and in many cases an advanced degree is just too much to ask.

This brings to mind the old saying, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." As for paychecks not being tied to success, the same could be said for bankers, as is evidenced by the large scale meltdown in the fiscal sector and resulting in the current state of affairs in the larger economy. Apparently, executives of major auto manufacturing companies in this country are not being paid according to success either, or the government wouldn't be bailing their sorry butts out so that we could save jobs for working class schmoes.

Speaking of auto manufacturers, engineers must not be paid based on success either. If they were, Toyota wouldn't be the major mess it currently is in, and ponying up major fines to the government. For that matter, what about Congressmen? Based on what's been coming out of Washington D.C. what can we say about the relationship of success to their salaries? State and local legislators? See above statements. The same thing applies at the state and local level. A great many of our state and local governments are going broke because of mismanagement. How much are they being paid, at taxpayer expense?

Better yet, how much are newspaper executives and editors being paid? Is this based on their massive success? Are any of them receiving bonuses for that success? Last I heard, large numbers of newspapers, including both large dailies in Chicago are in Chapter 11 restructuring because of their great success. Based on this logic, it seems to me that the people living in glass houses and throwing stones here must also be stoned.

For the record, I actually read the above-mentioned article and lo and behold, they admitted that funding for schools and subsequent pay is based on property tax, primarily. This means that districts with the largest tax base/student also pays teachers the highest. Live on the North Shore? Your kids' teachers are being paid well. Then again, due to all of the benefits associated with being the children of North Shore, well-educated, well-heeled families, your kids also achieve at a pretty high rate. Live in certain Southern suburbs of Chicago with a lot of poverty and low tax revenues? Surprise! Surprise! Your teachers don't get paid diddly. They'd get paid more if they went to work in the inner city schools of Chicago.

But more to the point, even in the City of Chicago all teachers are paid by the same pay scale regardless of what school they work in. Is this bad? Should teachers in schools that succeed be paid more than teachers in schools that have chronically bad results? Let's look at the facts, shall we?

In the Chicago Public Schools, teachers in those schools with the best students, i.e. Whitney Young High School, Northside College Preparatory High School, Walter Payton High School, LaSalle Language Academy for you elementary school buffs, etc., etc., etc. work on the same pay scale as teachers in schools like Collins High School, Chicago Vocational High School, Hirsch Metro. High School, and my very own Richards Career Academy. Is this fair? The first list of schools produces a majority of students who succeed. The latter produce a majority of students who do not.

Well of course they do! The Whitney Youngs and the Northside College Preps, just to name a few, cull the best of the best from the student population of the public schools in Chicago. They are schools for the gifted and talented. Then there are other schools like Morgan Park High School that are, in name, neighborhood schools, but they have gifted and talented programs within their walls. They raise their percentages of successful students by including some gifted and talented students.

The Hirsch High Schools, the Richards Career Academies, etc., etc., etc. are schools that serve the students who didn't get into the gifted and talented schools. These are schools that serve large Special Education populations. These are schools that serve students who aged out of the elementary schools and had to be sent to a high school. These are schools that serve kids who can't read or speak English. These are schools that deal with gangs and violence and anti-social behaviors on a daily basis. Do we really expect these schools to produce four star shining examples of academic success? What planet do you live on?

Frankly, the teachers who work day after day in these battle zones, should be paid extra for the work they do. They care. They work hard. Kids routinely come into these schools reading years below level and unable to do simple math. Yet a great many of their students manage to live successful lives, become productive citizens, and they all know that their teachers busted their butts for them and honestly cared. Who says teacher pay isn't linked to success? Spend a week or two with one of them sometime. Check out what it is that they do for their students, and for society as a whole. Then come back and tell me about how overpaid they are, how unsuccessful they are. Then let's look at all of those other people who get paid much more to produce less than spectacular results.

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