Sunday, February 3, 2013

An Educator Responds...

I have often though about sending a response to some of what you post but this is the first time I have actually followed through.  I [have experience teaching in the district and]  at times agree with your take on issues...but this time you seem to be lacking (or at least not fully disclosing) some basic needed information. 
I have to believe that you are aware that the majority of teachers pick up credits because it is required by state lawPlease do not blame teachers for saying that they need to spend their summers picking up more credits when, I suspect, your favorite example (the vaunted elementary librarian) probably does not truly believe that she requires a Ph.D. to find news stories for a third grader...but as long as she is being required, by law, by a legislature that apparently does believe that to be the case, she ought to be paid.

Aside from the obvious continuing certification demands now being ascribed to teaching licenses, there is also the issue of culture.  I believe you to be a businessman so you are quite familiar with corporate culture and should be aware that you do not simply change a culture overnight with the a wave of the "wish wand."  It takes, in most businesses, approximately 5-7 years to fully change an established culture.  For decades, teachers have been playing the hand that was dealt them...credits and experience.  For decades, to make more money as a teacher, the "system" in virtually every district was structured the same: get more credits, get more experience, earn more money.  In business, if you want to make more money you move up the ladder.  In education, there is no ladder...unless you want to be an administrator!  By now demanding a change in the structure of the salary schedule you are effectively demanding a change in the culture - in  a very short time!

What you appear to be advocating by compressing the salary schedule, through the elimination of years of experience and credits,  has the potential to create a leapfrog effect.  This is what I believe the teachers union is attempting to avoid.  It would be not unlike a new attorney coming in and making more than a full partner in the firm.  Numerous recent studies have supported the fact that experience does, in fact, make a better teacher.

Perhaps the time has, indeed, come for a change in how a salary schedule is structured (especially in light of the fact that far fewer teachers find it to be a lifetime career anymore!) but it should be done in transition over a period of time.  And this does not address the variances that  will exist if one district - or a few - change and many others do not and a teacher moves between districts.   Also by the way, I believe that a salary schedule is a minimum.  I think the district can pay more.  In fact, at times they will (don't know if Sun Prairie has ever done that!).

If nothing else, you present "food for thought" but
you also need to be fair to your readers and explain that teachers are simply doing what current law is requiring of them.

SP-EYE comments:
First, and foremost, we appreciate someone having the temerity to not only respond, but to provide their name.  We fully applaud that action.  It's so much easier to engage in dialog when someone isn't using a throw-away e-mail address.  This subject requires dialog.  And at least one educator had the guts to do so.

We see a couple of themes here which require our feedback:

1) Was SP-EYE fair regarding teacher certification requirements?
If we came across as disingenuous,we apologize, that was not the intent.  We certainly do understand that--depending on the license they hold---teachers may be required to obtain additional education requirements for license renewal.  But that being said, let's be totally fair and state that those that require credits have a license good for five years and 6 CEUs are required to renew the license.   Over a 30 year teaching career, that's exactly 36 credits.

But remember...teachers also receive a 2% salary increase for every 6 credits they earn.  If they are "off the grid", then if its a course that fits with their role, and they pass it, the district will reimburse them $300 per credit.  So for each of those 6 credits, they would be reimbursed $1800.  One can get credits for $300 if one looks.  And sometims those credits require very little time to earn.

It is of note that those on the upper end of the salary scale, who received their teacher license prior to 1983, received "life" licenses, and they required NO additional credits.  That explains why at least one teacher with over 35 years experience had only a BS degree plus NINE credits.

These days, under PI-34, teachers can opt (in lieu of credits) to develop a PDP or Professional Development program individualized for them  The downside of course is that their is accountability for holding to satisfactorily completing the plan. 

2) You can't change the culture overnight.
Generally speaking, we agree; in normal times, one cannot change the culture overnight.  But these are not what we'd considered normal times.  Act 10 is here and has withstood numerous challenges.  It looks like it's here to stay, so we need to deal with it.   Act 10 served as an instantaneous game changer.

We're also not the Lone Ranger here.  Other school districts have already done this (doing away with the grid).  The change is already happening across the state, and we suspect the nation will be forced to follow.   The teacher grid model is no longer sustainable.

And as for Sun Prairie being "able to pay more"....  sure...we can pay more.  And McDonald's can pay more, and so can Walmart.  ANYONE can pay more.  But it comes at a cost.  For McDonald's and WalMart, they simply would charge consumers (that would be US) a higher price.  For the school district, it means higher property taxes.  And even the teachers DO have to understand that the old revenue limits are still in place, so there is a maximum that we can spend (gee...hope we don't suddenly get a hole in any damn roof!).

The real question is....WHY should we pay more...other than to increase the base for starting teachers?  A large number of teachers make $65,000/year or more in base salary alone....and that's for 9 months.

3) The leapfrog effect.
We think that the analogy of a lawyer coming in and making full partner to start is a little over the top, not to mention unrealistic.  We're talking about compressing the salary scale, not paying everyone the same.  The base wage paid to teachers is ridiculously low.  You know it; SPEA knows it; hell, everybody knows it.  But nobody wants to do anything about it because of the way things have always worked.

The way the rest of the world works, is a world in which there is a salary scale to work with (and often a maximum "hire rate").  I someone with great credentials and abilities comes in, you may throw a few more dollars at them.  Then, annually, if "company" performance allows it, a pool of money is made available for pay increases.  There is no "everyone gets 3%.   Usually managers have authority to determine how they dole out their groups'  share of the pool.  Those that are not performing to standard may NOT get an increase, while others that are rising above may receive more than the average increase.   But there is no automatic increase because you are a year older.  Unions, of course, are less than enamored with this.

Again...our sincere thanks and major kudos to the sole educator who drummed up enough courage to open a dialog.

At the end of the day, do we not teach our children to embrace change and dare to try?  To face life's challenges?  Instead of endless arguing about a contract proposal which is both fair and unlikely to change substantially, why do teachers not accept change and serve as role models?