This post is a little bit out of left field, and does not contain anything related to our regularly scheduled techno-babble; However, given that I work in the education industry, and that I have just finished watching the movie “Waiting for Superman”, I have some thoughts that I wanted to share regarding this movie, or rather the education system in general.
You see, I never was, and likely never will be a certificated teacher, even though, ironically, my degree is actually in education. I do work in IT, this is the career path I chose, which I absolutely love. Since the day I started, I’ve been in the education world; never in corporate. (at least not for more than 4 months). What I share with certificated teachers however, is the fact that I belong to a union.
In my previous education experience, I worked for a private university, where a union did not exist. When I did get involved in the public education system, I found myself thrown into the “union” mix.
Waiting for Superman talks about our education system, what it is lacking, and touches on issues with the union, which, from my point of view are the fundamental reasons why our education system is failing. Even though I knew the facts, watching the documentary opened my eyes about specific situations, and I found myself furious about our situation. Since when does education need to be based on a lottery? What happened to our rights for an equal education?
It seems like everyone argues that the system is failing as a whole, and yet, not enough influential people are getting involved enough to stop the madness. I may be naive for thinking that someone “upstairs” may have enough power to flip the system. The fact remains that the bottom line is so blatantly obvious: NO ACCOUNTABILITY.
Michelle Rhee is truly a hero as far as I’m concerned. She went into it with the right attitude, and not worried about losing her career as a superintendent, “because my intention was never to establish a career in being a superintendent of schools”, she says. This is the kind of guts that is needed for someone to rip the system from its roots, and tackle the problem where it really needs to be touched upon.
Her proposal to the teacher’s union was to maintain the Tenure, and give everyone a small bump in salary, regardless of performance, OR removing the tenure, and compensate teachers based on their performance, potentially earning 6 figures. That’s right, 6 figures for teachers, and you know what? They deserve every penny of it, if they earn it. A friend of mine recently posted a semi sarcastic article on Facebook regarding teacher salaries.
Are you sick of highly paid teachers?
Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit!
We can get that for less than minimum wage.
That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours).
Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.
However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.
That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).
What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.
Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!
The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)
WHAT A DEAL!!!!
It took me a little bit to figure out why I was so ticked off after reading it. Partly, I was ticked off, because, if we quantify this based on other jobs, for instance, my job, where I’m creating technology for some 35,000 students in my district, my salary should probably be somewhere in the $3,000,000 range … This is of course a grossly exaggerated figure, with not much, if any actual factual math behind it, but, this is just to make the point. That set aside, I completely agree that teachers should be well compensated, and, as a prospective parent, I am extremely concerned about who’s hands I’m going to put my kid’s education in. Seeing where we are today, I’m terrified, because I have no way of knowing for a fact that they are in good hands. This is what the educational system is supposed to be doing in the first place. So what’s it going to be for my child? Charter School? Waiting on some crazy lottery? private school? home schooling? Why? Are my tax dollars not enough to support a strong public education system?
Day in, day out, I hear about teachers who are not doing their jobs, or even worse, are completely jeopardizing our kid’s lives and careers, yet, no one is holding them accountable. I sound harsh when I am dissatisfied with how much teachers are getting paid, because, for the most part, I see the under-deserving teachers getting paid the most for doing nothing. When Michelle Rhee made her proposal for the teachers, and compensation being a fruit of good performance; not only did the vote not pass, but the teachers were so terrified that they didn’t allow a vote to even go through!! What does that tell us?? That tells us that there is a higher percentage of teachers who are too comfortable doing nothing and getting paid for it, than there are ones who don’t mind the hard work, and get compensated for it. What a sad day!
My friend, the same one who posted the article quoted above, is one that I highly respect, Heidi Butkus. She was, and still is an elementary teacher at a local school district. More so, she is a teacher with ethics and motivation after which the school system should be built, and certainly one that should be within the group of teachers that get the 6 figure salaries in merit pay. Why, you ask?
Heidi has taken a simple singing talent she has, combined it with her inquisitive, and analytical view on the educational system, and did her part to improve on it. As a matter of fact, her method was even mentioned in the movie, Waiting for Superman, where basic math concepts were committed to memory through memorable rap tunes. Heidi did the same thing with multiple linguistic concepts, created multiple products that have gained an enormous popularity across the country. (I will plug in her website her, just because: http://www.heidisongs.com)
The reason I mention Heidi, and even though her contribution was quite major, a good teacher doesn’t necessarily have to go to such lengths to be considered a good teacher. Our unions, lack of accountability, and deteriorating system is adding more inadequate teachers, and less and less skilled, ambitious, and creative teachers within the system.
And that, my friends is what makes me angry… what are we going to do about this?
As a final thought, and given that I am in a union — though slightly on the sidelines of the teacher’s union — I find myself stuck in the same conundrum, where skilled classified employees are not being compensated for the hard work they’re doing, while their lazy, unmotivated counterparts, are relaxing in the comfort of the union protection, getting paid for doing nothing.
This is a union problem. These organization had a good purpose when they were first created, and I think, at this point, they have been corrupted, and are now based on individual people’s personal agendas. I cannot speak of the bureaucracy, nor the details of what is going on, because, I am not directly involved in these decisions. I just know that there is something seriously wrong, in both the certificated, and the classified side of the house, and if nothing is done about it, we’re going down the path of “Idiocracy” real fast!