(Mike Chamberlain/The Cranky Hermit) – This morning [July 5], the Las Vegas Sun editorial board penned a piece lamenting the loss of good teachers. Of course, the culprits, in their view, are budget cuts and “the No Child Left Behind initiative of former President George W. Bush, which ties federal education funding to test results.”
The Sun does, however, say something with which I completely agree.
Because the focus needs to be on the best way to educate children, good teachers should be rewarded and poor teachers should be replaced. Following that blueprint, while maintaining a well-rounded education that also includes instruction in history, arts and foreign languages, will give students the best chance to succeed in life.
Then they wander off into the standard talking points of the left when it comes to education, or anything having to do with the government, more money, more money, more money.
There are two things standing in the way of the changes the Sun would like to see, but it chooses to completely ignore them because they don’t fit the template. The teachers unions are the biggest obstacles, not just in Nevada but across the country, to properly rewarding teachers. They insist that all teachers be paid the same and that only criteria that have very little to do with results – seniority and continuing education – are to be used in compensating teachers.
The other is the government monopoly in education. Introduce competition – for money, students, teachers, and administrators – and the system will improve. Students and teachers will want to go to the best schools. Other schools will have the incentive to hire the best teachers and reward them properly. All schools will want to rid themselves of bad teachers.
Teachers like to compare themselves to professions such as doctors, lawyers and engineers and want to be compensated accordingly. There is one big difference between those professions and that of teacher.
The vast majority in those other professions work in the private sector. In fact, professionals who work for the government generally make less than their colleagues in the private sector.
In general, the government pays less to highly-skilled workers than does the private sector, but it pays much more to workers in lower-skilled positions. This fact is used constantly by those wishing to protect the pay and benefits of government workers as they claim that compensation is justified by higher levels of skill and education. But the problem is not the doctor making $90,000 per year, it’s the janitor making $90k per year who can retire at 75%+ of that as a relatively young man.
Rather than helping good teachers, the unions and the government monopoly of education restrain them and prevent them from earning to their potential.
Paying good teachers more is not going to accomplish anything if we are not allowed to rid the system of bad teachers. Under the current system, not only is it difficult to get rid of bad teachers we also have to pay them more in order to pay good teachers more.
It is also not going to be as effective if we continue to preserve the status quo of the government monopoly, especially when the number of alternative outlets is severely restricted. All monopolies are inefficient and wasteful because they have no incentive to be efficient. In many cases the incentives work in the other direction – the worse they perform the more money they receive, or the greater the costs and expenses the higher the fees they are allowed to charge.
Lots of people talk about the need to pay good teachers more money and get bad teachers out of the classroom. But those are not possible under our current conditions. The power of the teachers unions and the government monopoly of education are the elephants in the room that many don’t want to talk about. But until they are addressed, properly rewarding or punishing teachers will be neither possible nor effective.