Wednesday, February 18, 2009

EdWeek: Layoff Policies Said to Hurt Teacher Effectiveness

I came across this article by Education Week writer Stephen Sawchuk, and thought it merited dissemination. I have written frequently about the absurdity of adjusting the labor costs of a school district by laying off new teachers instead of ineffective teachers. I think it's healthy to see this discussion take place in what is arguably the most widely read publication among professional


Donald Nicolas' former principal was contrite when she came to his classroom last year to tell him that he was being let go. Despite his students’ high test scores, the Leon County, Fla., district’s staffing plan demanded staff reductions—and the local contract required the principal to pare nontenured teachers from the rolls first.

With the growing financial strain on districts putting more novices in Mr. Nicolas' unenviable position, researchers and policymakers have begun to question the human-capital costs of "last hired, first fired" layoff policies.

Such layoffs, those experts argue, do not consider teacher effectiveness, meaning that teachers who make vital contributions to school success can nevertheless be among those to receive pink slips.

"There could have been better decisions," contends Mr. Nicolas, who now teaches at the Imagine School at Evening Rose, a charter school in Tallahassee, Fla. "New teachers feel like they’re not protected."

Seniority-based layoffs are the norm for the profession. According to a database maintained by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based group that advocates stronger state teacher-quality policies, all but five of the nation’s 25 largest school districts follow seniority-based layoff policies set by contracts or state law. And all but one of those five is located in a right-to-work state without mandatory collective bargaining for teachers.

Typically, layoffs—frequently referred to in contracts as reductions in force, or RIFs—are enforced within teachers’ certification areas. If a district needs to cut high school social studies teachers, for instance, it cuts from the bottom of the high school social studies seniority list until the budget has been balanced. Then, it will redeploy the remaining teachers as necessary the following school year.

Teacher-quality experts have questioned the place of seniority in other personnel decisions, such as the pay and transfer of teachers, but layoff policies have attracted a lesser degree of scrutiny. In fact, some districts that now disallow seniority-based transfers, such as Rochester, N.Y., do not have a similar policy in place for layoffs.

"I think people assumed that revenue for schools could only go up, that the economy would never get so bad again that we’d have to have layoffs," said Timothy Daly, the president of the New Teacher Project, a Washington-based nonprofit that trains new teachers and supports changes to districts' personnel practices. "Nobody changed the rules or even talked about them since the 1980s. I honestly think the [poor economic] situation has caught people by surprise."

A Costly Practice?

Since then, however, firm evidence has emerged to identify high-quality teaching as the single most important school-level factor for improving student achievement. Now, critics argue that seniority-based RIF policies not only fail to take teachers’ effectiveness into account, but they also necessitate the cutting of more teachers than seniority-neutral layoff policies, hurting both teachers and students in the process.

Using data from an urban district with a seniority-based layoff policy, Marguerite Roza, a research associate professor at the college of education at the University of Washington in Seattle, calculated that an overall cut of 9 percent to salary expenditures would force a cut of 13 percent of the workforce in that unnamed district, because of newer teachers’ lower salaries.

Layoffs that cut deep into the ranks of novices, Ms. Roza said in an interview, also negatively affect those teachers who remained in schools by sticking them with larger class sizes and potentially forcing them to work in grades in which they may be certified, but have little actual experience.

"We're moving teachers around and fragmenting the experience for the kids, and class sizes go up even more because we’re protecting seniority,” she said. "We’re not making a decision that’s in the best interest of kids."

But alternatives to seniority-based layoffs have been tied up in the knotty question about how to evaluate teachers’ performance in a fair, uniform way, researchers and union officials say.

Many teachers and their unions, for instance, oppose using "value added" models that purport to estimate a teacher’s effect on student learning for high-stakes purposes. Alternative methods of evaluating teacher performance—including the peer-assistance and -review model used in Toledo, Ohio, and several other districts—aren’t yet widespread.

"We're mindful of the fact that there are old issues that we have to address sooner rather than later, but at this point, seniority is the only fair way [of determining layoffs] because without an effective way of monitoring principals, we don’t know whether their selection process would be accurate," said A.J. Duffy, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, a merged affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers that is bracing for layoffs this school year. "We are willing to discuss revamping the evaluation of teachers, if that is accompanied with a discussion on the evaluation process of administrators."

Principals frequently lack the tools to make appropriate personnel decisions, added Robin Chait, a senior policy analyst at the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank, who co-wrote a recent article on seniority-based layoffs.

"In some ways, [seniority] might be easier for them,” she said. "Their hands are tied."

Handful of Exceptions

A handful of district contracts with seniority-based RIF policies do grant exceptions to those rules under certain circumstances. In Philadelphia, layoffs must proceed by seniority unless doing so would throw off the racial balance of staff members in a school, for instance.

In Los Angeles, district officials can exempt teachers who fall into high-shortage subjects from layoffs. For instance, most new teachers hold certifications for teaching English-language learners within their credentials.

"We are looking into the matter to determine what if any effect certification will have on the seniority issue in laying people off," said Mr. Duffy, who noted that about 1,000 veteran teachers lack the ELL endorsement.

Other districts and teachers’ unions have struck agreements to forgo contracted raises to keep all teachers on the payroll. Teachers in Montgomery County, Md., will not receive the 5.3 percent cost-of-living increase promised them under the current contract, but are now guaranteed to keep their current health benefits for several years, said Bonnie Cullison, the president of the Montgomery County Education Association, an NEA affiliate.

Ms. Cullison linked the decision to relinquish raises to the district’s peer-assistance and -review program that helps novices find their footing.

"The support we provide for our new educators is intensive," she said. "We put a lot of investment in them, so if we’re losing them, the county is losing that investment."

Fights Ahead

Although the recently completed federal economic-stimulus package could cushion the blow somewhat, its state-stabilization fund authorizes a number of activities, such as school modernization, that could compete with keeping teachers on board. As a result, the the extent to which the current fiscal crisis could force districts to consider revisiting layoff policies remains unknown.

Hard-hit districts could take advantage of contract clauses allowing them to reopen bargaining in times of hardship, much as Montgomery County officials did last year. But that is an unnerving prospect for some teachers.

"I'm strongly in favor [of renegotiating contracts] so when the next recession comes, we don’t have this same mess," said John E. Thompson, a 10th grade history teacher at Centennial High School in Oklahoma City and a frequent commentator on education policy blogs, in an interview. "But I have a feeling that renegotiating seniority for this recession would not be a smart move. ... [Teachers] would have a very fair complaint: 'They changed the rules on me.' "

Such conflicts will likely be inescapable in other venues, such as in New York City, where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced plans to cut 15,000 teachers.

Joel I. Klein, the district’s superintendent, said in a recent television interview with ABC News in New York City that cuts should first be made to the pool of teachers who have been "excessed," or removed from their schools but kept on the city payroll, rather than from among the ranks of new teachers the city has aggressively recruited through Teach For America and other alternative-route programs. ("Teacher Gap’ Shrinking in N.Y.C.," June 16, 2008.)

In contrast, Randi Weingarten, the head of the United Federation of Teachers, advocates voluntary buyouts and a hiring freeze to minimize layoffs. That plan would likely require the city to use excessed teachers for any open positions.

In Tallahassee, Mr. Nicolas is free of immediate fears for his job. His charter school is actually hiring for next year, and its personnel decisions in any case are based on performance rather than seniority. But he worries about his former colleagues who still teach in nonchartered district schools, where officials have warned about additional cuts.

"I don’t know if it’s the union’s responsibility or the district’s to look at [layoff policies]," he said, "but I just think there has to be a better way.


PL: Our school district has this "last in, first out" layoff policy as well. But please understand that it is dictated by the teachers' union itself, not the School Board or the Administration. Just as it is said that winners get to write history, in unions, it is the senior members who negotiate contracts, and their primary motivation in these negotiations is not necessarily what's good for young teachers, and certainly not what's best for the kids or the people of the community.

The Governor's new plan won't change this - each School Board will continue to negotiate with the district's unions on matters of compensation, benefits and personnel policies. I hope the young teachers in the district band together and make sure their voices are heard as well.


  1. much of what happens in schools is completely beyond the control of the "layman". The school board isn't even in control (i.e. the unions are). That feeling of impotence could be why the public is mostly uninvolved with the schools.

  2. Just another reason why teacher's unions are ruining the future of our children.

    Despite the glossy brochures they mail out with catchy little phrases like "Kids First", the reality is that the union is there solely to benefit itself and it's members. If they can manage to "harmonize" those two goals, they will, but when push comes to shove make no mistake about it, the HEA cares more about benefits and it's own agenda then what's good for the kids.

    It would be refreshing if the HEA stood up to look out for students first and foremost, instead of protecting the worthless deadwood in our classrooms, but I'm not holding my breath.

  3. No great surprises in that article Paul - it shows that we share the same problem with the rest of the country. However, in your notes at the end, where you say the teachers union is responsible and not the Board or Admins, shouldn't we keep in mind that contracts are negotiated between the union and the Board? I am not naive enough to expect that WE would be the ones on the cutting edge to change current practices, but I don't think it can all be laid at the feet of the union unless our Board at least broaches the issue in the next contract negotiation. Just like everything in the current environment, everyone needs to start thinking outside the box. WE all know business as usual cannot work, WE need to get others thinking along those lines.

  4. sigh

    I just cannot see our public education system ever maximizing it's effectiveness by perpetuating a system that is not all-around performance based. While it is not an easy problem to solve, it certainly is not as impossible as the resistance indicates. The problem is that what it will require is MASSIVE CHANGE, and that is too scary for those involved.

    One thing I have not heard is how that change would hurt the kids. I would like that viewpoint from musicman or someone closer to the parties involved. We are supposed to be in this for the kids, and I don't see anything but benefit to the kids (and America) that involves the clearly best teachers being retained and rewarded.

    Natural law indicates that it will have to change inevitably (just look at what the auto industry is going through). Unfortunately, I fear it will be an equally impacting event instead of a collaborative, proactive approach that is best for everyone in the end.

  5. "The unions are in control" THAT is the basic problem - the Board must take control away from them. Easy? No, but as I said earlier, the old way is broken and must be fixed. Seems that at least one or two districts are getting that, why can't ours? Short answer is that they are afraid of a strike. My response - I don't see that happening. And if our group is successful in educating the taxpayers, I think there is an even less likely chance of a strike.

  6. Hillirdite: Thanks for your note. I didn't clearly say what I was thinking: that this LIFO layoff policy exists because the union wanted it, not because the Board initiated the concept.

    But you are absolutely correct that the Board had the opportunity to offer another solution, but didn't. I imagine the Board just said, if that's what they want, we're not going to fight about it. Besides any performance-based RIF system would mean a lot of work for the Administration.

    The LIFO RIF system makes it easy on the adults in this drama -- and ignores the impact on the kids. This is Mark's point exactly.

    And to the first Anonymous - it's the other way around. The public is impotent because it's not involved. If we want a Board that will negotiate tough with the union, then we have to elect those kinds of folks to the Board.

    That opportunity will come in Nov this year. You can help by telling all your friends and neighbors about this blog/website and getting them engaged in the dialog.


  7. And there you have the FUNDAMENTAL problem with unions. Wages are one thing, but the practice of protecting the weakest employee based on seniority is what really hurt American business.

  8. Okay, this topic right here is probably the single biggest issue I have with unions (Keeping in mind the list is a mile long). Here is my viewpoint.

    The board (or ANY board) would LOVE the opportunity to move to performance based contracts. I don't think work on the district end has anything to do with it. However, they are also realists, so they understand that:

    -ONE district making this change would not work. If Hilliard is the only district in the area that goes to performance based pay, many good teachers would not willingly go to the ONLY place where they could possibly lose their job. Even the good ones would question taking that leap, when there are safer options available. Would the increase in pay be worth giving up your right to (basically) never be fired?

    -You would need, in my opinion, many quality districts deciding this is the route to go. If that happened, I think teachers would feel better about their options, and the HCSD could rest easy knowing that others were in the same boat as they were.

    The change would benefit kids greatly, and make all our schools better, which, coincidentally, is nowhere in the charter of teachers unions. I believe all the folks who say that the union looks out for its' own first and second, and kids third are correct. It is unfortunate, but true.

    But would HCSD benefit by "breaking" the union? I don't think so. Being the ONLY district without a union, or with a union that has negotiated rare practices, would not get them the better teachers they want. Perhaps getting Hilliard, Dublin, Worthington, etc... to all break their unions at the same time would help?

    However, I would like to point out that I am IN a union but I don't agree with them. The questionable selfish tactics of these organizations should not be completely reflected on its' membership. Those making decisions are those who, as Paul pointed out, have very high levels of seniority, and thus little to no risk of losing their jobs.

    I'm not sure I see a solution on the horizon, other than a complete elimination of the union model.

  9. Musicman:

    I have had two occasions, one in the military and one in the private sector, when the leadership of each unit was expected to simply rank, from #1 to #n, the people in the organization. In both cases the purpose for the ranking was well-known by both the leaders and the team: the highest ranked individuals would get promotions, raises, and other preferential treatment, while the folks at the bottom of the list were the first to go in any RIF.

    In neither case was the leader free to use whatever arbitrary ranking system he/she might come up with - the system was well-understood and designed with the input of the people who would be evaluated by it.

    It could be done in the teaching community as well. Heck I'm open to having the union design the ranking system, as long as seniority has no weight (because experience, if it's worth anything, would be manifested in results).

    Teachers are evaluated now, are they not? Doesn't each teacher have to be evaluated on a regular basis by the administration of his/her school? Why can't THAT evaluation be used as a significant input to the ranking process?

    Of course, I would solve this problem by taking the Governor's proposal one step further - declaring that any kid in Ohio can attend any Ohio public school they want, and the funding follows.

    Let the customer vote - good teachers will attract kids and consequently the funding, and ineffective teachers will lose kids and, without funding, their jobs. It's exactly the decision we make as consumers of college level educational services.

    Do the parents suddenly get smarter when their kids graduate from high school?

  10. Paul,

    I think you are missing one of the biggest factors though: the confidence/psyche of the teacher.

    MANY teachers are very good, but would fear the "unknown" factor present in your proposed system. Not all teachers are (like me) supremely confident in their abilities as a teacher, and would have no qualms about working in such situations. Those shy/humble teachers may not feel comfortable working for the ONE school district that isn't based on seniority.

    And as for current evaluations, lets be honest. I teach music, surprise, and I haven't had ONE administrator evaluate me who knew a lick about music. Now, could they see if I was engaging students, pacing well, etc...? Yes, of course. However, did they have ANY idea if I was teaching appropriate content? Nope. It would take a LOT of work to get an honest and accurate assessment. Just like in the real world, what if your boss doesn't like you? Doesn't that increase the chances you'll get a bad review?

    I am not disagreeing with you at all, but I find it unlikely that a lot of highly qualified teachers would want to work in the ONE place where their seniority didn't matter. If everyone changes, fine, but I don't see a line around the block for the district that breaks the trend.

  11. Musicman - your reasoning is another example of how teachers have been insulated from the real business world, and why a lot of us are so frustrated with the way things are run in our schools. I do appreciate having your insight though, as I think you are (one of) the only teacher(s) who post here. And I tend to think that MOST teachers in the HCSD are good - I have put 1 kid through k-12 and another who is close to that, and I have not had issues with but one or two of their teachers in all that time. But it seems to me that holding them more accountable to performance would only make my kid's educational experience better, and that is mostly what I am looking for.

  12. I probably had about 30 different teachers over my 12 years of primary/secondary schools, and I consider maybe 2-3 of them to be duds. In fact, the dud/star ratio was much worse at the college level, where I think I had maybe 4-5 stars and the rest duds. So I accept your statement that most teachers are good at what they do.

    You point out that the principal is unlikely to be able to evaluate content in a music room. That's true. It's probably also true that the principal can't evaluate content in any field outside their own. My HS principal was a social studies teacher by training. I'm sure he would have been as lost in the calculus classroom as the band room. Doesn't mean he couldn't figure out if you were a good teacher.

    The arguments I hear about my ideas always have to do with the transition, not the end result. The norm is for the incumbants to fight for the status quo until the system collapses and the change is forced on them anyway.

    Public employees, including teachers, need to accept that our economy has flipped on its head. For a good number of years, maybe since WWII, there has generally been a gap between public sector and private sector jobs in terms of compensation potential, with the gap favoring the private sector workers. This was especially true during the recent times when private sector 401(k) plans were exploding in value.

    Now the situation is that public sector jobs are the better ones to have. More security (although not absolute), good benefits, and generally very good retirement. So there is going to be a natural backlash from people worried about losing their jobs, fearful of losing their houses and draining their retirement saving in hope that this is a short-term situation.

    I don't think it is. And private sector folks won't be too eager to pay more of their increasingly scarce resources to unionized public sector workers who don't seem to appreciate how good they've got it in this economy.

    I hope the Hilliard teachers - more specifically their union leaders - come to the bargaining table in 2010 fully understanding this dynamic. They might want to consider leading with an offer to work with no compensation increases for one three year cycle, to show the public that they 'get it.'

    After all, the private sector public that pays their salaries will likely have been working for little if any pay increases for a while, and have seen their retirement savings shrink by half.

    Yes, STRS has taken a big hit as well. But does that mean STRS members are going to take a benefits hit? My bet is that there are folks figuring out how to pass legislation that will require school districts - meaning the same old taxpayers - to cover enough of the shortfall to preserve benefits.

    Anyway, the point is that the game has changed, and the teachers' unions, administrators and school board all need to figure out how to make things work - and hopefully do so without destructive conflict.


  13. Hillirdite/Paul,

    I think we are all on the same page, with the possible exception of you thinking teachers should embrace this, and me thinking they somehow would not.

    Hillirdite, I think teachers recognize the unique bargaining power they have, and most aren't willing to give that up for even a few thousand dollars per year. I've said this before, most private sector workers wouldn't willingly give up a powerful position if they had one. I think that is natural of any person, not just teachers.

    Paul, your comment on private vs. public job "safety" is a great point. However, nobody seemed to care about teachers until the economy changed. Now they are the whipping boys for all that is wrong with the world?

    You let your kid take $20 out of your pocket every Friday to go out on a date. This happens for years and years. Finally you decide you've given away too much money, and stop allowing it to happen. You tell the kid they've been selfish, and that they aren't getting any more money. Maybe you even ask for some of it back. The kid will continue to ask, as that is what they are accustomed to.

    I think things need to change, and I think change would be good. Still not sure how to make it work...

  14. Actually, if you go back to the early days of this blog, you'll find that I wrote very little about teacher compensation. The problem that originally attracted my attention was the impact of our municipal leaders (e.g. Don Schonhardt) facilitating heavy residential development without commensurate commercial development, which has screwed up the funding balance in our district.

    Teacher compensation became an issue for me only after I decided to run for school board in order to be a voice in the development issue, and in the process got to observe how some of the union members (mis)behaved during the negotiations.

    As I've said many times before, many members of my family are teachers, including one of my daughters. Even my greatgrandmother was a teacher (1895 graduate of Rio Grande College). I don't have it in for the teachers, but they've got to get real this time around or this thing could blow up on them, and they might not recognize what's left.

  15. Paul,

    I hope you didn't think I was accusing YOU of having it in for teachers. You are facilitating a discussion that needs to be had. Perhaps I should've been clearer.

    I think the majority of folks don't really care about how much teachers get paid/work/etc..., when things in their own life are going well. However, when things start to hit the fan, they start to pay attention a lot more. That seems a little disingenuous to me.

    I certainly don't agree with all of your ideas (Complete School Choice being the big one), but I think this is good dialogue.

    Times are tough, and changes need to be made. How do you convince an entire sector of the work force to give up their negotiating high ground? It can't just be one district, or even two. It would have to be the majority for it to work. How do we do that? I just don't know...

  16. Musicman:

    You are correct in the statement that the teachers have had the negotiating advantage. That's because they have "The Bomb" - the threat of a strike, and they've used it to push around the largely sympathetic school board for many contract cycles.

    So while the HEA might have had the tactical high ground for years, I'm suggesting that they now lead our community by taking the moral high ground as well.

    By that I mean that they initiate the dialog of how they could give the taxpayers of our district a break during this difficult time. Redesign the pay grid, find different ways to apportion health care costs, change the work rules. Encourage ineffective teachers who are staying on the job simply to inflate their retirement to go ahead and retire and make room for promising young teachers (who will also cost us less).

    But if they go into the negotiations with a bully attitude, daring the community to knock them off their perch - they may be surprised at the outcome.

    I for one, would let them go on strike -- after making provisions for our kids to keep up with their curriculum requirements via online classes. Kids could take classes in their homes, or we would set up online access centers in the city (e.g. the abandoned K-Mart and Big Bear stores in Mill Run).

    Then I would start replacing them with new teachers, using a new contract.

    One thing I would eliminate is the provision that only 10 years of seniority can transfer. I bet there are plenty of teachers who would come to Hilliard to work at our current pay scale. In fact, we might have to figure out ways to be good community players, and not take too many teachers from any one district (e.g. Columbus).

    It can be done.

  17. Interesting article in the Dispatch about new contract in New Albany. Regular increase plus step raise. Interesting comment in the article from the levy chairperson who led the way to get their Nov. levy passed about the new increases.

    I wonder if our district and its entities will point to the continued increases in New Albany
    as a reason to continue our same
    compensation module.

  18. Thanks Rick.

    Here's the story Rick was referring to.

    I was at the school board meeting last night, and heard a presentation about the busing reductions that are going to be implemented next year as part of the effort to cover the $3 million shortfall we're going to have even with the passage of the 6.9 mill levy last fall.

    For the sake of saving $150,000/yr, we are apparently going to decrease the number of bus stops and spread them out more. For example, in Golfview Woods (my old neighborhood), they're going to cut the number of stops from 12 to 2. Some kids will have to walk a 1/2 mile to catch the bus.

    Of course, we have to remember that busing is one of the services that the Board cuts time and time again when money has to taken out of the budget. We already have elementary walk zones of up to two miles. Can you imagine - two miles for an elementary kid??.

    All because the teachers wouldn't skip one year of their 3% base pay raise. I hope those who say "it's for the kids" take one of these long walks in the morning with the kids sometime.

    Maybe we should prohibit teachers from parking within a mile of their school.

    More on this soon...

  19. Not to beat a dead horse, but perhaps a question to the board
    directly on compensation increases for next contract. Will they follow the New Albany plan
    3 + 4 as a guide. Would think that someone will come up with this comparison.

    If we know up front what the cost is going to be on increasing the compensation module, then at least we can do some calculations on what type of increase in our property taxes we can expect.
    The adjustments suggested so far have been rejected by the district and its entities. So we need to plan for our own financial security and future.

    Hopefully the district will not allow the same job actions to occur as last time. At this point as they have been totally silent on the issue, one can expect more of the same that we got last time.

    Having lived in Golfview myself the busing change will be interesting but the kids are capable.

    The levy next Feb or May will contain the same cuts as last time
    No middle school and freshman sports, music, languages, etc.
    Perhaps busing eliminated for
    HS. Summer school elimination,
    fee increases. We will be told we dont care and we dont get it just like the last time.

  20. You know Paul, that is an example of short-sightedness and frankly, lack of coordination between the administration and the actual school buildings. For example, the elementary school our child attends has previously expressed a desire to reduce the number of "drop offs" as it causes a great deal of congestion. Expanding the walk distance will only increase the "drop offs" and therefore increase the congestion.

    Ah, the bussing "threat" again.

    How does it save $150,000? I am all for saving money but it seems it should be thought out. I remember the discussions of saving a few pennies in transportation when we were bleeding out in payroll. What is that called? Penny wise, pound foolish?

    I did not attend the Board Meeting as, frankly, I have found them extremely painful to sit through especially given the lack of actual business discussion. Maybe I will try again. How long does the business portion of the meeting last now?

  21. While I agree that 2 miles is way too far for an elementary child to walk, I can't say I disagree with cutting the number of stops in a neighborhood. Seems like in my neighborhood they used to stop every 3 or 5 houses, which is a bit excessive. And while I think everyone around here knows my stance on teacher/admin compensation, I don't think we should sneeze at $150,000 savings either. Granted, it is only 5% of the $3 mil but since we are stuck with the current contract, we have to cut where we can. Busing costs are directly affected by the market - we have no control over, or for that matter, any idea of where diesel prices will be in the future. Maybe as a small businessman I pay too much attention to the small expenses but to me a nickel saved is still a nickel saved.
    And I would still be much happier if we saved the entire $3 million by freezing salaries for a year, but since there has been zero response it seems time to move on.

  22. Paul,

    To be clear, you were asking for for a ONE year skip in base raise, but that would effect EVERY year after, as the base rate would be one year behind every year. Just wanted to clarify that this wouldn't just be a one year thing; Teachers would give back salary they COULD have earned every year after.

  23. Musicman: That's a fair elaboration, although another way to look at it is that the teachers would get paid exactly as the contract specifies, just one year later.

    Rick: Yeah, I fear the New Albany negotiations will embolden the unions of all the districts to act like it's business as usual on raises and steps. Someone has to break this pattern bargaining approach!

    Hillirdite: Saving $150K is of course a good thing, but we could get the same thing by asking the employees to take a tenth of a percent pay cut. Again, they're showing that they would rather put a few school bus drivers out of work and inconvenience thousands of kids and their parents (who are probably going to end up driving more kids to school) rather than make a small sacrifice. When will the community say "Enough!"

    MOM: The business part of the school board meetings usually last no longer than 10-15 minutes. It was a little longer last night because of the busing presentation. But you also missed seeing the Brown Elementary kids showing off their juggling skills (my youngest, who is now 23, learned to juggle there as well).


  24. Musicman, I think Paul proposed a pretty tough measure by asking for simply a 1 year moratorium. After all the STEP RAISE,was not included in his proposal. About 70% would still get an increase

    But doing the math with just the following as a scenario.

    50,000 base, this year zero
    50,000 base, 3% only $1500 year 2
    51500 7% $3605
    Total $5105.00
    Average per year $1700 per year
    Average salary in the district is higher than this example.

    So 1700 a year minimum compared to
    zero increase plus double digit
    increase in medical cost.

    Significant increase still occurs
    Again, no one wants to answer the question. How do you pay for this without any increases plus large
    medical contribution ?

    We asked to limit to even 3% as
    a starting point, not a cut but a slower rate of growth. What we
    got was no answer and no college
    assistance !

  25. Fran: Of course I have, and I take it seriously. I'm also a lifelong participant in the development of electronic media, and can tell you that the law is still trying to catch up with technology. In this case, the source material was an electronic document that I was alerted to by the publisher via email. The content is available for free to anyone who subscribes to the website, and I provided both attribution to the publisher and author, as well as links to the original article. That seems to me to be a more than adequate honoring of the fair use principles of intellectual property law.

    The problem I've found is that the original article often disappears, rendering my link to it useless and my reader wondering what I was talking about. So I frequently dump the original article to a file I post on my web site, again maintaining the bibliographic information.

    I hope this satisfies your concern.


  26. Rick,

    I get how teacher compensation works, I AM one!

    My point was that, although increases will occur, teachers will realize that, as Paul said, the base increase they agreed to would be deferred by a year, for EACH ADDITIONAL YEAR!

    I am not agreeing or disagreeing, just clarifying.

    For the record, I am for this, and I think many teachers would be for this. But I also understand that the likelihood of the HEA bringing this to its' members is about .0001%, and that saying that will enrage many who read this.

    Also, I am speaking for myself when I say that I am very sorry your son/daughter/others did not get "college assistance", as it were. I also know that the individuals you speak so lowly of were still doing their jobs as they get paid to. I am not at ALL saying I don't believe you, but I question whether the situation is as cut and dried as you make it out to be. Are you saying:

    Students turned in all applicable "college help" materials WELL in advance, giving these terrible teachers/counselors ADEQUATE time to complete the task, and the task was STILL not completed in a timely fashion that met appropriate deadlines?


    A form was turned in, needing quicker than normal turnaround, and didn't get finished because of "work to the rule" policy instituted by HEA?

    I just can't wrap my mind around ANYONE I know denying students "college help."

    Call me crazy I guess...

  27. Musicman - I think it bears mentioning that none of the private sector employees who are forgoing raises, and who are covering more and more of their health benefits, have any realistic expectation of somehow recouping those lost monies at any point down the road. It will affect them for the rest of their careers at their present company. Now if you are referring to the fact that it will affect their eventual pension, it is pretty much understood by most of us here that they already have a very generous pension plan, far exceeding what most of us will have. I don't begrudge them for that as much as I do for their seeming ignorance of what the private sector is going through, and how it makes us look at their compensation package. I know you are not among those - your posts have been dead-on in that regard, pointing out that many of our teachers have spouses in the private sector and are well aware of what is going on there. But those teachers have to convince the union, and their fellow teachers, that our (the taxpayers)perception is that they just don't get it. And refusing to even acknowledge a proposal such as Paul's reinforces our perception.

  28. Musicman, I guess instead of telling the truth to my daughter, I should have said, the paper you are signing and I am cosigning is something you should be grateful for. Who needs a grant, et all, when you can just borrow the money. Perhaps she will be indigent coming out of school and she can wait for a new stimulus to pay that extra $8,000 plus interest.
    After all, education will pay off wont it. Oh forgot, the bill is still due though !

  29. Hillirdite,
    I see where you are coming from, and again I agree. I just wanted to point out that it wasn't JUST a one year give back as Paul stated, it would affect EVERY year after. I think that is an important distinction to be made, as it gives realistic perspective.

    I don't know your situation, I was just seeking clarification. You bring that up a lot, and I just wanted to know. I know all about student loans, I currently have over $20,000 (and I've been teaching 7 years), and my wife $10,000, 7 years out as well. I get it; I just wonder if it was people purposely trying to "get you/your daughter", or some other factor.

  30. Musicman, It is called working to the contract

  31. Rick,

    I know what it is called. You either don't understand what I am asking you, or refuse to acknowledge the validity of the question.

    Either way, I will leave it alone.

  32. Musicman, sorry there is nothing to miss. You basically put it back on the back of the student assuming it was last minute. 3 weeks + =
    plenty of time. The chosen path was work to the contract. There is nothing in the contract that says
    paperwork for college awards, scholarships etc are required to be addressed. Simply you would think it would be viewed as somewhat important as it is about the students ? I have allready asked that this loophole be addressed, but the feedback received was that it probably would not be accepted without tieing in it to more payed planning time.

  33. Anonymous,

    I assumed nothing. I asked a question.

    My point was this: How does Rick KNOW that "work to the rule" was the ONLY reason his paperwork did not get processed in time? I asked questions, I assumed nothing. ALL I did was ask a question. I did not put it back on the student. Maybe the parent??

    Some people on hear are so angry, they refuse (unable?) to debate in a rational, calm, respectful manner to all parties involved.

    In my humble opinion, ones anger does not give them the right to ignore/misrepresent/invent facts. Rick is upset his student did not get paperwork in time. Rick is upset at this school system that he feels has grossly misused funds (teacher salaries), and I'm starting to wonder whether that anger is clouding the truth.

    And once again, for all who care to listen, I am:

    AGAINST Unions
    AGAINST Work to the Rule
    AGAINST Teachers who do not put students first

    FOR Respectful, Rational Debate
    FOR Opinions not poisoned by anger
    FOR Giving credit to the hundreds of great teachers in HCSD.

  34. Thanks Rick/Musicman. Let's end it at that.


  35. Paul,

    Have you done any research on areas/states where unions are NOT in place?

    It would be interesting to juxtapose the situations. The only states I can think of that don't have unions are S.C. and TX (I'm pretty sure). Probably more, but I've only heard/read of those two.

    Any thoughts?

  36. Musicman:

    No I haven't looked for an information about non-unionized public school teachers. I didn't even know there was such a thing, and am pretty sure Texas has teacher unions, although it may go by a different moniker.

    I think the credential/service grid is a pretty common structure for teacher pay around the country, which is the reason experiments like those proposed by Michelle Rhee in Washington DC interest me.

    It seems to me like teacher unions come from the same valid roots as other labor unions - when the workers were an underclass without the power to stand up to the management. I grew up in the birthplace of labor unions - the coal fields of West Virginia - and know without a doubt that without the UMW, we'd have miners dying by thousands as is the case in China.

    And it may have been true a generation or so ago when teachers were overwhelmingly women, teaching was seen as a job by the second wage-earner (and so could be low-paying), and the male-only school boards and administrations would oppress the powerless women taking teaching jobs.

    That just can't be true any more. I live in a house full of women, and there's none of them powerless!

    Why does any college educated professional teacher need, in the 21st century, a union to negotiate his/her individual employment deal? Why is a lifetime/continuing contract needed? Very very few of my professional friends have employment agreements. The notions of "unionized" and "professional" just don't seem to go together.

    Teachers seem to have this fear of being canned at the whim of some administrator "who doesn't like me." I worked for 30 years at one corporation, and knew that while any day could be my last, I also had confidence that as long as I performed professionally in the job I was hired to do, I could be pretty confident in my continued employment. And if I thought I was getting the shaft, I had a path of appeal through the HR department, which reported directly to the CEO. Ohio may be an 'at-will' employment state, but I can tell you that the private employers I've had experience with don't just fire folks whilly-nilly and get away with it.

    Seems to me that days when a teachers' union is needed are over. They protect the ineffective at the expense of young. Sounds like "eat your babies" stuff to me.


  37. Check out the latest Columbus Monthly issue - the cover story is about schools, and more specifically the "best schools" in central Ohio. It is way too in depth to cover here but one thing really struck me. Canaan Middle School, in the Jonathon Alder District is re-vamping how they educate the 5th/6th graders and what struck me is this: "Canaan teachers voted to override their contract to put achievers in larger classes and struggling students in smaller ones". They overrode their contract for the benefit of the students! OMG, what a concept. And the following paragraphs talk about how hard it is to get hired at this school, even though the workload is heavy compared to other schools. Yes, they are still unionized, which I have always agreed with Paul that "professional" and "union" just don't go together, but they are doing the exact opposite of working to the contract, and making it work! I don't agree with everything I read regarding what they are doing, but I do admire their innovation. Very interesting article which I highly recommend.

    (Disclaimer: the parent company of Columbus Monthly is a client of my business)

  38. Some basic "googling" led to information that there are indeed no teachers unions in South Carolina.