Friday, February 11, 2011

The Pendulum Swings: Proposed New Labor Laws

This is the first of a series of articles about the changes to collective bargaining being debated in the General Assembly.  The next article can be found here.

In its Friday February 11, 2011 issue, The Columbus Dispatch published a story about a bill introduced to the Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee of the Ohio Senate by Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) which would radically alter the rules governing unionized public sector workers. As you may know, the online version of the Dispatch allows readers to post comments. As I write this article, over 300 comments have been posted, and the number is going up quickly as I type.

Because these comments are not moderated and can be posted anonymously, it is common for the threads to devolve into idiotic and vile language, and it took only about dozen comments to get there with this one. While I often make comments on Dispatch stories dealing with public school economics - using my own name - I have no intention to do so on this one. There is simply no chance for reasoned discourse on the Dispatch forum at this point, and any attempt will be quickly buried in more lunacy.

That's the problem. We seem utterly incapable as a society of having a respectful and well-informed debate about such important things. We quickly go to our corners, get jazzed up by some partial truths and outright lies, and come out fighting.

The consequence is that our political landscape has become increasingly polarized, resulting in legislative agendas which seem to be intent as much on revenge as resolution. When we say that we want to "get even," that doesn't mean that we want an equitable outcome, but rather than we want to inflict as much harm on "the other side" as we perceive they inflicted on us when they had the power.

I fear that's the road we're going down on this discussion about unions in the public sector.

The perception, deserved or not, is that the public sector unions have lorded it over their communities for too long, with the aid and tacit approval of the politicians the unions work so hard to get elected, and as a result have driven those communities perilously close to fiscal ruin because of their excessive compensation demands, coupled with employment rules that handcuff the management.

I think the truth is that we have a problem with inertia. Inertia, as you know, is described in Newton's First Law of Motion this way: "Every object in a state rest or uniform motion tends to remain in that state unless an external force is applied to it."

We all have a painful understanding that our economy cycles between boom and bust. My parents were born in the Roaring Twenties, and therefore also witnessed the devastation of the Great Depression. They paid the price necessary to win World War II, and went on to build the great industrial success of the last half of the 20th century. That's not to say there weren't good days and bad after WWII, but our country had been lifted to a new level of economic performance, and we were protected by the laws and regulation developed as a result of the hard-learned lessons of the Depression - laws such as the Glass-Steagall Act.

Unfortunately many of those protections were undone during the past couple of decades, by both Democrats and Republicans, leading - in my opinion - directly to the financial shenanigans that have us teetering on the edge of another depression. We're driving on the cliff side of a mountain road with no guardrails, and we've dropped one wheel off onto the berm. I've been on such roads in the Rockies many times, and believe me, there's a high pucker factor associated with driving on them. That's a bit how I feel about the state of our economy.

Wages and benefits in the private sector tend to react pretty quickly to the general state of the economy. Some sector of business leads us into a new growth spurt, and while the companies in that industry scramble to hire the workers they need, compensation is driven up by the competition for those workers. As those workers spend their new-found money, the communities they live in thrive. We can all conjure up examples: aerospace engineers as NASA scaled up for the mission to land a person on the Moon; computer scientists as the Internet took off; investment bankers and lawyers when greed took the place of substance at the end of the 20th century.

Public sector workers are often left behind at the beginning of these booms, especially the unionized workers. Because they work under collective bargaining agreements, compensation matters are usually negotiated once every few years. If the economy takes off, union workers often see their friends and neighbors enjoy raises and bonuses while the union workers are stuck with a deal they negotiated in tougher times. In other words, the property of inertia which says that an object at rest will stay at rest comes into play.

Gradually, the benefits of an improving economy are negotiated into the union agreements, sometimes even with some components to help the union workers "catch up" to the private sector.

It is also often the case that about the time the public sector union agreements catch up with the private sector, the private sector goes sour, and private sector compensation takes a hit. Meanwhile, the union agreements are still firing on all cylinders, and will likely zoom past the private sector. This is the other side of inertia - that once an object is put into motion, it will keep going in the same direction, at the same velocity, until some outside force is applied.

This is where we are right now, in my opinion.

When private sector and public sector compensation numbers are close to each other, we don't hear many complaints from either group (by the way, I include wages, salaries and all other benefits such as pensions in this notion of "compensation").  I think it's also true that when private sector compensation starts getting well ahead of the public sector, the process of bringing the public sector workers back into alignment happens without a lot of angst. It's easy to be generous when your wallet is full.

But when the folks in the private sector perceive that the folks in the public sector are getting the better deal, it's a different story.

Much of the public sector is funded by income taxes, sales taxes and other taxes which are extremely sensitive to the state of the economy. When the economy booms, tax revenues boom with it, and our government agencies find themselves flush with cash. Much of that growth in revenue is invested in hiring more people, and paying the people they already have better.

However, when the economy takes a hit, income-related tax revenues fall off quickly, while the expenses of government entities tend to chug along as though nothing had changed (inertia again). Any cash reserves which might have been built up are quickly depleted, and the entity is faced with asking the taxpayers for more money and/or cutting expenses, which usually means laying off employees.

We've already seen this in municipalities, which derive nearly all of their funding from income-sensitive taxes. Even though much of their income comes from property taxes, which are not so sensitive to income, Ohio's school districts will join the party this year because a good chunk of school funding also comes from the State of Ohio, which has an $8-10 billion budget shortfall to cover, again largely because the state tax revenue stream is income sensitive.

Frankly, the public sector unions haven't always been very sympathetic to this situation. Perhaps it comes from remembering what it was like being left behind at the beginning of an economic boom, and having to fight to catch up. Perhaps it's a lack of empathy for the pain being felt by private sector workers at times like these, when folks are not only losing their jobs, but also chewing through their retirement savings trying to make mortgage payments, pay property taxes bills, and keep food on the table.

Of all the kinds of government entities out there, one that plays a special role in our society is the public school system. Yes, we respect and honor the folks in uniform, from the troops in battle overseas, to the cops and firefighters in our community. We appreciate the services provided by the folks who plow the snow and pick up our garbage. But our relationship with all of them is still not like the one we have with the teachers, to whom we entrust our children for half the days of the year.

We pick a community to live in because that's where we want to raise our kids, and where we want them to go to school. We choose (by the slimmest of margins) to tax ourselves to the extent necessary to fund our schools, which is substantially the same as saying to pay our teachers and staff, as nearly 90% of our budget is spent on compensation and benefits. In other words, we have a built-in bias to support our schools and our teachers.

But that relationship sometimes gets strained when it comes time to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. Such was the case last time, in 2008. The previous contract with the teachers expired on December 31, 2007, but negotiations stretched into following year, primarily because agreement could not be reached on how to apportion the cost of health insurance premiums (the employees contributed nothing to health insurance costs beforehand). Agreement was reached in May, but a 9.5 mill operating levy on the March ballot was soundly trounced.

Part of that may have been due to the tactics employed by the teachers' union when they felt the negotiations weren't going their way.  One was a "work to the rule" action that left a bad taste for many parents. As I recall, the teachers also authorized their union leaders to call a strike, although it never got that far.

The notion that "we're all in it for the kids" breaks down pretty quickly when our kids are used as pawns in what should ethically be a conversation between the teachers and the taxpayers, and not impact the kids at all.

So I see this Senate Bill 5 as being the retribution for the failure of the public employee unions to figure out how to advance their agendas in a way that keeps them in economic sync with the private sector, and - in the particular case of the teachers' unions - for bringing our kids into the argument. They misused the power granted to them under the current law,  and this new law means to take most of that power away.

I fear that this Bill is so vindictive that it will bring the system to a stop and initiate a time of chaos in our schools.

For example, the entirely of Section 3317.13 of the Ohio Revised Code, which describes much of the way teachers are paid, including the minimum pay schedule (which some believe also defines "steps" as law), is reduced to a two sentences reading: "(A) As used in this section, 'teacher' means all teachers employed by the board of education of any school district, including any cooperative education or joint vocational school district and all teachers employed by any educational service center governing board; (B) Each teacher shall be paid a salary based upon merit." (see lines 7276-7378).

Even if you are supportive of the notion of merit pay - and I am - there are some substantial operational obstacles to implementing such a program. Perhaps the greatest of these is determining the criteria for defining "merit." This proposed Bill is silent on this, which I think means that we'll replace the arguments over base pay increases, step increase and contributions to insurance premiums with ones having to do with crafting a definition of "merit." It's not as easy as one might think.  Do you simply use the standardized test scores?  If you do, how can you apportion the responsibility for the ability of a student to a current teacher versus prior teachers?  If  you try to use some kind of value-added measure, how do you compare the performance of a teacher who has many struggling students versus one who has a room full of gifted kids?

Having been a manager in the private sector for thirty years, I'm deeply worried about whether our administrators are prepared for this. After all, each and every teacher will have to be individually evaluated every year, and that evaluation will have to be used as the sole basis for determining how much the teacher is paid the following year. And we're not just talking teachers, but also the secretaries, bus drivers, custodians, IT specialists, groundskeepers and everyone else who is an employee of the District.

This is a brand new burden on our administrators, and they aren't trained for it. They do indeed perform evaluations, but not every year for every employee, and frankly the stakes aren't that high. As long as an employee is rated high enough to not warrant termination, that employee will be granted a raise according to whatever employment contract he/she works under.

Under this new system, should it become law, an administrator will be required to look an employee in the eye and explain why a certain raise amount was chosen for that employee.  Weak leaders will be tempted to just give the same raise to every employee and avoid the controversy. But the whole idea of a merit system is to reward according to performance.

If you've made it this far ... thanks for hanging in there. There is much more than can and will be written about the effort of the current Governor and General Assembly to rewrite public labor law. Even if the law is enacted as written, you can be sure that it will be followed by months if not years of litigation and acrimony.

I ask only two things:

  1. Let's find a way to debate and compromise so that when it's all over, we don't have a 'scorched Earth' outcome, and;

  2. Let's leave the kids out of it this time.


  1. This bill is crazy. If passed, nobody with half a brain will enter the teaching profession. And those "hundreds of applicants" who are waiting to teach in Hilliard will dry up faster than a summer rain in Arizona.


    John Kasich and friends are out of touch with reality.

  2. MM:

    Good to see you back.

    If the unions don't want to see this Bill become law, then they need to quickly come up with some alternative solutions.

    As I said in a recent article, we're now on pace to have our property taxes double every 10 years in Hilliard. No one who has looked seriously at our numbers believes our current situation is sustainable.

    We can't just keep pointing the finger at someone else. Even if there is someone else to blame, it doesn't matter. It's up to all of us to figure out how to save our community from a meltdown.

  3. Dispatch comments up to 685 now...

  4. Paul, thanks again for taking a step back and giving everyone a lot to think about.

    Unfortunatly I dont think the new gov and the legislature are all that rational. This is payback time and it your paralel with the NJ Gov
    is an excellent example of what is on tap.

    The rhetoric will surely get ugly, and I see the needs for some adjustments but this one seems to be a blanket fix thatis frought with overreach by the Gov. My feelings personnally toward the Lehman brother are not positive ones. Many people were hurt by his and his cohorts reckless greed.

    Our district will benefit though from some of these changes. We need a return
    to community control over its district without being hamstrung by unsustainable wage increases.
    This is a chance for some moderation over unsustainable step raises especially during tight economic times that we are now experiencing. I am hopeful that specific penalties be inserted into the bill regarding
    prohibiting school personnel from deliberatly
    causing harm to students with their in building rhetoric and failing to provide needed documentation for college preperations. Our own board majority support the teachers over students and parents because of the extremely close ties via campaign support and hiring practices. Only the district employees have
    "free speech" as noted by one of our board members. Parents take risks by speaking up
    with detremental effects to their children being the result. As asked to the board, and the majority silence defaning, the district needs to give a clear signal that the past work to the contract crap is NEVER repeated. It should be illegal to adversly affect students in the classroom because someone does not want to pay any contribution to health insurance and want a significant pay raise each year.

    Perhaps some of the recent reportings from the statehouse will indeed become part of the upcoming levy discussion. The levy needs to fail until such time is that the district recognizes that they have embarked on a course of spending destruction that is not sustainable in the current economic environment. Its not about the kids when it comes to contract time.

  5. MM:

    I'm curious. What part of the bill do you find "Crazy". Paul is correct that you can't have a reasoned discussion on the Topix forums but we can certainly have one here.

    It is true that the bill does away with the minimum schedule and directs that teachers are paid based on merit. So what? Why would that necessarily lead to chaos, especially if it is phased in over time. As with the EBM, there would be rules written that define appropriate systems that can be used and most districts were committed to those evaluation mechanisms under "Race to the Top" anyway.

    To be sure, there are parts of the bill I don't like but for discussion purposes, what parts do you find "Crazy"?

  6. musicman said...

    This bill is crazy. If passed, nobody with half a brain will enter the teaching profession. And those "hundreds of applicants" who are waiting to teach in Hilliard will dry up faster than a summer rain in Arizona.

    I don't agree; I think most of them will be thankful to have a job...

  7. Paul,

    I have to disagree with quite a bit of what you wrote. I don't have the space to dissect the entire piece, but here's two things that stood out:


    "For example, the entirely of Section 3317.13 of the Ohio Revised Code, which describes much of the way teachers are paid, including the minimum pay schedule (which some believe also defines "steps" as law), is reduced to a two sentences reading: "(A) As used in this section, 'teacher' means all teachers employed by the board of education of any school district, including any cooperative education or joint vocational school district and all teachers employed by any educational service center governing board; (B) Each teacher shall be paid a salary based upon merit." (see lines 7276-7378).

    Even if you are supportive of the notion of merit pay - and I am - there are some substantial operational obstacles to implementing such a program. Perhaps the greatest of these is determining the criteria for defining "merit."


    Good. I want that left to the individual districts. I don't want the law legislating what "merit" means or else no doubt we'll soon see the same language applied to the private sector.


    Public sector workers are often left behind at the beginning of these booms, especially the unionized workers. Because they work under collective bargaining agreements, compensation matters are usually negotiated once every few years.

    No sympathy -- they chose to work in a career with collective bargaining. They chose "guarantees" over chasing the rabbit. Seems to me there's far too much complaining about the public sector not being equitable. Ya think!?!?

    However, I can tell you why the public has a disdain for the public sector workers -- it's because they never lose their jobs, and in 99% of cases, have absolutely no fear of ever losing their job.

    This one thing alone is why the public sector is always inefficient when compared to the private sector. People always work much harder when they have real skin in the game.

    And the one public sector career that excels? The military... with merit based promotions and no collective bargaining.

    This isn't hard folks...

    (And no, I don't think people shouldn't have a right to unionize; but if they do, they accept what they get, and don't you dare force everyone else to be just like you in the process...)

  8. Rick: Thanks for commenting. There is a lot to work out with this stuff.

  9. To universally, in one fell swoop, do the following:
    -Eliminate salary schedules and collective bargaining.
    -Institute Merit Pay
    -Eliminate pension contributions
    -Raise insurance contributions


    Districts don't have to deal with collective bargaining, so they set salaries where they wish. Will my salary stay the same, or will it go down. Probably DOWN.

    This is oft-discussed, but haven't heard a great way to do it yet. I teach music. How will I be graded? Will my boss, with NO music experience, be deciding my pay? Every time he comes to my room, he tells me what a great job I'm doing, but he doesn't know WHAT I'm doing. Happy kids do not equal great teaching. How will I be evaluated. This hasn't been thought through. I see myself not being payed fairly based on merit.

    I pay 1-2% now, district pays 10%. They eliminate the districts 10%, now I must make that up out of my now non-collectively-bargained salary where I am paid based on my merits when my principal doesn't know what I am doing? Doesn't look good...

    Now I'm to pay 20% of my healthcare, AFTER my pension contributions were slashed, AFTER my salary is determined by my principal who knows not what I do, AFTER the district has reduced my salary by whatever percentage they deem necessary?

    Here's what I see...
    I see myself losing $10,000-$15,000 in salary, right off the bat, losing 10% of my retirement contribution that I can't make up, and getting paid some bogus amount because I will not be fairly evaluated for 'merit.' That is CRAZY.

    Now, before I get raked over the coals, I think many of these are good ideas, but to happen all at once is lunacy.

  10. And now, one question for you all, which I've yet to see answered with any realistic thought:

    What should my salary be? Apparently I make too much, so what is the right amount?

    It seems many(not you Paul) want our teachers to be paid just above the poverty line, as they CERTAINLY shouldn't earn more than the average Joe does. Many seem to think that anybody can be a teacher, that it is not a challenging job, and that most of us do not take it very seriously. And apparently we punish the children of the parents who speak up against us.

    So what is the amount? How much should I make per year? Would you be happy in a community that paid their teachers with my experience (MA, 10yrs):

    Where is my 'slot' in society? I've gathered I am not as important as a doctor, lawyer, or police officer, but where do I belong?

    I'm all for working together to figure this out, but it seems many just want to take everything away. Help me understand where I belong...

  11. A:

    I wasn't saying that the challenges associated with a merit pay system aren't surmountable - only that they are substantially greater than most people think. In fact, I suspect most who clamor for a merit pay system haven't even considered this aspect.

    I've headed a large organization in my career - approaching 1,000 folks - and have a clear idea of the amount of management effort it consumes. It's worth it - but it's most definitely not free.

    And I think it would be naive for us to think the unions won't try to negotiate performance criteria into their contracts - the law as proposed certainly doesn't prohibit it. If I were the OEA, I'd be drafting language right now that I'd try to get into every contract.

    I suspect we've swapped the pay grid for a system which will be much more complex to administer. I'm just saying we better get prepared.

    On your other point, I bet that few of the young adults who enter teaching do so with their primary goal being to become a union member so they can get tenure. As I recall, when Michelle Rhee offered to give the DC teachers a substantial increase if they would drop tenure, the young teachers were overwhelmingly in favor of Rhee's offer, but the older teachers found tenure to be more valuable than a pay bump. No surprise.

    I'm very familiar with the military system of pay and performance evaluation. They have a simple pay grid which is based on rank and years of service. But promotions are based on merit, and believe me, a lot of effort is put into their personnel evaluation systems.

    The military also has extremely high turnover. I don't know the exact number, but it wouldn't surprise me if the turnover isn't on the order of 15-20%. That's why they are continuously running boot camps for new enlisted personnel, plus three military academies, scores of ROTC programs, and multiple Officer Candidate Schools to replenish their officer corps.

    Thank goodness we don't have that kind of turnover with teachers.

  12. MM:

    I understand your fear, but some of your facts are wrong. I don't know whether that is from your own reading of the Bill, or rumors founded on ignorance and perhaps a little hysteria. Or maybe someone is out there purposely distorting the "facts" that are being presented to you.

    For example, the Bill does not eliminate pension contributions by your employer - your school district. And for the record, you pay 10% of your salary into the retirement system and the district pays 14%. Has someone told you differently?

    Indeed, a merit pay system puts demands on the management that weren't there before, including the need to evaluate the performance of teachers with different specialties than their own.

    One of the most powerful elements of an effective merit system is the contribution by the employee in developing the performance plan. That is, it would be wise for your principal to sit down with you each year and work together with you to define objective measures of success. Many times in my career, I was asked to propose my own performance plan. As a professional, I know what the organization needed me and my team to accomplish, and I had no problem putting that down on paper. That's not so say that my boss didn't sometimes want the bar raised a little higher than I proposed. But we would work it out, and I had confidence that if I met and exceeded the goals, I would be rewarded.

    For at least half my career, I had bosses who didn't understand the technical aspects of the function our team performed. That doesn't mean they were incapable of fairly judging my performance. That's because my performance wasn't measured so much on the technical aspects as it was on the value our team delivered to the organization, and ultimately to our customers.

    So I'd suggest to you that you be less concerned about whether your principal knows the difference between a Bb and a C#, and start thinking about what kind of measurable goals you propose should be used to measure your effectiveness. The best way to win this game is to take the initiative.

    Indeed, if you are currently paying less than 20% of the cost of your healthcare premiums, this Bill - if passed as drafted - will cost you money. I'm not all that confident that this component will survive all the way to the Governor's desk.

    And as I've tried to say, this Bill seems a little vindictive. But school boards have been getting pushed around by the unions for a long while, and many feel the unions have it coming.

    If you want to modify this proposed law, now is the time for you and your union colleagues to act. I'd suggest that a heavy-handed response is not the best choice, because we have a Governor and General Assembly who seem more than ready to take their revenge.

  13. MM: No one here said you are getting paid too much. But you ask an interesting question.

    I've done a fair amount of study of the data provided in the CUPP report published by the Ohio Dept of Education. What do you think the range of average pay is for a teachers in the 81 districts rated as "Excellent with Distinction?"

    It ranges from $36,977 (Bloomfield-Mespo; Trumbull County) to $78,625 (Orange City; Cuyahoga County). Which of those is closer to the "right answer?"

    It turns out that there isn't much correlation between what teachers are paid and how their districts are ranked.

    But there is a strong correlation between the average pay of the teachers in a district and the average income of the people of that community.

    In other words, teachers are paid what they can negotiate - even when the negotiations take place in collective bargaining. And they can negotiate higher salaries in communities where the people have higher incomes.

    A merit system works the same way, except that you get to negotiate individually. As a valued member of the staff, your principal will want to pay you enough to keep you from looking elsewhere for a job. And if a teacher is a slacker, the principal would be wise to give little if any raise, in hope that the teacher raises their level of performance in order to get a better raise next time, or leaves - perhaps to find another career.

    It means a change of behavior for you and for your principal. Neither of you likely have any experience in this new environment, and that makes it scary. But don't assume that the goal is simply to throw out every highly-paid teacher and roll in 22 year old inexperienced kids that will work for a fraction of what you do.

    Parent don't choose school districts to live in because they love paying the taxes. They choose based what they want for their kids, and what they can afford.

    Be a contributor, and you'll do fine. If not in your current district, maybe one that better recognizes your skill.

  14. I think many teachers fear that their principals will be generally unfair or incompetent when it comes to evaluating teachers.

    Note that the principals report to someone else - probably the superintendent - who does their performance evaluations. The superintendent won't want to spend his/her day listening to teachers complaining about their principal, so one should expect that a principal who makes the superintendent's life miserable will get the boot.

    When a player isn't contributing to the team success, you get rid of the player. When the team isn't succeeding, you don't fire the whole team, you replace the coach

  15. Paul,

    RE: Pension. I see I missed a key word in the sentence:
    "Prohibits school districts from picking up any portion of the EMPLOYEE'S contribution to the pension system." Probably referring to administrator's getting that portion picked up in some districts, correct? As for my 1-2% statement, that was supposed to say 10-12%, as I couldn't remember the portion I pay.

    How frustrating to look at a bill dealing with your livelihood with the words REDUCE, PROHIBIT, and ELIMINATE written all over it. Am I happy to have a job? HELL YES. Does that make it easier to swallow the prospects laid out in this bill? No way.

    I am not fundamentally opposed to many of the ideas presented, I have stated frequently that I am not a fan of the unions. What bothered me in the past, and in this bill, is the feeling of hate and disdain I get for my profession, and the fine people in it.

    As for merit pay, it could be very effective if implemented appropriately, yet for some reason I am not holding my breath. My concern is not that my principal knows a Bb from a C#, but that he has the tools he needs to understand the unique intricacies of my job. Historically speaking, he has not been interested in how challenging it may be to teach a class of 90 unique learners by myself(or if I am succeeding!), but rather in whether or not we are willing to delay our concert preparation in order to present "something" to the student body at a pep rally. I can certainly present him a plan, that we can evaluate at the end of the year, but I question his sincere desire to give me a thoughtful review. And if the review isn't thoughtful, there isn't much 'merit' in it. I'd rather my pay not be a 'game', as you put it. (Believe me, if this comes to pass, I will be the first in line with my plan, and I will miraculously exceed my goals on a yearly basis.)

    I have a feeling my militant union colleagues, and our state association, will take the exact opposite tact you have suggested. Not sure who will budge here, but something has to give. I wonder what your colleagues on our school board think of these proposals? Does it make your job easier? Harder?

    I have been in step with much of what you've had to say over the past few years, but I think many who follow your blogs are more 'vindictive' and 'revenge-seeking' than necessary.

  16. MM:

    Eventually, we must get to a system where market forces are allowed to work in public education. I have no idea what you teach, but I know that there is currently a glut of K-3 teachers on the market, therefore, I do not have to pay them as much to attract quality. I also know that there is a problem attracting high school chemistry, biology and physics teachers. That means I need to pay them more than I am currently allowed to pay them to attract them to the profession.

    The bill (from a casual read so I might be mistaken) is silent on the definition of "merit" so I assume this means it is up to local boards to decide what merit is. Merit could be defined as someone who has earned certification in a hard to fill position. It could mean someone who has received years of commendations. It could mean someone who puts in the hours to mentor younger teachers. In the private sector, any and all criteria can be used in compensation determination.

    I know one other thing. If I tried, I couldn't come up with a worse system than the status quo, the system you are apparently defending. I have no ability to reward excellence and no ability to punish failure. I am paying for things (longevity, advanced degrees) that have no correlation to the job.

    Please consider one other point about evaluations. Why would anyone spend time on evaluating a tenured teacher. It simply doesn't matter what goes in the evaluation since nothing can come of the results. Your principal should know what you are doing and be providing you input on a fairly regular basis. If they don't, THEIR supervisor should know that. Honestly, the entire evaluation system needs to be overhauled which is why it is one of the foundations of President Obama's Race to the Top initiative.

    Thanks for engaging in the conversation.

  17. In my opinion, one of the most important responsibilities of elected and appointed officials is to clearly communicate their position and recommendations for solving the challenges they have been entrusted. We are very fortunate to have such officials as Paul and Marc in their positions contributing so positively toward this responsibility.

    Paul, this is an excellent, and fair, summary of the rhetoric that is surrounding this issue. I wish everyone on both sides, including the Administration, Union leadership, and your other cohorts on the HCSD School Board would provide their own positions in such a manner. Otherwise, we are left to our own assumptions as to what their position is. Unfortunately, with no other guidance, these assumptions are too often influenced by the rhetoric.

  18. MM:

    I applaud your professional dedication, effort and commitment to your unique, individual learners. I hope people can understand what it must be like to try to teach 90 different students to be "in concert" when you have an average of a few minutes per day per student (if that) to do it. If I was in your district, I would be thrilled to have you be one of my son's teachers.

    My hope for a Merit-based system is that teachers like you are properly recognized, and not lumped in with other teachers who barely skate by, or end up doing more damage than good to students. I know their is great fear of favoritism and bias per the rating process, and believe me, there will be some of that. However, in the overall, grand scheme of things, everything generally works out in the end. As Paul mentions, a principal will not last if all he/she does is promote favorites irregardless of performance.

    There is a tried-and-true saying that I have always seen apply in the private sector: The cream always rises to the top. We will not get past the current stagnation in our education system until we allow this to happen.

  19. mm, per your question on reductions, changes,
    and what you should make.

    Districts including Hilliard have gotten themselves in the current levy after levy scenario because the amount of increases given
    and the amount of benefits are not sustainable.

    At this point pay freezes are in order. Not suprising given the current economic situation.
    Significant increase occurred over at least a
    10 year period. Now, it is time to hold the fort. Increases in medical contributions have to occur, and the time off factor, could solve adding any snow days. It seems at least one or two weekends per month there are extended weekends off. Also a pay freeze would assist in NOT laying off anyone. And guess what some programming might need to go away temporarily.
    Do we need a sports mgt curriculum ? Do we need
    8 coaches at the high school level for track and field. That would be 24 in Hilliard. Most universities dont have that many !

    And yes new local money must be raised but in
    Hilliards case the voters have supported consistent increases in their taxes and the vast majority of the posters on this board have voted yes. But what is not sustainable and is just plain reckless is out of control spending to create the levy series to be 6.9 mills every two years now. There has to be some economic sense given foreclosures, job losses, pay cuts, double digit increases in medical contribution.
    This is what is happening locally. Paul pointed out over 750 foreclosures alone plus additional challenges just in the last few months on one of his comments. That is a real problem. Trust me those folks are not just paying 50.00 per month for their medical and getting step raises.

    Many including myself would have been glad to support a smaller levy with appropriate spending adjustments. According to the latest
    5 year forecase, we face a 92 million dollar shortfall down the road. Do the millage calculation on how much this cost the individual homeowner. The millage would be outrageous.

    And to your point on vindictiveness. Please go back to the last contract negotiation where it was the teachers who were vindictive, not cooperating with college paper work, chastising
    parents in the classroom for voting no, disturbing young students with tales of woe
    all over a medical contribution that was minimal
    and another 7% pay raise. Also recently the
    vindictivness of teachers questioning students
    about parental comments at recent board meetings.

    You have NO answer for these issues, the district could care less, and will play the you dont care about the kids card again and again.
    It is convienent only when levy time comes around. Take a look around Hilliard City Schools programs and infrastructure and pay scales for its employees. It has been supported by the community continually, and more and more it has become an entitlement
    and an expectation especially from the teachers.

    When the educators "rights" and their"free speech" is more important than the kids, then
    dont be suprised when the support of the public drops off and voters decide enough is enough.

    Hopefully it wont come to that, but this all started with the district and its employees running amok.

  20. The website of the Ohio Education Association - the statewide union of teachers - contains a statement which I believe to be a partial truth. It says: "Eliminates continuing contracts for teachers after the bill’s effective date."

    For those not familiar with the language of collective bargaining agreements, a "continuing contract" is one that automatically renews if no action is taken. A "continuing contract" implements what is commonly called "tenure" for teachers. And messing with tenure is one sure way to alarm the teachers.

    Scanning the text of the draft of the bill, I find that it grandfathers all existing continuing contracts for teachers (lines 7873-7878).

    It also says, in lines 7823-7829 that going forward, a teacher must hold a "professional, permanent, or life teacher's certificate" in order to be granted a continuing contract.

    So as I read it, tenure isn't eliminated, but the qualifications have changed.

    That's different that saying tenure has been eliminated.

  21. Rick,
    You claim I can't answer any of your questions, but you didn't answer ANY of mine!!

    I LOVE the Hilliard City Schools. Yet I have no desire to teach here, as I am perfectly happy in my district. I love it because of:
    -The quality of teachers
    -The quality of programming
    -The many opportunities available for our children(SO much more than my district)

    I'm willing to pay what it costs to keep these things. I'm willing to pay for 24 track teachers, even though I have no involvement in track. I'm willing to pay for a sports medicine program, even though I have no involvement. I'm even willing to overpay the market for teachers to ensure that we have the best and brightest.

    You are attributing negative qualities to an entire school district when they came from a few teachers. And frankly, if you are as disrespectful to those people as you appear to be on this blog, then I can imagine why they didn't go out of their way to help you (I'm sure those teachers have pigeon-holed all parents to sharing your point of view, right?).

    There is a difference between you and me. Maybe between me and everyone else on this blog.

    I love our district. I'd also like it to be in better shape financially. But I am NOT willing to sacrifice the quality of our schools to get there. Blowing up the status quo is not the answer; THAT does more to hurt the kids than anything the teachers have done to you and your children. Eliminating coaches and programs and offerings doesn't help our children.

    Change needs to be made, I 100% agree. I'm just not of the mind that we need to destroy and eliminate in order to "save" it.

  22. From what I have read about the bill, I too find it to have a vindictive tone; at the same time I have not read the entire 475 pages of it, and I doubt that many others have either. So we are left to form our opinions by what the news media "reports" - and I use that term loosely. The bill appears to be the first shot across the bow and I fail to see how people did not see it coming - John Kasich campaigned on pretty much the platform that this bill elaborates on. My first thought when I saw the Dispatch article was that they are attacking a flea with a sledgehammer - but then I remembered that the problem is not the size of a flea, and it is going to take some heavy tactics to solve the states funding problems. And that leads to people who will be affected being scared, and angry. The thing is, we are ALL being affected in one way or another, not just public employees. You simply do not lop $8 billion dollars in spending without it affecting everyone, whether it be hits to your wallet or hits to the services you feel are important. I've said before, I don't believe he can even balance the budget for the next 4 years without increasing taxes on a state level, and even if he can, it will only come from passing the tax burden elsewhere - in the case of the schools through higher and more frequent levies. And that is simply not going to work, since the voters have ALL of the say when it comes to levies and at some point, they will say "enough is enough". Many of us were at that point already - go back to the articles on this blog from 2008 and tell me what has changed? Nothing it would seem, since even back then, the exact same issues were being discussed as they are now: declining state funding, increasing school budgets, economy heading in the wrong direction, etc. Seems that our "leaders" failed to move even one iota in the subsequent 3 years, and now the ax is falling.
    Public employees are now seeing what many in the private sector have always seen - if the company you work for is in financial trouble, you are going to take a hit - be it no raises, concessions, less ideal working conditions, less staff to do more work - the list is endless. The ultimate hit for the private sector? Loss of your job.
    For the most part, educators will never face that ultimate hit - sure, a few junior teachers will lose their jobs if the levies don't continue to pass but we have to educate our kids. In that regard, teachers are much better off than the average public employee, yet when I scanned the forum for that Dispatch article, it seemed to mention teachers more than any other public service classification. Almost all state workers were forced to take 10 furlough days (unpaid) last year, and from what I know, that is to continue. Raises were eliminated for the most part, attrition due to retirements became the norm so those left had to work harder.
    I have been accused of "hating" teachers, or being "envious" of their compensation, so many times that I don't even get upset about it any longer. Nothing is further from the truth, but I am not going to complain if things such as this bill are what it takes to completely change how my school district gets run, and where the money that I have willfully contributed for 21 years now gets spent. Neither side is going to get everything they want, and this bill will be tweaked and re-tweaked many times before it becomes law, but you have to start somewhere. And remember that this bill is the result of not paying attention for the past 20 years or so - and that lack of attention benefited teachers greatly as far as I am concerned.

  23. MM - I have to say that if I hear that "hire the best and the brightest" line one more time, I am going to throw up. It is used by just about every district at levy time, and it should be obvious that the pool of the best and brightest is by definition limited. I am sure you consider yourself to be among the best and the brightest (and I believe you probably are!) yet you don't teach in Hilliard. I can settle for "competent" and "caring" - kind of the way I "settle" for OSU for my two kids instead of Harvard. I don't think it makes me a bad parent because I can't afford to send my kids to Harvard even if they could get in - I must deal with the reality of my income.
    The "quality of our schools" should not be rated solely on what we pay the staff - that is just ridiculous and seems to be exactly what got us to where we are today. We don't need to blow up the status quo, but we need to do more than make some minor tweaks. 24 track teachers might be a good place to start.

  24. MM:

    I'm interested in this statement:

    "I'm even willing to overpay the market for teachers to ensure that we have the best and brightest"

    Can you point to anything that correlates what you pay and what you get?

    It is a serious question. I think there are many, myself included, that would pay more to guarantee quality, however, I've found no supporting data that hints that if you pay higher salaries, you get better teachers.

    Paul has done research that shows a correlation between teacher salaries and wealth in the community, but nothing about salaries and quality. Can you elaborate on your statement?

  25. mm If a pay freeze and some additional medical payment contribution is " blowing up the district"
    then it really is about someones pay raise isnt it and not about the kids. 90% of the new levy will go for salary and compensation, perhaps more.

    So if we dont give the district, and these will be local funds, not the state another 92 million
    that means the kids will be hurt if we dont give
    80 million dollars in pay raises based on the forecast for 2015.? On average
    that would be another 5300 dollars per employee
    based on 15,000 employees. So if you skew it
    and certainly the bus drivers, aides etc arent going to get this amount you will have some getting about getting significant increases every year. So the smoke screen here is not about the kids its about the pay raise. So please tell us where a family would come up with funds for this based on layoffs, their own pay cuts, double digit medical insurance increases year after year, foreclosure issuesetc
    If you have looked at the foreclosures, short sales pending, property values are not even
    at the level that they are being assessed.

    If demeanor is your concern, then it is ok
    for ANY teacher to basically do what they want.
    If it was about the kids, the union would insure and not condone such activities. If it is ok with you without any repurcussions to
    attempt to get elementary students to sway their
    parents or they are hurting them, then yes then I believe this bill might be necessary to get a rein on things.

    Again, a smaller levy with freezes, would allow
    no layoffs along with other benefits and compensation adjustments, which I favor would not hurt the kids.

    With 90% of our budget consumed in two areas
    it is unsustainable. The "independent" Audit and Accountabiltiy committee agrees. I would like an open checkbook, just like you, but the difference is I have to balance mine, and the district just keeps looking for bailouts for poor financial planning.

  26. A couple of comments on what others have said.

    First to musicman.

    Here's where the status quo fails. The district's health costs increase. Let's say 8% on average. At minimum that means that an employee's contribution should also rise 8%. (Note: employee; this affects everyone, not just teachers.)

    Now, look at the private sector. Employee contributions tend to increase more than the rate of overall increase because the companies are not sufficiently profitable to absorb their 92% of the increase. This has been going on in the private sector for years. Now, the company could lay off an employee in order to keep everyone else's increase down, but that has a bigger effect on the company.

    Back to the school districts. You aren't any more profitable because you have no increase in tax revenue. That means that when health insurance costs go up, employees have to take on more of the costs because the district has no way to increase its contribution (unless they raise taxes, or, as in the private sector, lay people off).

    Union: "That's unfair! We need a pay raise to offset the increase in costs!"

    Yeah, it may be "unfair" but guess what -- the rest of us have been dealing with this for over a decade.

    Now, I don't blame you, or any teacher personally, but you have to see why private sector folks get pretty miffed at this, right?

    On your question about pay -- I don't know; I don't know you. I don't know how well you do your job. I do know that the free market must play a part in it though. I will also tell you that as a business owner, my number one concern on staffing costs is not "how much" but "how valuable". Don't think for a minute that the schools will think only "how much" because that's the fastest way to destroy a district.

    Now, to Paul and others: yes, this is a pretty harsh bill. I think, in places, it doesn't go far enough. In others, it seems way over the top. But guess what? Are we having a discussion in the State now about unsustainable public sector payrolls? Yes we are... and about time too!

    The great thing about sledgehammers is that they make a lot of noise and get people's attention...

  27. Marc:

    Just for clarification: There is a slight positive correlation between average teacher salaries in a district and its Performance Index. However, as you say, the much stronger correlation is between community wealth and teacher pay.

    I think that because there is this slight positive correlation between teacher salary and the Performance Index, it can be easy to jump to the conclusion that one is cause and the other is effect.

    However, I think the logic goes more like this:

    a) if a parent is more educated, their kids tend to do better in school: conclusion #1

    b) if a parent is more educated, their income tends to be higher;
    c) if the income of the parents are higher, they are more amenable to paying the taxes necessary to pay their teachers more: conclusion #2.

    Interesting. To lay it out this way, I think we can describe our current state of affairs as being the second set of logical statements gone negative:

    b) if a parent is more educated, their income does NOT tend to be higher in today's economy;
    c) if the income of the parents is NOT higher in today's economy, they are NOT amenable to paying the taxes necessary to pay their teachers more: conclusion #3.


  28. All that want is to be able to compete for these teaching jobs. If some high school chemistry teacher making $80k threatens to strike, I want to be considered. I know with 100% certainty that I would be able to outperform any teacher I had in the Dublin School District in the late 90s. Period.

  29. Paul, thanks for sending along the Audit report but am curious as to the actual discussion that took place in public. Are they supporting thelevy?
    Any comments about spending ?

  30. The Audit & Accountability Cmte took no explicit stand on the levy, but made the point that even if the levy passes, and all of Brian's assumptions become reality, there is no year within the Five Year Horizon that we won't be burning cash (deficit spending).

    The levy, if passed, will slow the cash burn, but another levy is needed in two years. And that's if the State of Ohio doesn't whack our funding any more than the 10% Brian has estimated...

  31. I've been watching the events unfold in Wisconsin today.... Wow!

  32. I am actually up here in Wisconsin right now (but not in Madison). I can tell you that the average Joe up here is fully supportive of what the Governor is doing and they're pretty pissed at the stunt those Senators pulled today.

    Ohio will be next, unless Tennessee beats us to it...

  33. Hi. I just found your blog and I wanted to ask if you know anything about the Ballentrae efforts to change Washington Elementary from a Hilliard to a Dublin School. I just heard about this and from what I hear, the homeowners association is getting ready to start the ball rolling. They have a meeting set up, and they are going to petition to add this to the ballot. Could this really happen?? I hope not!

  34. I've been asked twice this week about the Ballantrae situation. I'll put together an article about it this week.

  35. wow - that would mean all of the high school students there would not go to Davidson - how would that work???? Most moved there for that reason in the first place...

  36. And how about a Columbus City Schools principal who does the "evaluations" to determine "merit pay" but only shows up to school 3-4 days per week in a good week? When she does, her office is closed. What are we going to about horrible principals like this one?

  37. Here's what I know about change: It's easy to envision what a system looks like after the change is fully implemented and incorporated into the normal lives of those living within the system.

    It's much much harder to actually implement the change, and to live through the time of transition. A change of this magnitude requires tons of planning, preparation, training, and hand-holding.

    You raise one of the same issues I have - the administrators are no more prepared to operate under a merit system than are the teachers and staff.

    56% of the school districts in Ohio have 2,000 or fewer students. That means they generally have 80 or fewer teachers, a dozen staff members, and probably no more than 3 principals. The training required to transition a district of this size to a merit based system is not too scary.

    But when you start talking about districts the size of Hilliard, with 2,000 employees and 60 'managers', the training and transition effort is much harder.

    As I've said, this Bill as written is in my opinion as much about revenge as it is trying to fix the economic problems of the current system. Otherwise, a lot more effort would have been spent thinking through the transitional process, and writing the steps of the transitional process into the law.

    I think it would have made a lot more sense to talk about have 2-3 years of transition, during which both the employees would have received training on how to implement and participate in a merit-based system. For a year or two before actually going live with a merit evaluation system, there would be 'practice' evaluations, and evaluations of the evaluators.

    And in direct answer to your question - there are administrators who won't successfully make the transition. A principal such as the one your describe would likely be one of those.

  38. But please also note that we don't have 2-3 years to fix the economic problems in our school system.

    Maybe the Governor is just engaging in hardball negotiations, and will come off his support of this Bill in exchange for the unions agreeing to some pretty significant adjustments to their current contracts.

    If that's his intent, he had better play that card pretty quickly, or this thing is going to escalate out of control. Wisconsin is poised at the brink right now, and Ohio is right behind.

  39. Paul,

    Don't worry about Wisconsin. The support for the public sector unions there just doesn't exist. Most of the "protestors" you see on TV are students at UW. And I am sure we all remember college life. Students were the first to protest even when they had no idea what they were protesting about.

    The Senators fleeing the state, and the UW Medical Center employees handing out bogus sick notes have left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths up there.

    And Ohio isn't anywhere close to the same kind of protest when the best they can manage is only 4000 people at the Statehouse today.

  40. There are no winners in a war with the teachers, least of all the kids. No question that there needs to be a recalibration of the comp system, but driving the teachers to the point of permanent passive aggression would be a nightmare.

    I'd rather sit down with the union leaders and tell them that we need a contract that causes our annual operating expenses to grow at a rate which requires levies of no more than X mills every Y years (4 mills every 5 years = 1.5% CAGR, a little more than the current CPI). Let them suggest models for the comp grid and the benefits cost sharing that make that happen. Maybe with a reopener if the CPI increases by more than a certain rate.

  41. Given that SB5 has now passed, I'm all for forcing the teachers into passive aggression. It will give us a chance to get rid of the ones who shouldn't be anywhere near our children, and reward the rest who get on with their jobs.

  42. It'a all a circular argument over "value" of teachers, but as a post stated, teacher salaries are usually a reflection of community income. Just how many $90,000+ teacher salaries can Hilliard support? (I did a search on Buckeye Institute web site.) I pay all I can afford in property taxes. We are a private sector employed family with stagnant wages, minimal job security, and facing many spending cut backs. I'm tired of supporting pampered teachers who are not worthy of the salaries they command. I resent being expected to pay an unending ever higher amount of taxes to support Hilliard Schools. They have to control spending on salaries and benefits. And don't tell me it's "for the children" and that teachers are "worth" what they earn. In Hilliard, it's not and they aren't.

  43. So, Anonymous, what ARE they worth? Let's get some real numbers here. If a highly qualified, highly experienced teacher is not worth $90,000, what SHOULD they be getting paid?

  44. Please, let's not go down this rabbit hole yet again.

    Let's agree that unless one is self-employed, one's salary is set through a process of negotiation. Sometimes it's an individual negotiation with the employer, and sometimes it's the result of collective bargaining.

    If the negotiation does not reach a successful conclusion, the employee is free to seek another employment opportunity, and the employer is free to seek another employee.

    But if they both accept the salary that is negotiated, then that's the "right number."

  45. Paul,

    Isn't that what collective bargaining is, and what teachers have been doing for years?

    People want to spout off all their anger and frustration at teachers and how much they get paid, but nobody wants to stand up and put a number behind it.

    I think a lot of people think teachers make too much because the salary is more than "they" make, and if "they" don't make that much, than teachers shouldn't either.

    Paul, I'm sure you disagree, but you serve as the pied piper for a wide variety of opinions.

  46. I'm glad that a wide variety of opinions are expressed here. I've learned from the dialog, and I hope others have as well.

    I disagree with your diagnosis of the situation. I think it's more about being surprised. There has never been much of an effort to educate the folks in our community about how the teacher compensation system works. So now as the public learns that the 3% annual raises that were reported in the news were really 7% raises with the steps, they're a little miffed.

    That could have been avoided perhaps by something as simple as publishing the pay grids in the weekly newspapers once a year, and making them available on the district website.

    The solution isn't for folks to go down to the Statehouse and call each other names - it's to shift into a mode of full disclosure and respectful debate until reasonable compromise is reached.

    Unfortunately, that doesn't seem where we're headed.

  47. Paul,

    That isn't even what happens HERE. People spout off about how angry and ticked off they are about how much teachers make, but aren't willing to have any sort of respectful debate about what IS reasonable.

    I appreciate a wide variety of opinions as well. The problem is, people use your full disclosure to bolster their biased and irrational opinions, which doesn't get us any closer to a reasonable compromise.

    "Surprise" doesn't absolve people from responsibility. Too many people around here act like these things were done on the sly, when they've had access to every bit of information they needed to make an educated vote.

    All the sudden the economy tanks, and they want to bring down everyone with them. They might not be able to affect the doctor or lawyers salary, but darn it if they can't rant and rave at how cushy teachers have it these days.

    There is a SERIOUS issue with the value teachers hold in the community, the perceived difficulty of being a teacher, and the general idea that teachers are selfish and don't care about children.

  48. MM: You seem to be taking the position that it is sufficient for public officials to satisfy the letter of the law by disclosing compensation information when asked. Note that it took from May to July for the district to provide me with a copy of the last teacher contract.

    I believe, and this is the cornerstone of my effort for the past four years, that you must disclose important information immediately - whether good news or bad - if you want to be trusted.

    In my experience, it is frequently the case that when a member of the public first gains an understanding of how teacher compensation works, they are surprised by the size of the gap between what they thought was the case, and what is reality. That could have been avoided had school districts done a better job of communicating each time a contract was negotiated. Reporting the change in the base pay but leaving out the other components of compensation is not full disclosure.

    Instead, we're dealing with the backlash of the surprise. Blaming it on the public won't help.

    The dialog going on right now is about a simple-to-understand condition: for the teachers in our school district to be paid more, the voters of our district are going to have to be willing to give up some of THEIR hard earned income.

    If we're going to make it a moral argument, who has a greater right to that money - the taxpayer or the public employee?

  49. No Paul, my argument is:

    1. There are many who find it outrageous that teachers make what they do, and they use your call for full disclosure to fuel their anger. They are not interested in fairly compensating, just in complaining that it is too much. I've STILL not received a single real response to the question of what is enough.

    2. The public has to accept blame for their ignorance, just as the school board needs to accept blame for failing to be completely honest. You cannot complain that someone blindfolded you when you tied the blindfold yourself.

    3. Again, as ALWAYS, I feel there are changes that need to be made. However, between those that want to blow up the whole thing, and those who just think teachers are overpaid, I don't see how a REAL discussion can ever happen.

  50. MM:

    Then I challenge you to prime the pump: What do you require in compensation to continue teaching?

    Note that of the 81 districts in Ohio which are rated "Excellent with Distinction," the average teacher pay in those districts ranges from $37K to $79K. I presume your expectations are somewhere in that range.

  51. I'm the one who started the discussion of $90,000 being too much. And I did it to start just this kind of discourse. Shame on Hilliard School board for not having open presentations over the last 10 years, of actual compensation packages, which include not just annual salary, but work hours per year, and retirement benefits that far exceed those of any other workers I know of. And the value of a teacher? We need a cultural dialog on this. Are they really worth that much more than Hilliard police officers and Norwich Township firefighters? I don't know what their salaries are...but I'd bet they don't make nearly what teachers do. And don't give me the excuse of advanced education and having masters' degrees. I know many teachers who obtained theirs from the Ashland College diploma mill.

    Yes, teachers work hard. But who doesn't?? Why are they worth that much more than other workers who have jobs of high responsibility? The one thing they have that others don't, is what has amounted to practically be collusion between the school board and the teachers union to give the teachers anything they want, with no concern for the ability of taxpayers to provide it. It's this sudden whack on the head I feel when I realize how much they get, how much more they are guartaneed to get, and the fact that I have had no say in controlling it. When were the real cost and compensation packages of teachers in this district EVER provided to the voting public?? What's already done is done. It'll be hard to stop this run away progression. And no, as someone who has a high stress job working in a hospital medical laboraory, who is under extreme pressure for speed and accuracy and for having a core body of medical knowledge, who has worked nights, weekends and at one time, every holiday, I don't think teachers are worth $90,000. I'm not a teacher because I am better at what I do. And I'll grant that they are better at being a teacher than I. But not over $30,000 better.

  52. Paul wrote:
    Then I challenge you to prime the pump: What do you require in compensation to continue teaching?

    That is a loaded question! What I require to continue is a very different number than what I think I should be paid. I'm not sure that is how the compensation model should work, asking teachers what's the least they'll work for, and then giving them that. Doesn't seem like a great way to attract talented teachers. But let me say this...

    I am defined in part as a person by what I do as a teacher. Education is such a large part of my life, it ranks a close second to family in terms of importance. I can honestly say I've never thought about how LITTLE I'd be willing to make (Other than in college when I bragged about how I'd work nowhere for less than $30k, then promptly accepted an offer for $24k!!) So, here are my thoughts.

    -I'm smart. I'm well educated. I don't HAVE to do this. I wouldn't do it at a salary that put my family below the poverty line (Now folks, don't bother telling me about the job market, and how there are plenty of smart people without jobs, or with low paying jobs. Paul asked me a question, and I'm attempting to answer.)

    -At this point in my life (working wife, 2 kids), I would probably not be willing to be a teacher for less than $25k per year (plus health benefits, pension contribution, sick time, etc...) I don't know what that total compensation package would be though, $50k? Below that, and it's not worth it. Providing for my family comes first, and I would do anything to give my children the life they deserve.

    My guess is there are a whole lot of folks who read this blog who would say "Great! Pay him $25k and let's move on...", but I don't feel that my number is what teachers SHOULD get paid.

    Mrs. Dougherty pushed me to challenge myself on spelling tests in the fifth grade, which has led me to feel very confident dealing with words, both spoken and written, in the workplace.

    Mr. Martin gave me B's on papers in HS English, and would tell me that although they were better than many of my classmates who got higher, they were not up to the standards I had set for myself.

    Ms. Chase made learning about the US Government seem fun, and her high expectations allowed me to receive college credit due to my performance on the AP Government exam. I don't think I would be as interested in governmental issues if it were not for her class.

    Those teachers have shaped who I am as a person. I am who I am today in large part because of them. How much is that worth? How much should we pay someone who can CHANGE a person for the better? And not just one person, but hundreds of people? How much is that worth to me?

    -I think teachers, GOOD ones, should be paid just as well as other good professionals such as accountants, architects, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, and pilots. If that number approaches or exceeds a salary of $100k plus benefits, so be it. How terrible would it have been if Mrs. Dougherty, Mr. Martin, Ms. Chase, or the many other fantastic teachers I'd had quit teaching. It isn't about the information, it's about the PEOPLE. You may be able to find someone willing to work for less, but that doesn't mean you'll be getting the same thing.

    -I also think bad teachers, regardless of age, should be shown the door, to lessen their negative impact on our children. I have NO patience for Unions that protect older teachers, a FEW of whom are mailing it in every day to collect a paycheck. If you are bad you should leave and find something else to do, and it should happen sooner than later.

    So, in a SHS first, actually putting ones money where ones mouth is, Musicman would still be a teacher for $25k per year, but thinks good ones should be paid upwards of $100k per year.

    I DO make somewhere in the middle, an amount that I am happy with, but am very nervous about what the passage of SB5 will do to my family.

  53. MM:

    It's just a negotiating question. In the process of negotiating salary, the two parties will either work their way to a mutually acceptable number, or no bargain will be made. You are the beneficiary of such negotiations - it's just done on your behalf by professional negotiators (Boards of Education use professional negotiators as well).

    A merit based system, if well designed and administered, will do exactly as you describe: reward good teachers well and not reward bad teachers at all.

    And no, I'm not saying it should be easy to fire bad teachers - everyone is deserving of due process. My company certainly had this, without the need for any unions. No matter whether I was a first level supervisor or a vice-president, I could not fire anyone unilaterally.

    I appreciate that you've had teachers who have been a big part in molding who you became - I have too. I've also had teachers who were total duds.

    Here's where we may diverge: I think in a capitalist economy, people aren't necessarily compensated because of their their degrees or their profession. Their pay is determined by how hard it is for an employer to fill a position they really need to fill.

    Some jobs are really hard to fill. When I was in engineering school, life was pretty tough for the aerospace engineering graduates, because NASA had just shut down both the Apollo program and the SST. Aerospace engineering was a pretty tough degree program, yet at that point in time, those graduates couldn't find jobs, because much more experienced engineers were getting laid off. Anyone who wanted to hire an aero engineer had a large field of highly qualified candidates to choose from, and the competition for jobs drove down the salary that employers would need to pay. Simple supply and demand.

    At the same time, the nuclear engineers could pretty much name their price, as the power utilities were bring new nuclear generating stations online as quickly as they could build them.

    But it wasn't all that long until the situations reversed. Ohio State no longer even offers a degree in nuclear engineering (although I predict it will make a comeback).

    So right now, lawyers and nuclear engineers should be pretty cheap. But maybe because folks who go into engineering tend to be the practical type, very few go into nuclear engineering any more, and the demand has pretty much matched up with the supply. I wonder when all the folks considering law school will start considering other professions, rather than investing a ton of time and money to enter a saturated market.

    The same can be said for teachers. Our colleges are continuing to crank out education majors when very few have prospects for a job. We had 2,000 applicants for 50 jobs in Hilliard his year. I'm guessing we can (and did) pick some very talented people out of pool that size, at a starting salary of $38K. In fact, I understand that we had candidates offer to work for less than scale just to get a job, but Ohio labor laws and our union contracts prevented us from being able to accept the offer.

    I do think SB5 is an overreaction and a little vindictive. But it's understandable given the terror local governments have about what is likely to happen with the state budget (ie that most of the $8 billion budget gap is going to be passed on to local governments via drastically reduced state grants - remember our school district is allocated $35m/yr from the state for our basic funding).

  54. Me again...the one who thinks $90,000 is too much. And here's the rub, music man. Teachers want it both ways. They want the "work to the rule" details spelled out and the guaranteed salary increases and the generous benefits and retirements. These are the hallmark of being traditional blue collar workers. But they also want the pay and respect that comes with being a white collar worker. So which is it.

    Teachers seem to believe that they deserve the respect and salary of attorneys, accountants or engineers. But there is very little in their professional work requirements that puts them in that league.

    The curriculum for a degree in education in college is not nearly as rigorous as law, pharamacy or engineering. Even at the masters level. I have heard many teachers practically brag about how easy it is to get A's in graduate level education courses.

    Teachers do not work nearly the number of hours that these other professionals do. When was the last time you saw an attorney working "full time" take 15 weeks off each year? Even during the school year, I'm sure teachers don't work nearly the number of hours in a week that an accountant does.

    Teachers don't have responsibility for the outcome of their effort. And granted, there is much to be said for it being impossible to hold the teacher accountable for children who do not come from a supportive home environment and show up to school unprepared to learn. But instead of having some kind of merit assessment, taking those children into account, teachers have no responsibility for the outcome of the students they are teaching. How can good teachers ever be adequately rewarded when bad teachers are never held accountable. Professionals such as attorneys, engineers, accountants live and die by the outcome of their efforts. They are not only compensated based on the outcome of their work, but their very employment hinges on it. They are held highly responsible for the outcome of their work. Teachers are not.

    So, again, how exactly do teachers measure up as far as being professionals on this level? Everyone can tell warm and fuzzy stories about teachers who've had an impact on their lives. But there are also the bad teachers who have a negative impact on students and there is no recourse for this.

    When teachers have the same rigorous college curriculum, when they work more than 38 weeks per year, and when they are held to some measure of accountability for their outcomes, then they will be on the level of other highly paid professionals. And that is no where on the horizon.

  55. For a year now, I've been spending one afternoon a week in one of our 3rd grade classrooms. I've had a chance to see firsthand how different life in the classroom is these days compared to fifty years ago when I was a 3rd grader, and it's not from drive-by observations.

    If anything, my respect for talented teachers has gone up as a result. I'm not sure I could survive 5 days/week in an elementary classroom, and I was an honors student in engineering. Being a successful teacher requires much more than raw intellect. Much more.

    It's not really about how hard it is to get an education degree - it's about effectiveness in the classroom. Some teachers are amazingly effective. Some not so much. The compensation system isn't very useful for rewarding accordingly, and I'd like to see that fixed.

    Here's the real truth: the teachers have what they have because they organized and played the political game very well. If you think they've tilted the table in their favor, the solution is for those with opposing viewpoints to get equally well organized and politically active.

    Votes count, and who gets elected makes a difference. Organized labor understands that very well. They work hard to get the folks elected who support their agenda, and the Hilliard Education Association is no exception.

    If your views are in opposition to theirs, then find a candidate who thinks like you, and support that candidate. If you can't find a candidate you like, consider running yourself.

    A mentor of mine once told me that you don't get what you deserve, you get what you can negotiate. The $gazillion salaries paid to top athletes or Charlie Sheen are all the evidence you need of that.

    Our teachers have a salary grid that tops at $90K because that's what they negotiated with the folks sitting on the school board in 2008, who - other than me - are the same people who will be negotiating their next contract. There is no moral argument to be made whether or not our teachers should be paid what they are - it's just how the negotiations were settled.

    If you don't like the way the negotiations come out this time, then you need to pay attention to who will be running for the two school board seats that come up for election this November.

  56. The post by 'Anonymous' is what I feel most supporters of SB5 feel.

    Read that post, and tell me there is ANY respect for what teachers do, for how hard it is to do the job well?

    EVERY job, including the one 'Anonymous' does, has bad apples that make way more than they deserve. But this individual has chosen to saddle an entire profession with their biased opinions of a few, and completely discounts the talent it takes to be a great educator. Focused on the bad with a COMPLETE dismissal of the good.

    FAR too many people feel this way, and it is this attitude that will keep America behind other countries when it comes to education. The countries that lead the way honor and respect their teachers, as they understand that teachers are the ones who train everyone else to be whatever it is they are to be.

    This 'Anonymous' individual sees teaching as an easy gig, and as such teachers should be compensated not based on the importance of their job, but on the whims of those who have no idea what it takes to do it well.

    Paul, you previously stated that we should pay teachers what the market decides they should make, not what their inherent value is.

    Why do we pay the President what we do, or ANY elected official? There are TONS of qualified people to do that job.

    Why does the HCSD pay their lawyers what they do? I'm POSITIVE I could find Attorney's to do that job cheaper.

    Doctors make what they make because we VALUE what they do. Same with good lawyers and accountants. For some reason teachers are exempt.

  57. Music man, we are talking past each other. You are not responding to what I said. Read it again. This kind of sniping will get no one anywhere. You can't concede any of my points? NO WHERE did I refer to bad teachers as a reason for controlling pay or benefits. I'm tired of talking to someone who's not truly listening to what I said. I'm done here.

  58. MM: We pay doctors what we do because if we didn't, few would go through the effort and expense of all the training.

    I know this because I have a kid who will receive her MD in a couple of months. She was Phi Beta Kappa in a very tough undergraduate major, at the top of her class in medical school and scoring in the top 1% on national Board exams, and invited to apply for residency at some of the top medical institutions in the county.

    You know what her starting salary as a resident will be? About the same as the starting salary of a freshly graduated new teacher in our district. My kid will work 80-100 hour weeks in a high stress situation (not the least of which being constant evaluation by her superiors and competition with her peers), and will have to pass three more extremely tough exams to become board certified in her specialty.

    By then, she will be 30 years old, and FINALLY licensed to begin independent practice and maybe make a decent buck, if we don't blow up our health care system along the way. It's already pretty tough for a standalone family practice doc to survive economically, much less live well.

    You used a key word in your comment: VALUE.

    "Value" is different than price. You can pay between say $15,000 and $1 million for a new car these days. Either might be a good value, if the buyer believes the benefit he/she receives from owning the car is worth it.

    The education community could perhaps learn something from the medical community in this regard. They make the process of getting a medical degree and obtaining licensure and certification extremely rigorous. That constrains the supply of board-certified physicians, which plays a part in driving up their salaries (the other being that students go into medicine, understanding the challenges, in part because they have expectations of being rewarded commensurate with their effort and achievement).

    By the way, you've probably heard me say that our other daughter is a music teacher. We're extremely proud of her as well. As lifelong amateur musicians, my wife and I have an appreciation for how rigorous a music ed degree is compared to other education majors. She is a skilled musician, skilled teacher, loves the work, and yet still - six years after graduation - can't find a full time job in the public schools. So she works about double the part-time hours she is paid for at a low salary with no benefits in the parochial schools, and gives music lessons on the side.

    Supply and demand problem again. Even though a small fraction of education majors are music education majors, there are still far more music education graduates than there are music ed jobs in our schools. And with ever-increasing budget pressures, the number of music ed jobs might well continue decreasing. A kid graduating with a music ed degree today is about as likely to get a music ed job as a musical performance major is to get a role on Broadway. (more)

  59. Can my daughter teach music as well as you? Probably not. She doesn't have the time in the classroom, and I don't have any sense of your comparative talent. But can she teach well enough to do the job? I'm pretty confident she can. She would probably be a good candidate to fill your spot when you retire. On the current pay scale, you'd retire from a salary of about $80K, and she would be hired for a salary of $40K.

    Does the school district lose $40K in value? Not so easy to answer in the abstract.

    Teacher unions exist in a large part to change the supply and demand game. Instead of making value decisions on an individual basis, boards of education have to make value decisions about a whole group.

    You probably know something about the OSU Marching Band - you might have even been a member. One of the traditions of the Band is that every spot is up for challenge each week. For every instrument, there are a few 'alternates' who stand by to fill in for Band members who may be incapable of performing on game day. But those alternates are also encouraged to challenge Band members for their spots, and if the alternate wins the challenge, the Band member becomes the alternate until he/she win the spot back.

    What would it be like if, after a successful challenge, the Band told the Director that none of them would march on game day unless the challenge was invalided, and the original member be allowed to perform?

    It would certainly change the Marching Band. If the criteria for retaining one's spot in the band were changed from excellence to popularity, how long would it be until the performance quality of the Band diminished? It might be adequate, but it wouldn't be TBDBITL.

    In one of my older posts, I suggested that the teacher's unions would do well to take a lesson from the medical profession, and make it much harder to enter the teaching profession and achieve certification, which would serve to constrain the supply. And they should engage in a PR/marketing effort to make certification be valued by the public as a 'seal of quality' such that communities demand that their boards of education hire certified teachers, rather than being forced to by the State.

    We're at a decision cusp in regard to our nation's education system. We can either dig in and defend the old, which isn't working that well, or work together to build something better.

    I'm saying that part of my vision of 'something better' is an education system that drives excellence through competition - like TBDBITL.

    For that is truly the way of the world.

  60. Paul,

    I hope you know by now I am not about defending the old. I know it doesn't work that well, I live it every day. I also know that most of what is spewed about teachers around here is patently false.

    You are extremely well read and write very intelligently, every time I attempt to respond to all of your points you reply with 20 more discussion points! It really is fruitless to have a thorough discussion on this forum, as there aren't enough keystrokes to get my point across. Although I do sincerely appreciate your efforts in keeping it going.

    I think we will continue to disagree on how teachers should be paid. The definition of value I used was referring to "relative worth, merit, or importance", not your definition of "monetary or material worth." I also know that you "value" teachers, as I do, you just want them at a better value.

    I think we pay Doctors what we do because we recognize their importance to our society. Your points are valid and well taken, but their value(MY definition) to society is quite clear. What isn't clear is the public perception of a teachers importance to society.

  61. MMan
    1. Central Ohio teachers currently have a good package with excellent benefits. Dont see pay cutsbut perhaps some layoffs due to reductions in programs that are "like to have" Parents also have a responsibility insuring that their children are "well rounded" Most I know encourage extra activities/volunteering outside of school. There are so many outside activities in Hilliard and Central Ohio. they are not going to suffer.
    2. Some teachers in the state make very little compared to Central Ohio. They need pay stability and increases and the playing field should be upgraded for them ,not for those making
    big money and spending their time not taking care of students during "work to the contract"
    3. Parents and the community should be running the schools/not the teachers.
    4. The teachers and the board in Hilliard could care less about all the foreclosures, the ability of seniors to pay, those who have lost jobs, taken pay cuts. They just want the 5 to 7% raise. 90% of this new levy package about
    14.5 million will go to pay raises, not equipment,text books, computers etc.
    The private sector has seen their medical costs skyrocket in the last 10 years. The teachers in Hilliard took a strike vote and "worked to the contract" harming students because they did not want to pay one nickel into their insurance, all the time getting big raises.
    6. Had the board and the employees used their
    financial brains, they would have agreed to
    3 to 4% growth in compensation, and we would not be facing this increased levy, nor wouldlayoffs be on the table.

    So I think many would go along with the notion that currently teachers are paid here in Central Ohio just fine. No they are not overpaid. But the increases to individuals like myself are not sustainable. Basically the district and its employees want more and more money to the tune of 3 levies in 6 years. And perhaps the next two will be even higher than this one.

    What I have heard from the teachers and the district is that the taxpayers should sacrifice.
    If you look at the present programming and infrastructure, they have.

    Clearly, in Hilliard its not about the kids, Its about the pay raise, and not wanting to
    pay toward medical, or we will work to the contract, talk badly in the classroom (especially at elementary level) because the community is mean and selfish.

    The first cuts will come in busing, athletics,
    no new textbooks, no new bus purchases, and our board president will get all happy happy about saving 100,000 on cutting busing.

    Senate Bill 5 is too far reaching, and I dont support that. But what should be in the document is that high school seniors should
    NEVER be treated like trash like what happenend in the contract negotiations of 2008