Are teachers unions the new UAW?

April 15, 2010
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Sometimes organizations don’t realize how good they have it until public support for their positions erodes, the good will vanishes and the bottom suddenly falls out.

The United Auto Workers found out the hard way after enough people learned about members’ lavish compensation, and worse, getting paid while on furlough—all while cranking out cars consumers felt were inferior to foreign brands. This was a union once backed by cacophonies of honking horns at strikes.

A development Thursday in the skirmish between Indiana school chief Tony Bennett and the Indiana State Teachers Association raises questions whether ISTA is edging dangerously close to a similar tipping point with Hoosiers.

Bennett had brusquely demanded that ISTA throw massive support behind paying teachers for performance before he would go back to the Obama administration to ask for a big education grant. The administration rejected Indiana’s first proposal because teacher support ran at only about two-thirds when Delaware and Tennessee, which won money, were overwhelmingly supportive.

How did ISTA respond to Bennett’s desire to base 51 percent of teacher pay on student performance? Start over.

Most people sympathize with teachers’ objections to performance pay: Children aren’t widgets. Too many come from families that don’t value education. Social problems rip at the education experience.

People also get why ISTA exists. School boards would savage teacher pay. Administrators can be capricious. Board members and administrators would hire friends and relatives over qualified professionals.

But is ISTA really helping itself by going to war with Bennett? Especially when tens of millions of dollars could have been funneled into Hoosier schools?

Consider that the public is just as aware of stagnant test scores, summers away from class, and fending off pay cuts at a time when everyone else takes it on the chin. People also hear more and more about incompetent, burned-out and lazy teachers.

Recall that Obama, not exactly a union-hating Republican, is the one dishing money to states that adopt pay-for-performance. So public sentiment is swinging toward merit pay.

Which raises another prospect for ISTA this fall. Ironically, Republicans are leveraging anger at the Obama administration to try to take back control of the Indiana House. If they succeed, they’ll likely have locked down both the executive and legislative branches of state government.

With a General Assembly, the superintendent of public instruction and a popular governor agitating for merit pay, where would ISTA turn for support?

If ISTA fell back on voters, would voters instead ask how ISTA is contributing to the solution?

What are your thoughts? Is ISTA backing itself off a cliff?

 

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  • UNIONS=FAULT
    Your comment is accurate. ISTA has always been similiar to UAW. Now with the significant demise of the US automakers, the spotlight is shinning a little brighter on ISTA and the truth hurts. What suggestions for improving the schools do they have? They are spinless thugs only wanting money for Obama and the democratic establishment. I can;t wait until election day!!!!
  • Excuse me?
    Your assertion that UAW autoworkers are lavishly compensated is simply false. They make a middle income doing a very hard job. That's the way it should be. If you want to criticize people who make too much, maybe you should concentrate on the CEOs who make 360 times the pay of the average worker. The income disparity is back to 1930s levels.

    Teachers' pay is anything but lavish and their pay should not be pegged to the economy. their function is vital to our economy in the future. They are the foundation of our success and their pay should be lowered nor should they take ANY concessions. Rumors of "lazy" teachers is simply a lie just like union busters lie about "lazy" autoworkers.

    The "blame" lies with our economy. When parents aren't doing well, kids will suffer and their grades and education will suffer. Getting middle income folks jobs will solve this "problem" of low test scores as well as enough money to pay the teachers. Blaming the teachers is union busting propaganda which will destroy our economic infrastructure and the result will be a permanently high unemployment rate.
    • Race to the Bottom?
      Bennett and the Governor seem more focused upon decreasing teacher pay and lowering educational funding than improving educational achievement.

      Do they expect to hire the best possible teachers with wages similar to working at McDonalds or Walmart?

      Do they so lack personal skills that they think ultimatums and threats will lead to a positive outcome?
      • No different
        Teachers are no different than any other profession. Similar to lawyers, auto workers, engineers, professional athletes, and waiters, some are great and some suck. It's human nature. So the question shouldn't be if pay for performance works for teachers, but rather whether pay for performance works for people.
      • Teacher Pay
        I have, myself, never been a huge union supporter. I have witnessed first hand what they have done to our auto industry, and yes most UAW workers ARE overpaid for the level of education that they attained. However, the flip side of that discussion is that management is equally guilty of allowing the UAW to run all over them.

        But, to the point. I am 100% behind the ISTA on this one. Our state superintendent wants to tie teacher pay to students performance. Exactly how do you do that when you have students, and for that matter partent, who simply don't care how they perform in school.

        What about the students who don't do homework, don't even try to listen in class, skip class on test day, etc. I could go on and on. We are going to base teacher pay on something that has become out of their control.

        Not at all fair. If our state school superintendent understood what is going on in the classrooms today, maybe he would change his mind. But until he does, the ISTA is the only voice protecting our teachers.

        I don't know why anyone would want to be a teacher these days.

        GO ISTA!!!!!!!
      • pay should not equal student performance
        This is a complicated issue which many previous comments have touched upon. But, what about administrators that side with parents who could care less rather than the teachers teaching the children? Why should the teachers' pay be tied to performance when their boss won't even back them up. All that will happen with pay tied to performance is that good teachers will either a)join a better school district leaving poorer districts with less educated students or b) find another profession.
        I don't object to some pay for performance, but it should be considered a bonus and not a portion of salary.
      • One more thing...
        I know many teachers. No teacher I know behaves as if they are entitled. They are educated and care about their students - otherwise they wouldn't want to be teachers. To compare them to auto workers who admittedly perform an important task, but lack the education and get paid 2-3 times more than some teachers and then are paid not to work because of a deal their union made, is a shameful proposal to make.
      • Who would want to be teachers if pay is lower?

        We currently have a lack of people even wanting to become teachers. Rules prevent classroom order. Teaching was more rewarding in past years.

        The idea that one can encourage the best young people to go into teaching while killing the union is not logical. One normally does not select to a college degree where the revenue or personal reward is low. Teaching inner city schools is rewarding only in knowing you are doing better than anyone else can do....but still loosing. Better jobs without the frustration are available and we see many a teacher move to industry. Look at the current drop-out rate for special education teachers. Very few people can perform under the circumstances.

        As a side note; in the 1970's IPS schools were winners in sports and education. What changed....our state implemented welfare programs that rewarded single-parent families. We used to have racial mix of the jail population that matched the city population. A race is not more likely to be jailed. A fatherless child is more likely to be jailed, dropout of school, etc.

        A simple change....leave no parent behind!!! Equal time and equal support to help the schools?
      • Who would want to be teachers if pay is lower?

        We currently have a lack of people even wanting to become teachers. Rules prevent classroom order. Teaching was more rewarding in past years.

        The idea that one can encourage the best young people to go into teaching while killing the union is not logical. One normally does not select to a college degree where the revenue or personal reward is low. Teaching inner city schools is rewarding only in knowing you are doing better than anyone else can do....but still loosing. Better jobs without the frustration are available and we see many a teacher move to industry. Look at the current drop-out rate for special education teachers. Very few people can perform under the circumstances.

        As a side note; in the 1970's IPS schools were winners in sports and education. What changed....our state implemented welfare programs that rewarded single-parent families. We used to have racial mix of the jail population that matched the city population. A race is not more likely to be jailed. A fatherless child is more likely to be jailed, dropout of school, etc.

        A simple change....leave no parent behind!!! Equal time and equal support to help the schools?
      • You're Wrong
        If, as you assert, the economy is to blame and not the teachers, how come student test scores decreased when the economy was roaring full steam ahead. The teachers union has become like the UAW, more concerned with their work schedule then the product. Thank God for charter schools. At least when they fail, they disappear. When public schools fail they just get more money. Explain the logic to me. Let's stop wasting money on people who don't want to learn and give it to the best and the brightest, so our country can once again excel in math and science.
      • A teacher's opinion
        I am a public school teacher and I am proud to have the ISTA working to keep things fair, not lavish by any means. Pay based on student performance is a terrible idea. Few teachers would take on the challenge of working with students with special needs, learning disabilities, etc. These students CAN make progress, but it is often not as fast or as much progress as the general education students. How fair is that? We cannot base pay on student performance alone. As others have said, there are many students with NO motivation and NO support from home. And the sad part, I am a kindergarten teacher.
        I agree with the comment about lazy teachers. I am all for getting rid of them, but letting teachers go should be based mostly on TEACHER performance, not student performance. I have met MANY lazy, terrible teachers of gifted students. Well, according to their students' performance, that teacher should get more pay? That is ridiculous.
        I support the ISTA completely, but I do wish there was away to get rid of those terrible teachers. It should be based on TEACHER performance, no matter how many years of experience. And yes, obviously student performance plays some part in that. However, basing pay on that is not the solution. I want to keep the pay scales as they are - based on years of experience, but there should be some way to get rid of lazy, terrible teachers.
        Comparing the ISTA to the UAW is ridiculous. I don�t leave when the whistle blows. I don�t set down my tools and not think about working until the next work day. My students, and how I can help them succeed, are on my mind every minute of every day. I work evenings, weekends, and summers (on MY own time) to be the best teacher I can be.
      • No DUH!!
        Yep; the ISTA is definitely part of the problem. They're not BACKING towards the cliff; they're running full speed ahead at it!
        The GOOD teachers should be welcoming performance based compensation - and yes, doctors and lawyers ARE paid for performance! The good lawyers and doctors have plenty of clients/patients... and thus, more income. Teachers should be no different. Become part of the solution, not part of the problem. I'd just note that there are schools - in disadvantaged neighborhoods, no less - that ARE successfully turning out grads... WITHOUT taxpayer support, and WITHOUT union meddling.
        Nuts!
      • Pay Great Teachers More
        JULIE makes great points. Focus on teacher performance for pay increases - not student performance. Student performance is based on dozens of variables a classroom teacher has little or no influence over. There are plently of other benchmarks that can be used to assess whether a teacher is doing an exceptional job besides standarized test scores. By the way, teacher compensation will never be a perfect, completely "fair" system -- too expect otherwise is foolish. However, the current model based mostly on senority is a huge failure.
      • no pitty
        I have had many teachers who openly admitted that the ISTA was beginning to go too far. If teachers are going to complain about not making enough they can make the same effort high school and college students across the nation make... Find a summer job. I had teachers who did landscaping, worked at restaurants, and at the library. They actually enjoyed the change of pace and that money over the summer allowed them to make a good living. Teacher salary is exceptional for the amount of days they work even though they may have to spend a few nights here and there up grading papers. The best teachers I had focused on our learning in class and then gave us short and quick writing assignments that would show if we really learned the material. The classes with tons of fill in the blank homework just ended up being tons of people cheating off of each other... Why grade more less affective assignments. Teachers just need to be smarter about the assignments they give and humble themselves to taking a summer job if they really feel the need for more money.
      • Performance Measurements
        Somehow we need to be able to measure teacher performance and reward those who do outstanding jobs and terminate those who are inadequate. Over 99% of teachers across the country receive a "satisfactory" job rating. That is what needs to be changed the most. Teachers must be accountable for their performance and unfortunately everyone is getting a free ride in the current system.
      • Working at McDonalds?
        I agree teachers are not the highest paid people in the world but they make more than someone working at McDonalds or Walmart. Starting teachers are looking at around 30k or so working 40hr for 50 weeks at $9 bucks (high for McDonalds) would only be 18k. O yeah and teachers are not working 50 weeks a year. If teachers and their unions would have been more willing to work with administrators earlier in the year maybe they would have gotten a better deal. But they wanted to hold out and for a extra % or two. Just my opinion.
      • Interesting
        I find it interesting how many of the comments regarding education are riddled with typographical errors and improper punctuation. Pay for performance is does not equal less pay; it equals fair pay. It is proposed that 51% of the pay is attributed to student improvement. Though that is the majority of the basis for pay, the remaining 49% would be based on more subjective matters. In my opinion, teachers are not under paid. The support for this opinion is twofold: 1) divide a teacher's salary by the number of days the teacher works. Now multiply it by the number of days most other professions work. You will find that most teachers are paid exceptionally well. 2) Very few careers allow for an employee to be protected with tenure after a specified number of years of employment. Personally, I would be willing to make less money if I had that strong of a sense of job security. I married a teacher, and have the utmost respect for the profession. Tony Bennett and ISTA are both acting inappropriately. The conversation needs to be how to fix the problem; not determining who is at fault. The damage is done. Now, let's fix it!
        • Teacher Pay
          Yes, if you break down the amount teachers are paid by CONTRACT hours, it seems like we are well paid. However, I know of few teachers that only work contract hours. I work at LEAST 2 hours past contract time practically every single day, I work on the weekends, plus I work during the summer on my own time. I also have a part-time summer job. Now let's figure out my hourly pay and you will see that I make about what an employee of McDonald's makes per hour, maybe less. Now subtract all of my own money I spend on my classroom, which is hundreds of dollars each year. I make even less. Don't forget about the extra hours I work during orientation, back to school night, conferences, and school events. Make sure you know the facts before you make assumptions on teacher pay.

          Those of you saying any good teacher would want student performance based pay are ridiculous. Any GOOD teacher knows the challenge of working with children with special needs or learning disabilities and would know that they would get paid less because they are not as likely to make as much progress as others. So...do I take on working with those students, knowing I would make less than a horrible teacher working with higher ability students? I should take a pay cut because I am willing to work with those students? How does that make any sense?

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