Saturday, March 31, 2007

How to improve Amtrak?

How would you go about improving Amtrak? To believe some, the solution is as simple as paying the unionized employees of Amtrak more. Sure, you couch the salary increases in talk of additional resources to address deficiencies, but the end result is the same; higher wages for those who are currently not performing.

We all recognize that the government cannot run a railroad; never could, never will. Yet, many somehow believe that government can run a monopolized system of education. Hey, if government can't run a railroad, what makes you think it can run schools? Well, of course government can't; never could - as evident, and never will.

To believe the spin, the solution to public education is the same as the solution to Amtrak; pay the current employees more. Simple solution, yet it is as ineffective as it is expensive.

There is no market for teachers with 15+ years of experience. Why? Their salary exceeds their value product. If you think I'm not correct, then find some job postings for someone with 15 years of teaching experience. In fact, other school districts are not in the market for that very same skill set.

At contract negotiations time, a school district will generate salary comparisons between itself and other local districts. District A will note that District B is paying its teachers with 20 years of experience a higher wage. So, District A will state that it has to increase salaries to match the local market for teachers with such experience. The point of this exercise is to justify salary increases in a monopolized system. But, by its own actions, District A shows that it does not even respect its own salary structure.

You see, District A would never hire a teacher with 20 years of experience at the district's negotiated rate for 20 years of experience. District A may hire the teacher and credit him or her with only ten years of experience. The reason: The district recognizes that the teacher's value product - that which he or she will produce - in not worth the salary earned by current teachers with 20 years of experience. The district recognizes that there is no additional benefit for those ten years of experience; yet the district has a salary structure that says otherwise. And, the district negotiates otherwise.

Remember, the teacher with five years of experience teaches the same 19 or so students as the teacher with 15+ years of experience. The teacher with greater experience is not producing more, he or she is simply costing more. Certainly, some reader will cite studies that show experience equals greater academic outcomes. While that is true for the first five years of a teacher's career, it is not true beyond year five. The teacher with 30 years of experience is no more productive than the teacher with six years experience; same number of students, same academic outcomes.

Now, don't get me started on the bogus claims that additional post-graduate credits improves educational outcomes. Paying a teacher more for taking multiple online post-graduate courses that are only tangentially associated with the subject matter he or she teaches is an absolute waste of tax dollars.

And, let's not to forget, administrators negotiate with the unions and benefit from any increase since administrative salary increases are usually tied to the teachers' negotiated agreement. The more that the teachers get, the more that the taxpayers' representatives in the negotiations - the administrators - receive. Hmmm, conflict of interest?!?

Improve Amtrak by raising salaries is as nutty as raising teacher salaries - and requisite property taxes - in order to improve public education. Both are bad ideas. Expensive and bad.


Anonymous said...

I'll argue that the value product of a teacher doesn't just remain static after 15 years--it declines precipitously. Comparing the "master educator"(s) (as our principal once described my son's teacher, with a straight face, conflating status with ability) against those with five, or fewer, years in the classroom is to contrast night with day. The younger teachers are energetic, enthusiastic and patient while the senior teachers dispay none of those traits. In fact, it's pretty clear in speaking with most senior teachers that retirement cannot come quickly enough. They go through the paces, day upon day, year after year like a production line worker in a cannery.

Jim Fedako said...

And, the additional experience and credits do not justify a salary that is over twice as high.

Anonymous said...

To 9:22...What a generalization and a blanket statement!As a young teacher myself (15 yrs experience), I have learned a great deal from "master"teachers. And I know MANY who are energetic, enthusiastic, and patient.And for those who are not, they need to get out of education and do something else. Perhaps the salary/experience issue needs improvement, but to offer such a stereotype is unfair. I truly believe whatever PUBLIC educators do will be viewed as negative to many of the bloggers on this site who support the views of those like Fedako. I NEVER hear positive comments about teachers from those like Mr. Fedako who are disgusted with public education and who have an agenda to speak out against public educators. It is a lose lose situation. And for those of us who love teaching, we must continue to teach children with enthusiasm, despite the negative comments. I get many emails from parents in my district thanking me for all I do for their children. This is what I will pay attention to. Because those who are obviously so angry about public education will never change their minds.If I wanted to make a lot of money, I would have chosen another career field.And whatever you say will not change that. Anger eats its own container.

Jim Fedako said...

A point of clarification: I do not dislike teachers in general; that's akin to saying I dislike nurses.

What I do not like is a system of education that is government run. And, I dislike a union that holds sway over such a system. A union that constantly fights for more and more tax dollars; including a constitutional amendment that will do nothing for children but everything for the union.

The previous writer must remember that he or she is represented by a union that cares little for children, parents, or taxpayers; a union that has a very insidious agenda for future generations.

Remember, this is a union of teachers that are so concerned about their monopoly that they would rather force students to attend failing city schools than to allow those children to seek other providers of instruction. Amazingly, that stance is spinned as being positive for children.

Yet, only the minority of city school teachers send their children to the city schools where they teach; even the Columbus superintendent sends her children elsewhere. And, I don't blame her. But, at least allow others to have the same opportunity.

During contract negotiations, as the union leadership is inciting the staff, see how much anger is generated toward the board of education, and hence, the community of taxpayers that the board represents. I trust that the writer will stand and address the rest of the riled staff and ask them all to lessen the anger and remember the taxpayers.

Have some love and only ask for market wage increases, not the typical average of almost 7% annual salary increases that Olentangy teachers have been receiving. And, only demand healthcare benefits that are similar to that which private sector employees receive.

Also, while your at it, reduce your sick days from 15 to the private sector standard of 5 or 6 annually. Also, agree to instruct more students as your experience level increases. Then, your salary increase would be mapped to a productivity increase.

Also, remember that there are many teachers at private schools that also love teaching but do not demand excessive salary increases. You can also teach in such an environment. Then, I would have nothing but praises for your efforts.

It funny, the education system runs a constant PR machine which states that education needs more money. That is the supposed "positive" story. Jump on that bandwagon and teachers consider you as a hero.

Question how the system runs, and your story is considered "negative." You are obviously bitter and angry.

But, keep in mind that if you - the writer - really believe that "(a)nd whatever you say will not change that," there is no reason to worry about the postings on this blog.

If, as I suspect, you are concerned about changing public views toward a government-run education system, you might want to continue reading to get a pulse of a growing portion of the public.

Anonymous said...

Well, 11:47, I speak to which I know, and what I know is that all of the teachers I have had experience with in our school system that have been teaching 15 years or more no longer "love teaching" as you do.

If you're so concerned about the quality of education our kids receive then why don't you speak up and get these bad (not "poor" but BAD) teachers in line? All of my kids' teachers have been fruit loops; taking such creative license with the curriculum that their lessons appear to be works of improvisation. I was astonished to read the rebuttal of a Westerville "master educator" to the recent article in the Columbus Dispatch criticizing the teaching of violent history to Kindergarteners in which she said that she teaches her students about discrimination by segregating the kids by eye color and then giving playground privileges to only one of the groups. Astonishing. Kids of that age don't discriminate or even know what discrimination is. Yet she taught them. Try to find that in the curriculum. Better yet--the curriculum clearly states "discuss our similarities". She's in gross violation of her district's curriculum mandate and she proudly--and publicly--said so. Sad.

Anonymous said...

The benefits are higher, and the pay is higher, because frankly nobody wants to be a teacher anymore. Teachers are expected not only to be educators but also parents to the students. Parents are no longer claiming responsibilty for teaching their children anything at all- it's always the teachers fault if the performance isn't high enough. Teachers work long hours out of the classroom, which aren't paid. Teachers are held more accountable for their private lives than politicians. Teachers not only teach children the subject area but also work-ethic, morality, punctuality, responsibilty, citizenship, and sometimes they're even called on to be therapists. And yet they're paid far less than marketing people, who do nothing but prey on the public. They're paid less than entertainers, who never contribute to society except in a token way to show how great they are. They're paid less than athletes, who are really just entertainers who usually just add to the crime rate.

Show me another occupation that is as single-handedly, THANKLESSLY, responsible for the outcome of generation after generation of humanity, and show me how they're paid less than a teacher.

Teachers with 15 years or more of experience are valued assets. They do effortlessly what takes a newer teacher hours or even days to prepare for. They can handle any situation, and they've taught every single kind of student. You cannot use people who never should have walked into the education profession to begin with as classic examples of experienced teachers. That would be like using Bush as an example of the typical
American president from the 18th century to the present.

Also, 7:44pm, parents teach their children discrimination and hate long before the teachers have a chance to try to show them how wrong it is.

Jim Fedako said...


"(N)obody one wants to be a teacher anymore."

That's an odd statement given that many hundreds of teachers apply for open Olentangy positions every year.

Maybe you should forewarn these individuals that no one really wants to teach.