Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rhee says her plan is sustainable

An article in the WaPo today has Chancellor Rhee asserting that her pay plan for teachers is sustainable. Rhee had a consulting firm construct some economic models, and they say that there should be enough money to pay for the raises with district dollars in five years.

Of course, not everyone will take the Chancellor's statements at face value. The documents related to the consultant's research are confidential, as they are part of the contract negotiations. Chancellor Rhee has declined to name the private foundations that are going to fund these raises, and that has a lot of people worried too. There are others who think it's just generally bad news to fund public schools with private funds.

I personally think Rhee's pay plan makes sense -- teachers in DCPS require a special set of talents and skills, and simple supply and demand says when you need something that's in short supply to have to pay more for it. But Rhee's plan went nowhere with the union, and who knows if it ever will. The biggest problem, of course, is that teachers don't want to give up tenure, which is what Rhee was asking for in exchange for the increased pay.

I know a dicussion of "Rhee" and "Contract Negotiations" usually devolves into unbridled craziness (from both sides), but I'm willing to brave these waters anyway. Here's my question: what exactly are we, as teachers, willing to give up in order to receive higher pay? Is the answer, "nothing" and we want to remain on the same pay scale? Is the answer "tenure rights" and we want Rhee's scale? Or is there some in-between point that we'd be willing to settle on?

For me, I say screw tenure. This isn't Tennessee in 1926 and we're not going to get fired for teaching evolution or being agnostic. I do my job well, and I'm not concerned about getting the axe. The increased salary would allow me (and many other teachers) to afford to own property in DC -- something that is pretty much out of the question right now. So my vote is to go with Rhee's pay plan. Of course, that's just one vote.


Dee Does The District said...

I say screw tenure, too.

And my mother, a thirty+ year veteran in New Jersey agreed... until she went to an affluent district where every parent thought their Johnny or Suzie was the next Albert Einstein and they only deserved A+s on the report cards. Non-tenured teachers either bow to parent wishes or they are out.

People are very sensitive when it comes to their children. And unfortunately, not all administrators have the cojones to stand up to bossy parents. They would rather oust a teacher than deal with a verbal berating over the phone or in the office.

There's no perfect solution. Nevertheless, I still think tenure ought to be abolished.

Glenn Watson said...

Rhee is offering to double teacher pay using an unnamed source of money during en economic downturn and all teachers have to do is give up their hard won job security.

If/when the money runs out will the tenure be given back?

Final question, is she also selling bridges?

Sam said...

I don't think tenure should be abolished completely, because right now, tenure is the only thing guaranteeing you a job in the district when your position gets excessed from your school's budget. Not all excessed teachers are bad. Also, the way Rhee closes a school at the drop of a hat, what would happen to people whose schools close? Yes, you and I are young and I don't plan to teach forever, but those who do need some protection from these realities. Especially if you are at a step 10 or below--as you know other districts don't hire new teachers at a higher salary than this and we all know charters don't hire fourtysomethings.

What we DO need, I agree, is a fair, clear cut process to fire bad teachers-tenured or non-tenured. I liked the tier system because it allowed for both to coexist in the system. Too bad we'll never see it happen.

Sam said...

I meant to say step 10 or above

The New Teacher on the Block said...

I'm with you and I think the 2 tiered system is a great compromise, personally. I think the Union has misrepresented the tier system to make people think that tenure must be sacrificed- it doesn't and teachers who don't want to sacrifice it still get raises (albeit smaller ones, but still...). I do understand the concerns about the funds and where they're going to come from, but if we sign a contract stating a certain amount of money, they're going to have to come up with it somehow.
I am concerned that Rhee has burned too many bridges and that she is not going to be able to garner support for any plan she proposes, even if its the most beautiful and beneficial plan imaginable. I teach at a school with many veteran teachers and they are CONVINCED that she is out to get them and no amount of cajoling could make them think otherwise. I know they are not willing to give an inch because they are sure she would take a mile. And by a mile I mean their jobs. They would surely not give up tenure, but will not accept the red tier either, for reasons unknown to me.

lodesterre said...

This plan has many faults. The main one is that the city council is obligated to cover the foundation commitments if they either bow out or go bankrupt (please don't say bankruptcy is not possible - no one ever thought Lehman Bros. or Bear Stearns would become history either).
The council is facing an $800 million shortfall next year - why would they saddle themselves with this kind of commitment on the basis of unnamed donors?

Another is this idea of getting back SPED money for students who receive outside services, such as those they receive at Kingsbury, paid for by DCPS. Who thinks Rhee is going to transform SPED so that parents won't have to sue for lack of services anytime soon? Raise your hand.

She is planning with money she does not have instead of making a budget with the money she does have. That is no way to run a business and that is what she sees DCPS as - a business.

I'm not at all against making more money. I could use it as could any one of us. I am not so concerned about tenure but I do want the protections that are needed so that I can do my job honestly. Dee pointed out some problems that can occur. There are so many others. It may not be 1926 but you would be amazed at what can still get you fired in this day and age. Don't sell away your right to due process.

Take a look at the charter schools in NY and in LA that have asked the unions to step in. They have all cited the same complaints - lack of a coherent, consistent evaluation system, arbitrary firings and teachers being kept out of the decision making process for their schools. I believe Rhee's plan will give us exactly these problems.

lodesterre said...

I also meant to add that this salary does not necessarily mean teachers will be able to afford a house in DC. It would very much depend on where you wanted to live. Affordability is figured at twice your annual salary - so $200,000 to $250,000 would be what most teachers on such salary could afford. Then you would need about 20% for a down-payment. So you are talking places like Petworth, the Southeast and some parts Southwest. DC real estate has only gone off 2% to what it was before the crash, which means that most places are still pretty expensive and it is much harder to get financed.

Anonymous said...

Gee, thanks for lumping Petworth in with SE. The house next door to me in Petworth is for sale for half a million dollars. Sure, teachers can't afford Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park or around AU, traditionally white neighborhoods (those residents hate their hoods to be referred to as such, but it's true). But looking carefully, there are house to buy thatthird and fourth year teachers could afford, especially these days.

Glenn Watson said...

If the salary of teachers increases and this causes the demand for houses in DC to increase then the price of houses in DC will increase. How much depends on the elasticity of demand for houses in DC.

The biggest problem I have with Rhees’s solution is that it is not scalable.

Maybe Rhee has found a billionaire to fund her raise but this is not a realistic option for other school systems.

If Rhee is trying to make the DC system a shining example for the nation then this method is cheating.

If she takes away tenure and gives raises and by some miracle student scores increase then other systems will say, ‘Well, we cannot afford the raises but we can take away tenure. It worked for Rhee.’

That’s why the national Union has to get involved.

Anonymous said...

Union means to stand as one together. If you sign for two tiers you are no longer will be a Union. I predict if this were to happen only certain people who get a raise. Also the language says a teacher could make up to 130,000 with merit pay. Well up to can be anywhere from .01 to the $40,000 extra she claims people on the green tier would make. So if you got a $100 dollar bonus she would have met her obligation. All the money is downtown in 825 I would love to see how much 825 cost DCPS and those employees are not directly serving children.It6's a ploy to break the union, and I bet Ivy league grads TFA, DCtF and other alternative programs teacher would recieve the bulk of this so called money.

lodesterre said...

I didn't mean to lump Petworth in with SE or anywhere else negatively. I said what I said after a conversation I had with a very good real estate agent. I asked her where someone making $100,000 or so plus possible bonus money would be able to buy in DC.

There are "million" dollar houses in a lot of places - Shaw for instance has plenty. But in a lot of cases in areas like that the prices are inflated in the hope that the area is going to be the next big place to move.

Ms. George said...

I wonder if someone here could answer my questions. I've posted them on several sites that discuss merit pay (some for and some against) TFA,, etc. I'm not bashing anyone, but I'd like to understand how merit pay would work and I've never seen anyone (Rhee, Weingarten, Bloomberg/Klein, Duncan, et al) mention or even illuminate this. I can't support or argue against something that I do not fully understand.

Who gets merit pay? How is merit pay measured? If it is by test scores, what tests? I am an ELA teacher in NY. We have 3-8 grade tests in Math and ELA. Are only those teachers responsible for the growth of the kids? Science and Social Studies are in 4th (Sci) 5th (SS) and 8th (both). Are those teachers only eligible for merit pay for the students the year they have them (so 6th and 7th are out)? What about Art, Tech, Home and Careers (fed mandated), Second Language (prof. test in 8th), Music, Health, or the K-2 teachers, what about HS?

One last comment: I am fully aware of less than stellar teachers. I see people who have no business teaching, or who should have left years ago. I do not understand how some of them rec'd tenure. However, I have rarely, if ever, heard people (Education gurus as well as the community) discuss student (and parent) responsibility for his/her own (or child's) education. I tell my lovelies that they have a job as much as I do. Good teachers learn as much as they teach, but students have to participate in and help create their future. After all, we are already living ours.

Anonymous said...

First, I'm not a teacher, and don't know the inner political workings of the teachers union. It seems as though the largest concern across a few of these blogs is arbitrary firings rather than uneven pay a merit based system would introduce.

Rather than focusing on a 100% rejection of Rhee's merit based system, couldn't the union offer a tenure alternative that would allow non-performing teachers to be removed while protecting against political (parents/admin) firings.

It seems if the union wanted to, they could play a crucial role in developing policy that would ensure that Rhee is forced to remove ONLY non-performing teachers.

jmannii said...

The Union submitted a contract proposal to Rhee several weeks ago. I am dying to know what she thinks. I wonder how long she has to look at it and make a decision.