Seattle's News Elixir

More on last night's Cola meet-and-greet and Q&A with Seattle's delegation in Olympia.

As Erica reported in her liveblog from the event, a public school teacher in the back row got off a good question about ed reformers like Rep. Reuven Carlyle adding responsibilities to teachers' workloads, but not increasing pay.

The Ave., a blog about U.W. politics and policy, picked up on the question with the higher-ed perspective.

This model of paying K-12 teachers is  a game of chicken.  The American public, through its politicians, has come to treat the public schools as a grim necessity .. like the need for a police force to deal with other people’s problems or sewer workers to keep the drains flowing.  They, the public, want services for the lowest possible price.  They do not want to see the jails or the sewers or the schools.

The unions’ classical answer has been to address pay on a per hour basis and negotiate work rules .  Opposition to charter schools and merit pay reflects a belief, probably a correct belief, that “the system” is not going to reward hard work with good pay.

The result?  The game of chicken drives families with means out of the public school system.  Losing those families means losing political clout.  The schools look more and more like a device to deal with the needs of the poor .. a charity.

At the University level we are not paid on an hourly basis at all.  We are expected to work 24/7 at our professions.  Measures of success for promotion are very, very tough.

There is a price to pay for this model too.  While in many fields the pay is very good, low paid faculty, esp. at the lecturers and teaching assistant levels, are exploited.  Highly educated young faculty with PhD’s in less remunerative subject areas .. the humanities especially … compete for jobs that may pay less than  the level of McDonald’s.  Many of these jobs leave the young faculty little time out of their 24/7 workday to pursue the professional learning, “research,”  that is necessary to the argument that a college experience is more than a download from Wikipedia.

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