Teachers Should Receive Substantially Greater Pay If They Agree to Give Up Tenure
PRO (3 arguments)
If a teacher is good enough, they won’t need the safety net that tenure provides. So it’s likely the better teachers will decline tenure and in doing so, make more money. This will keep those good teachers in the classroom and also motivate better qualified candidates to join the profession since they will be attracted by the higher salaries.
According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the teaching profession has an average national starting salary of $30,377. Meanwhile, other college graduates who enter fields requiring similar training and responsibilities start at higher salaries:
Computer programmers start at an average of $43,635,
Public accounting professionals at $44,668, and
Registered nurses at $45,570.
Not only do teachers start lower than other professionals, but the more years they put into teaching, the wider the gap gets. A report from NEA Research, which is based on US census data, finds that annual pay for teachers has fallen sharply over the past 60 years in relation to the annual pay of other workers with college degrees. Throughout the nation the average earnings of workers with at least four years of college are now over 50 percent higher than the average earnings of a teacher.
The impact of giving teachers higher pay is that they will be more motivated to be good teachers. This will also motivate other college graduates to consider teaching as a career, since the pay will be as high as in other professions.
National Education Association
It is very demoralizing to other teachers when they see a senior teacher who is not well regarded, make more money just because of seniority. Merit based pay systems have been implemented in some school districts and been successful.
Cincinnati’s public school system, which experimented with performance incentives, persuaded its teachers’ union in 1997 to do a test run of merit pay. Two years later, a ten-school pilot program, designed by administrators and teachers, got under way. Based on how they scored, teachers then wound up in one of five salary categories, with poor teachers making the least money and accomplished teachers the most. The pilot proved successful. A majority of teachers involved found it fair and judged the standards used as appropriate for the whole school district. The city’s board of education adopted it in the spring of 2000. In 1969, the idea of merit pay emerged in the U.S. due to the Nixon administration and their belief that school accountability should be made a top priority. So, an experiment was initiated which tied school funding and teacher pay to students’ tests scores in Arkansas. The test scores immediately soared and improved dramatically for the state, over 11% higher than the previous year. And the teachers were dutifully rewarded, to have the test scores rise even 7% more the next year.
Aside from examples like Cincinnati and Arkansas, where merit based systems have worked, Peter Kent, vice-president of the Association of School and College Leaders, argues that there is another reason why performance-related pay should replace a system of automatic progression, and that is because it is fairer. “When I was a teacher I used to get frustrated when I felt somebody had moved up the pay scale and didn’t deserve it,” he recalls. “School leaders want a system where people who are performing well are rewarded appropriately.” Performance will not just be measured by exam results. School leaders have been putting together policies which also take in teaching ability, as tested by lesson observations, marking and contribution to the school, in advance of their implementation next September. Making sure the criteria are transparent and there is an appeal mechanism for teachers who have been treated harshly is vital, Kent adds.
If teachers know what they have to do to get a higher salary, and have recourse to a third party if they are unhappy, it is hard to argue that it will not at least be fairer than a system that allows the incompetent teachers to progress at the same rate as the dedicated teachers.
Forbes magazine; New York Times
Obviously, there are times when a teacher should be fired for the sake of the children. With tenure, firing a teacher becomes so expensive, that some school districts keep the teachers on, even though they are hurting the children’s education. According to the documentary “Waiting for Superman”, less than twenty teachers were fired in 2010 in the state of Indiana. This is inexcusable, and many more poor teachers are still teaching because tenure complicates the process of them being fired. A June 1, 2009 study by the New Teacher Project found that 81% of administrators said they knew a poorly performing tenured teacher at their school; however, 86% of all the administrators interviewed said they do not always pursue dismissal of teachers because of the costly and time consuming process. According to the NYTimes, it costs an average of $250,000 to try and fire a bad teacher or at least keep them out of the classroom. In the 2010 documentary film, The Rubber Room teachers who are removed from the classroom but awaiting hearings to see if they can be fired, are put into reassignment centers run by the New York City Department of Education. Allegedly intended to serve as temporary holding facilities for teachers accused of various kinds of misconduct who are awaiting an official hearing, these reassignment centers have become known amongst the "exiled" teachers subculture as "rubber rooms", so named after the padded cells of psychiatric hospitals. More than 600 teachers accused of misconduct have been paid to work full-time doing nothing for months or years at a time while awaiting resolution of their cases. In 2009 alone, New York spent an estimated $30 million to do this, and end up firing only 13 teachers in the end. Additionally, teachers and administrators believe that the tenure system makes it more difficult to improve education, because these bad teachers can’t be weeded out and replaced with better teachers. In an October 1, 2006 survey, 91% of school board presidents either agreed or strongly agreed that tenure impedes the progression of the education of our youth. Also, 60% of those surveyed believed that tenure doesn’t promote fair evaluations. 74% of them said that merit pay would be a healthier alternative to the failed tenure pay.
Judge, would you want your child to be taught by a teacher so bad the school wanted to fire him? Even if that teacher is removed from the classroom for gross misconduct, would you want your tax dollars to go towards paying their salary while they were sent to a “reassignment room” to read books all day and do no work at all? This is clearly a broken system and paying teachers based on merit, not tenure, is clearly the way to fix it.
New York Post
CON (3 arguments)
This debate should be weighed on whichever side best creates a more effective and just educational system.
If tenure only makes our education system worse by allowing teachers to slack off because they know they will still get paid, then why should we be rewarding teachers who are willing to “give it up”? In a landmark decision in California, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge struck down California's Teacher Tenure laws as being unconstitutional in the State of California. He found that teacher tenure laws violated student's constitutional rights to access to equal education. The case, Vergara v. California, is setting a tone of reform to California's, and possibly the country's, education system. The case was brought by a group of nine students, who argued that the current teacher tenure system keeps bad teachers in the classroom because they can't be fired for unsatisfactory performance. A June 1, 2009 study by the New Teacher Project found that 81% of school administrators knew a poorly performing tenured teacher at their school; however, 86% of administrators said they do not always pursue dismissal of teachers because of the costly and time consuming process. It can take up to 335 days to remove a tenured teacher in Michigan before the courts get involved. Furthermore, the students argued that the system forces school districts to layoff new teachers before tenured teachers, when the new teachers may be better teachers. Tenure laws maintain the "last-hired, first-fired" policy. On Feb. 24, 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Los Angeles Unified School District, claiming that basing layoffs on seniority harms younger teachers as well as "low-income students and persons of color." On Oct. 6, 2010, both sides settled to cap or end layoffs at schools. And finally, most teachers gain tenure after only two years, which isn't enough time to assess whether they are truly good teachers. A Nov. 21, 2008 study by the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education found that the first two to three years of teaching do not predict post-tenure performance. Additionally, a 2015 study by Professor Kevin Soter of Northwestern University found that switching from a tenured professor to a non-tenured professor increased the graduation rate by 1.5% and increased the likelihood that students’ pursue higher learning by 8%.
New Teacher Project, ACLU, University of Washington
Paying off teachers to give up tenure is not the right way to spend the insufficient money we are putting into our education system. It doesn’t make sense to waste the money on paying off teachers; we should use the money to make sure students have the resources and knowledge available to them so that they can succeed.
According to a recent study by Professor Kahlenberg of the American Federation of Teachers, it would require schools to pay at least 50% more to teachers in order to remove tenure. In fact, the study found that most schools do not have the extra financial assets to afford these incredible costs. This money shouldn’t be spent on helping teachers give up tenure, because it can be better spent. According to the Pew Research Center, one of the biggest cross-national tests is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which every three years measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries. The most recent PISA results, from 2015, placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science. We can see that the United States clearly lags behind its international competitors, and the money should be going towards these math and science programs that are not properly teaching our students. We aren’t able to give up money for teachers who don’t want tenure. According to a study by the Education Research Alliance of New Orleans, when schools in local New Orleans began to pay teachers to give up tenure, the schools had to dedicate a large portion of their budget to paying for these teachers to give up tenure. In fact, the study found that schools had to reallocate 15% of their yearly budgets to paying inordinate sums to teachers. The study furthered that nearly all of the 15% that had to be reallocated came in the form of budget cuts to arts programs, after school programs and special education programs.
The US is $19 trillion in debt. We shouldn’t be wasting money paying off teachers to give up tenure; this money has much better uses. Additionally, having to spend money on teachers just to give up tenure is a waste of money that can be better spent on programs that are actually effective, such as after school programs and art programs.
Pew Research Center
Every single teacher gets paid differently. For example, a tenured professor at a top notch college who has been tenured for the last 30 years will be paid significantly more than someone at a local community college who has only been tenured for a few years. Thus, the teachers with the highest incentive to choose tenure are those with the worst chances in an open job market.
According to Professor Allison Schrager, private school teachers earn on average 32% less than public school teachers. It would be impossible for schools to establish a standard for what “substantially greater pay” means since every single teacher would have different circumstances. This would allow for schools to pay teachers what they decide to give up tenure based solely on what their political or personal beliefs are. We shouldn’t allow for schools to be able to pay different sums of money based on different ideologies that don’t actually apply to the professors actual teaching. By allowing schools to decide what pay each person deserves, you open up the opportunity for administrators to allow their personal decisions to influence their respective payment for tenure, which is obviously bad because it will allow for immoral practices and unfair results.
Clearly, there is no real system setup for providing a “substantially greater pay” will only allow for personal decisions to influence their pay choices. This allows for unfair decisions and immoral pays.