I have to at least give credit the WSJ for continuing to keep education front and center of their Sunday opinion section. This last Sunday, under the headline “Protect kids from cuts” the WSJ takes on the issue of closing the remaining Madison SD budget gap and editorializes for a pay freeze for teaching staff. Although the current budget situation probably makes reducing compensation for staff in one way or another inevitable, I don’t think that devaluing the teaching profession can be construed as “Protecting kids”. After all, the number one factor in educational outcomes is the placement of a highly qualified teacher in front of each class.
Attracting quality teachers means we have to be sure it is rewarding profession, so balancing the budget through reductions in teacher compensation is in the long term unsustainable. If the current situation was a one or two year problem then a freeze might serve as a bridge to recovery, and although I don’t know the Madison situation I’m pretty sure their problems are similar to ours: shortfalls that extend year after year for the foreseeable future. The article notes that the Madison teachers receive the “standard” 1% raise this year. This year that seems inappropriate, but the fact that the same 1% is the “standard” every year since 1993 is also a problem.
I don’t think that 1% annual raises have been “standard since 1993”. I would certainly like to see a substantive change in teacher compensation, replacing the current one size fits all approach.
Current Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes, noted in May, 2005 that:
Here is an excerpt from the article in this morning’s State Journal that deserves comment: Matthews said it was worth looking at whether layoffs can be avoided, but he was less optimistic about finding ways to achieve that.
He said MTI’s policy is that members have to have decent wages, even if it means some jobs are lost.
The last teachers contract provided a 1 percent increase in wage scales for each of the past two years. This year’s salary and benefits increase, including raises for seniority or advanced degrees, was projected at 4.9 percent, or $8.48 million. Teachers’ salaries range from $29,324 to $74,380.
“The young teachers are really hurting,” Matthews said, adding that the district is having difficulty attracting teachers because of its starting pay.
Mr. Matthews states that young teachers are really hurting. I assume by “young” he means “recently-hired.” On a state-wide basis, the starting salary for Madison’s teachers ranks lower, relatively speaking, than its salaries for more experienced teachers. Compared to other teacher pay scales in the state, Madison’s scale seems weighted relatively more toward the more-experienced teachers and less toward starting teachers. This has to be a consequence of the union’s bargaining strategy – the union must have bargained over the years for more money at the top and less at the bottom, again relatively speaking. The union is entitled to follow whatever strategy it wants, but it is disingenuous for Mr. Matthews to justify an apparent reluctance to consider different bargaining approaches on the basis of their possible impact on “young teachers.”
According to the article, Mr. Matthews also stated that “the district is having trouble attracting teachers because of its starting pay.” Can this possibly be true? Here’s an excerpt from Jason Shepard’s top-notch article in Isthmus last week, “Even with a UW degree, landing a job in Madison isn’t easy. For every hire made by the Madison district, five applicants are rejected. June Glennon, the district’s employment manager, says more than 1,200 people have applied for teaching jobs next year.”