Freddie argues that a teacher’s job security constitutes “the single most powerful incentive for someone to teach.” Let’s say he is right. Is that an incentive structure he wants to defend? It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that someone chose their profession because even if they weren’t very good at it, they’d get to keep their job.That incentive structure attracts some people you don’t want, and repels ambitious, talented, motivated people who realize that if they become a teacher, their career advancement will be blocked and their compensation lessened by hack colleagues who happened to enter the classroom a decade or two sooner.
I’d like to change this compensation structure, pay talented teachers higher salaries, reduce barriers to entry in the profession, and fire the worst teachers more cheaply. Can anyone guess what powerful political organization would stand athwart my proposals yelling “we’ll spend millions of dollars opposing any politician who dares favor this!”
In fact, as a voter, the only option I have, so long as teacher’s unions stay as powerful as they are, is to back salary increases meted out in the way the unions prefer. That means pay increases disproportionately absorbed by teachers with the most seniority, and teachers who’ve accrued the most credentials (read: masters degrees from the University of Phoenix). I am disinclined to go along with that bargain, thank you very much.
Were I trying to assemble a coalition to pass an education bill in California, I’m pretty sure I could sell a compromise that eliminated teacher’s unions and substantially raised teacher salaries to 90 percent of Republicans. Especially the elected ones. They hate teacher’s unions. I doubt I could find five Democrats who’d go along with that deal. On this matter, it is the Democratic Party that is ideologically committed to backing a powerful special interest group that makes government work less well. It is the left that allies itself with an organization that tries to thwart even the most modest attempts to experiment with new models in education, disproportionately hurts poor people and minorities with the policies they back, and by its very nature privileges teacher needs above student needs in the educational process.
What happens when the Los Angeles Times documents numerous instances where teacher’s unions fought tooth and nail on behalf of teachers demonstrably unqualified to do their jobs, thereby robbing hundreds of students every year of a good education? Will the union-backed policies responsible for these outrages be changed? Or will they continue to occur? California is a state where the legislature and the Los Angeles City Council are dominated by Democrats. I’m betting that even after they don’t make the obvious, appropriate reforms to a system that is also dominated by liberal Democrats, Freddie will continue insisting that it’s “conservative ideology” holding back public education.