Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Entrenched Job Security"

A friend of mine recently wrote:

"For other contexts, staying in the classroom may the best option- teaching has lots of perks that are often underappreciated- relative stability when compared to other job options based on education/experience, shorter work year, decent benefits, and again- entrenched job security despite what many actually perceive...."

"Entrenched job security" is a necessary feature of the sort of deferred compensation schemes historically employed in civil service.  What "entrenched job security" really means is robust due process, i.e. one can only be fired for just cause related to actual performance, not because you are the wrong race, you didn't give the school board chair's daughter an A, a younger teacher would be cheaper, or the superintendent's niece needs a job.  I am willing to talk about ways that due process has become too robust, but I strongly believe that due process and seniority protections are absolutely necessary corollaries of the single salary schedule.

As I've written before, we have a system that provides civil servants with the greatest rewards in terms of top level salaries and dignified pensions in exchange for longevity.  There's a whole raft of assumptions built into this system, but in the final analysis, it is what it is.  Unless you have a reasonable expectation that you can make it to retirement in your chosen profession, a single salary schedule is not worth the paper it is printed on.

Another historical thing to remember is that government employees and their unions have tended to opt for pensions and benefits at the expense of salaries.  If these seem generous, it is because we have paid for them with cold hard cash.

In the current environment it would be a lot safer to take the cash up front.  We are governed by a kleptocracy that is seeking to steal the deferred compensation not only of teachers, but of all manner of government workers.  Our due process rights, pensions and benefits (thanks to our unions - not just NEA and AFT but all public sector unions) are a slap in the face to private industry, and create pressure for decent treatment for all workers.  Very inconvenient for the 1%....

To be clear, I am not a fan of the single salary schedule, and it's accompanying arrangements. I would prefer to explore different compensation methods.  The political/economic problem is that these methods would accelerate payment of wages and benefits from the future to the present.  Let's face it - it's far cheaper to be unfair to people, to get rid of expensive employees, and to steal their deferred compensation, than it would be to create rational strategic compensation plans that pay people today for the work they do today.

The recent release of test data in NYC is part of an ongoing effort to flush the system of mid-end career educators.  People are not excrement; they should never be flushed.  We must be offended when people are treated this way, not because we are fellow teachers, but because we are fellow human beings.  Even if we were not teachers, I would claim we would have a moral obligation to be offended by what is at best basic unfairness and at worst criminal contempt for human beings.

Teacher compensation is not bunch of "perks" and rights that other people do not have.  That plays right into the so-called "reform" narrative playing out in Indiana, Wisconsin, NYC, etc.  Rather, we have earned these things.  Want to talk about other ways of doing business Mr. Politician?  I'm all ears.  But we're not going to fund it through wholesale theft.  Crime is un-American - at least in the America I aspire to.

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