Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wondering why education reform is so hard?

Largely because the teachers unions have an inside track on pulling down money for themselves, money that could have been used to educate kids. For example:
New York City is paying $81 million over two years in salaries and benefits for teachers without permanent teaching jobs, according to a report being released on Tuesday.

The teachers are part of the so-called reserve pool, which holds teachers whose positions have been eliminated, but who have yet to secure a new permanent teaching position at another school.

The reserve is an outgrowth of the city’s contract with the teachers’ union, which ended seniority rights in staffing decisions as well as the automatic transfer of teachers who had been cut because of shrinking enrollment, the closing of large schools or the elimination of particular programs. At the time, Chancellor Joel I. Klein said he would rather absorb the cost of the teachers in the reserve pool than saddle principals with teachers they did not want.

Under the contract, teachers whose positions have been eliminated from one school and cannot find another to hire them, or who simply do not look for a new job, are assigned to schools to fill in as substitute teachers or temporary replacements. They collect full teacher salary and benefits.

Teachers at those schools are required to show up every day at regular school hours and are available for principals to use as substitutes, but the principals are not required to do so. Officials at the Education Department said they did not track how often the principals used the assigned substitutes, or whether they did at all.

It's not just New York, or the U.S., it's anywhere special interest politics is allowed to prosper. New Zealand in the 1990s came closest to a complete overhaul of education, and yet one institution remained: the teachers unions lobbied to prevent any real changes to the labor market, effectively preventing schools, principles and parents, from choosing their personnel.

As for which candidate is most likely to fight these interests, it's looking like it might be McCain, though Obama may be better suited to negotiate the increasing gap between teachers unions and black voters.

No comments: