cross posted at Right Michigan
You will find few people that are not concerned with the educational system in this state and in this country. When measured against the accomplishments of other nations around the world, America is not considered anywhere near the top, and when compared to other states in this nation, tens of thousands of Michigan students are corralled in some of the most dismally performing public school systems from sea to shining sea.
When it comes to education, the success of any Michigan child is essentially dependent upon a roll of the dice. If a child is, for example, born below Eight Mile, his or her chances of ever graduating are about a third of what they are in many other parts of the state, and a diploma, if ever received at all, will often times be worth little more than the paper it is printed on.
If a child is born in Bloomfield Hills, his or her education will be partially financed through state coffers to the tune of approximately $12,000 per year. If that student's cousin is so unfortunate as to be born in Oscoda County, the cousin's education will be worth about $7,000 per year to Lansing.
It is relatively easy to determine how much money is being spent per student in a classroom, or how much money is being invested into each classroom.
What is harder to quantify is the quality of the instruction. Let's be honest, while most of us had great learning opportunities with many wonderful teachers, we all had at least one teacher (and probably several) who was flat out lousy.
Many teachers are lousy because they simply cannot relate to children, are bored, are too easily distracted, cannot control a classroom, are poor communicators, lack the proper temperament, or simply need to slog through the last few years of a government paycheck before they can begin to collect a lucrative government retirement check.
While teachers are plentiful, quality teachers are not as available. To remedy this our state has wisely adopted a legal framework in which a crappy teacher is treated exactly the same as the best teacher in the state. The bored teacher will get the same raise as the invigorated one. But, which classroom do you suppose the motivated student would rather sit in?
While parents have no doubt who the good and lousy teachers are, not all organizations are as concerned with this triviality.
The Michigan Education Association--a collective organization with philosophical ties more closely associated with Karl Marx than with Milton Friedman, is one such organization. Now, I don't for a second believe that the MEA desires vast swathes of their membership to be lousy, in fact, they probably want the opposite, but they are not paid union dues to improve teacher quality or to even concern themselves with it overmuch. At the MEA, compensation isn't just job one, its job only.
The MEA has one mission when it comes to its members, and that is to gather for each and every one of them the best benefit and pay package possible. The best teacher in the school will get the same raise as the worst teacher. The teacher who makes students fear the prospect of asking for help with assignments will get the same rate increase as the teacher who spends hours upon hours with students poring over details. The teacher that makes telephone calls to parents will get the same increase as the teacher that refuses to talk to parents outside of conference hour.
It is a practice that can only have a negative effect on good teachers.
When the MEA measures the effectiveness of its operations it has to be much more pleased with its results than many Michigan school districts are with theirs. The MEA desperately needs taxpayers to pony up more funds so that its members can continue to enjoy some of the nation's highest teacher salaries while the taxpayers already suffer with the worst state economy in the country.
In an effort to keep things thus, the MEA has organized a protest at the State Capitol today to encourage lawmakers to increase funding to the public schools.
Members of Michigan's largest teachers union were expected to rally in support of what they call adequate and stable funding for public schools at the state Capitol.Hey, isn't today a school day?
The Michigan Education Association wants more money for schools but the cash will be difficult to find given the state's financial problems. Lawmakers don't appear willing to consider tax increases.
The rally was set for Friday.
The state faces a projected overall budget deficit of about $1.7 billion for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. School funding cuts are possible as lawmakers continue to debate budget solutions.
The MEA has opposed some of the proposals Gov. Jennifer Granholm and lawmakers have made to try and save money, including a proposal aimed at prodding more teachers into retirement.
I love many teachers and I thank them often (the good ones) for the efforts that they have invested in my children. I love them because I know that they don't need to put in that effort, and my children have been the recipients of their sacrifice. Good teachers today are a blessing because, by legal framework, they go above and beyond what is required of them.
The MEA has always talked a good game and has performed well in its one small corner of public education. (You know, that portion that doesn't concern itself so much with the quality of the education but demands that it cost a lot.)
The MEA knows that this is an "Us versus Them" situation. They know where their salaries are and that their benefit packages are unsustainable. They know that the system they have helped to hammer into place not only hobbles the earnings potential of the very best teachers, but also rewards those that are incompetent and keeps them in a profession that deserves better participants. They know where the economy is--that taxpayers are fleeing this state by the thousands and that homes that once had children playing in the front yard now sit behind for sale signs.
Fiscal sanity must soon return to this state and country if we are to survive. However, as the MEA marches today on the Capitol lawn asking for more money, taxpayers across the state are loading up the moving van.