A Voice in the Wilderness In Defense of "Mere Conservatism"


Tribune Editorial Page: Keep The Best Teachers

The Chicago Tribune is anything but a bastion of conservative opinions, but today's opinion from the editorial page is something all Americans ought to be able to get behind.

Last fall, Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee laid off 229 teachers. Here's what was unusual about that: She chose who would stay and who would go based on the competence of the teachers.

That's a radical departure for public education. Most schools across the country make personnel decisions largely or entirely based on seniority. Last in, first out. Illinois law requires that teacher layoffs be based on seniority unless a school district and its local union negotiate different rules. Result: seniority is the deciding factor everywhere, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. So law and custom protect older teachers — whether they're good teachers or bad teachers.

What a shock to learn that the Peoples' Republic of Illinois has such a backwards, ineffective system for hiring and firing teachers!

Many cash-strapped Illinois school districts face the prospect of layoffs in the coming months. Unless outdated rules are scrapped, the schools will have to fire some of their best teachers because they happen to be younger teachers.

They also will have to fire more teachers. Younger teachers have lower salaries, so when schools operate strictly on seniority, they have to let more teachers go to achieve a certain dollar savings.

Yes, there is value in experience. But the National Council on Teacher Quality reports that "teachers in their third year of teaching are generally about as effective as long-tenured teachers."

Seniority can be considered, but along with such factors as competence, drive, classroom performance and willingness to learn new skills. Younger teachers, for instance, may be more computer-savvy and thus more capable of teaching the tech skills children need to succeed.

I don't think it's a stretch to say that almost everyone has a teacher who impacted their life in a positive way.  We want to honor teachers, and we want the best possible teachers in our school systems.  But tax dollars aren't charity to be doled out based on a general feeling of good will towards people who enter the teaching profession.  People must earn those dollars, same as any other job.

And it is the constitutional duty of those running these bloated bureacracies at the state and federal level to do everything in their power to see that the best possible people are hired in the most efficient way.

All governments have to find ways to lure and keep the best and brightest in their work force. Where is that more important than in the classroom?

School vouchers, anyone?  Real change requires real change.   Enough talk.  If we're serious about education, then let's put our votes where our mouths are and let our elected officials know that changes like the ones the Tribune is talking about matter to us.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. younger teachers also usually have young families that live in the school district. At least in rural areas. This impacts the dollars the district takes in as well.

  2. I’m a young teacher…very conservative. This idea sounds easy enough. Although I do believe seniority should not be the sole criterion, this issue is not that simple.

    Public schools have strict budgets (as well they should). They simply will not hire a teacher with too much experience based on cost alone. They have a board and a community to which to answer. So how does an experienced teacher regain employment after a few poor-performing classes and a quick district trigger? School boards will be champing at the bit looking for ways to justify letting a long-tenured teacher go.

    This, of course, brings up merit pay, which is quite another discussion…an idea in which I also do not support. Merit pay defeats many reasons as to why teachers began educating in the first place. Who would teach the “difficult” learners? How would this affect the common practice of a teacher helping a student who is not their own? Not to mention it would be a nightmare to evaluate.

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What is “Mere Conservatism”?

The basic ideas, ideals, and values that generally define and characterize the central tenets of what today might be termed "modern conservative thought."

We believe that a proper understanding of history, economics, and theology leads to certain conclusions. Many of these are the same conclusions our Founding Fathers arrived at in constructing a "more perfect union."

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