Posted: 03/07/15 10:44, Edited: 03/07/15 11:13
by Dave Mindeman
On Almanac last night, the political panel had a discussion about the Education Bill that passed in the MN House-- the changes to LIFO.
It is disturbing to me that the message has been framed and locked in by the Republicans. They insist this is about teacher "quality". And it is NOT.
There has been some talk creeping into the conversation about the real problem in education which is a teacher shortage and lack of minority hiring. But the Republicans have focused on this "quality" issue in hopes that they can convince the public that the teacher's union have made it "impossible" to get rid of bad teachers.
KSTP/Channel 5 piled on by doing a poll (which to me was a push poll) that got their desired result of 80% in favor of "quality" over "seniority". The question insinuated that "quality" and "seniority" were unrelated - which is absolutely false. Experienced teachers are the best teachers.
But the framing was complete and Republicans are quoting the poll at every opportunity. The bill has passed the House and has a chance in the Senate with Senators like Terri Bonoff regurgitating the GOP talking points. I don't know if Gov. Dayton will sign the bill - he has mixed feelings, but he has vetoed such bills in the past.
Now I wouldn't mind some tweaks to the concept - like exempting Special and special needs teachers or other hard to fill positions. Because the real problem, as I have said before, is teacher shortages.
Changing LIFO is NOT going to improve teacher "quality". If school districts really want to change that so bad, they could collectively bargain it out. But the truth is, they don't do that. And the reason for that is that without something tangible like LIFO to use, the districts would be forced into subjective decisions that can cause challenges and even lawsuits.
But let's get back to the real problem - teacher shortages. How do we solve that? Part of this GOP education bill tries to streamline teacher licensure. Which we actually already did a few years ago, but the process is not proceeding fast enough for our legislature.
They want a fast track to licenses for Teach For America workers, for out of state transfers, for private sector business people. Right now, that can be difficult to do because Minnesota has tough standards for licensure.
I find it a little ironic that a bill that focuses on "quality" focuses on a provision that actually reduces quality standards for license. But let's move on.
So how do we attract more teachers?
Well, it should be noted that Minnesota has some of the toughest teaching standards in the nation, yet ranks 28th in the nation for average starting teacher salary.
Minnesota's average starting teacher salary is $34,505. The national average is $36,141. Compare that to a $9 per hour minimum wage full time which equal $18,720 and the poverty guideline for the US, which is $23,283 for a family of 4.
We profess to want a "quality" teacher in every classroom, yet we pay them wages that lets them scrape by.
In Alaska, teachers are paid over $44,000. Gosh, even in Alabama, they pay more - $36,198. Yet, here in Minnesota we say we highly value education, but apparently don't value teachers.
Frankly, how do we expect to attract more teachers in Minnesota? Why would a teacher from another state move to Minnesota and take a cut in salary. And never mind that business people be given a fast track to a Minnesota license.....why would they ever work for that kind of salary?
And if teachers can't even have any job security at that salary level (seniority/tenure), then is it any wonder they leave the profession in droves?
When we have this "every kid deserves to have a quality teacher" discussion, let's get to the real bottom line. We want tough standards to maintain that quality but we also need to pay these professionals what they deserve. Education costs Minnesota a lot of money....but the "quality" teaching that we say we want, will cost a whole lot more.
Until we are willing to stop demagoguing these periphery issues and start dealing with the cost and professional value of the teaching profession, we will continue to have partisan witch hunts attacking the teacher's union.
The House GOP education bill may find its way into law, but you know what?
It will solve nothing.