Don’t Cut Resources, Deliver Better Services

In the January 8th edition of the Economist, the article The Battle Ahead discusses the struggle of public-sector unions as the trend tends to be around cutting resources rather than creating better services. My attention was drawn to this article when it discussed teacher unions and teacher quality. In addressing this economic issue from an education point of view, the article states, “In both America and Europe it is almost as hard to reward an outstanding teacher as it is to sack a useless one.” There is also a trend to add more holidays or dropping reforms rather than increasing pay, and there is always a battle over benefits, but never pay. This argument is applicable to the future of teacher quality.

The article also states that having bad teachers in the system creates a “lousy” talent pool for employees, affecting the economy as a whole. In reading the articles I posted a couple days ago, one of the main concerns states and the federal government have is making teaching jobs more competitive and rewarding outstanding teachers. In the same issue of the Economist, the article Lessons Learned: At last, America may change the way it trains, recruits and rewards teachers, states “Union rules make it extremely hard to fire teachers who turn out to be bad at their jobs,” and that “…the debate over bad teachers ignores an equally big problem: there has been little effort to identify good ones, let alone reward them.”

The article continues that America is hoping to revamp the way teachers are hired and trained. In fact, as part of Race to the Top, school districts who come up with ways to evaluate their teachers (other than using test scores) are rewarded. The article has more information about what states have done to create their own systems and how its affect has inspired change and movement for better teachers.

As the Obama administration announced the reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which they are hoping to move prior to the next election, the revamp will take teacher quality into consideration and perhaps redefine the standards and accountability measures that determine ‘quality.’The article states,

“Messrs Duncan and Obama want to value effective teachers, not “qualified” ones. Under their plan for ESEA, states would have to improve their evaluation systems. Grants would go to states and districts that develop innovative ways to train or reward good teachers.

A fight over these plans is inevitable. However John Kline, the new Republican chairman of the House education committee, has praised Mr Duncan’s reforms. Mr Obama and the Republicans were remarkably productive in December. If the co-operation continues, they just might transform American education.”

It is time for policymakers to stop cutting resources, and  grab on to what the education system has already in order to make it better. If anything, this will help aid in ‘fixing’ the public sector at a time where it seems the public sector is trying to run like the private sector.