Category Archives: Schools K-12

Teachers Rise Up For Raises

Source: 1A, April 3, 2018
(audio)

The success of the teachers’ strike in West Virginia, which resulted in a 5 percent pay increase, has inspired a movement among educators across the nation. Teachers and their supporters have staged demonstrations in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona, closing down some public schools in those states — and more strikes could be coming soon. Average annual wages for K-12 teachers range from $59,000 to $61,000 nationally, but many classroom educators in red states earn thousands less than the average. How are local governments addressing teachers’ demands? And how is the new national conversation over compensation altering our ideas about what a teacher is worth?

Related:
5 things to know about the teacher strike in Oklahoma
Source: Erin McHenry-Sorber, The Conversation, April 3, 2018

The Oklahoma teachers strike is about more than just pay, but rather a longstanding pattern of decline in funding for the state’s public schools.

Teacher Strikes Are Spreading Across America With No End in Sight

Source: Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, April 2, 2018

One month after a teachers’ “wildcat” strike ended with a deal to hike pay for all West Virgina state employees, teacher strikes are spreading fast across the country, with no clear endgame in sight.

In Oklahoma, teachers Monday made good on their threat to shutdown hundreds of schools throughout the state, preventing students from taking tests that are required by the end of the school year to ensure federal funding. In Kentucky, schools are closed as well—many because of spring break, others because teachers have swarmed the state capitol building in Frankfort. And in Arizona, teachers last week gathered at the statehouse in Phoenix with buttons reading “I don’t want to strike, but I will.”  

In each case, teachers are pushing Republican governors and GOP-controlled legislatures to hike their pay, saying declining real wages threaten to drive staff out of the public school system. Educators see leverage in tight private sector labor markets and inspiration in West Virginia, where strikers defied union leaders by holding out for a better deal. They’re reviving the tactics of an earlier era: In the five years which followed World War II, as teachers felt left behind amid crowded classrooms and accelerating private sector wage growth, there were around 60 teacher strikes across the U.S.—many without legal protection or official union support…..

America’s Growing ‘Guard Labor’ Force

Source: Richard Florida, City Lab, March 13, 2018

Many large urban areas in the U.S. now have more “guard labor” than teachers. ….

…. Our definition of guard labor is narrower than that of Bowles and Jayadev, limited to what they call “protective guard labor”—that is, police officers and detectives, prison guards, private security guards, transportation security screeners, and other protective service workers. Our definition of teachers includes pre-school, elementary, middle-school, and high-school teachers, as well as special-education teachers.

For each metro, we looked at the change in guard labor over time, the number of guards per 10,000 people, the location quotient for guard labor, and—most importantly for our purposes—the ratio of guards to teachers. ….

The Lessons of West Virginia

Source: Eric Blanc, Jacobin, March 9, 2018

West Virginia’s historic wildcat strike has the potential to change everything. ….

…. The Great West Virginia Wildcat is the single most important labor victory in the US since at least the early 1970s. Though the 1997 UPS strike and the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike also captured the country’s attention, there’s something different about West Virginia. This strike was statewide, it was illegal, it went wildcat, and it seems to be spreading. ….

What’s the matter with Oklahoma?

Source: The Economist, January 30, 2018

Low teacher pay and severe budget cuts are driving schools to the brink. ….

Forty miles from Tulsa, sometimes along unpaved roads, sits Wagoner High School, with its 650 pupils, championship-calibre football team and show barn—a seemingly ordinary small-town school. But unlike most high schools, Wagoner is closed on Mondays. The reason, a severe reduction in state funds, has pushed 90 other school districts in Oklahoma to do the same. Teacher pay is the third-lowest in the country and has triggered a statewide shortage, as teachers flee to neighbouring states like Arkansas and Texas or to private schools. “Most of our teachers work second jobs,” says Darlene Adair, Wagoner’s principal. “A lot of them work at Walmart on nights and weekends, or in local restaurants.” Ms Adair hopes that Walmart does not offer her teachers a full-time job, which would be a pay rise for many.

The roots of the fiasco are not hard to determine. As in Oklahoma’s northern neighbour, Kansas, deep tax cuts have wrecked the state’s finances. During the shale boom, lawmakers gave a sweetheart deal to its oilmen, costing $470m in a single year, by slashing the gross production tax on horizontal drilling from 7% to 1%. North Dakota, by contrast, taxes production at 11.5%. The crash in global oil prices in 2014 did not help state coffers either. Oklahoma has also cut income taxes, first under Democrats desperate to maintain control over a state that was trending Republican, and then under Republicans, who swept to power anyway. Mary Fallin, the Republican governor, came to office pledging to eliminate the income tax altogether. Since 2008 general state funds for K-12 education in Oklahoma have been slashed by 28.2%—the biggest cut in the country. Property taxes, which might have made up the difference, are constitutionally limited….

….No fact embarrasses Oklahomans more, or repels prospective businesses more, than the number of cash-strapped districts that have gone to four-day weeks……

Not Seeing Eye to Eye on Frontline Work: Manager-Employee Disagreement and Its Effects on Employees

Source: John D. Marvel, Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 6, November/December 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The author uses nationally representative data on matched pairs of public school principals and teachers to test whether principal–teacher disagreement about the severity of school problems is associated with teacher turnover. More specifically, the author tests a managerial efficacy hypothesis that proposes that employees will be less likely to leave their jobs when their managers perceive problems to be severe, holding employees’ perceptions of the same problems constant. The author also tests a managerial buffering hypothesis that proposes that employees’ perceptions of problem severity will be more weakly related to their turnover probability when managers perceive problems to be severe. Little evidence is found for either hypothesis, raising questions about public school principals’ ability to translate problem recognition into problem remediation. More generally, the findings suggest a reexamination of the generic claim that “management matters,” which implies that public managers have the power to do things that can help employees perform their jobs well.

Commentary: Asking the Right Question on Performance Pay—and Getting a Surprising Answer

Source: Kate Walsh, Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 6, November/December 2017
(subscription required)

The idea of paying effective teachers more than less effective teachers has been hotly debated for more than two decades, ever since it became possible to estimate an individual teacher’s effect on student learning. A new study by Michael Jones and Michael T. Hartney, “Show Who the Money? Teacher Sorting Patterns and Performance Pay across U.S. School Districts,” tackles a promising benefit of performance pay long asserted by proponents but largely unexamined by researchers: whether performance pay improves district recruitment efforts.

Most research on performance pay has focused on its purported benefit as a motivator, hypothesizing that higher pay motivates teachers to work harder and become more effective—a notion that troubles me because it suggests that many teachers are not already working as hard as they can. The recruitment question pursued by Jones and Hartney seems more to the point, as is the use of performance pay as a strategic retention tool. Higher pay targeted to great teachers should encourage them to stay in the classroom while nudging less effective teachers who do not qualify for higher pay to consider other careers.

Related:
Show Who the Money? Teacher Sorting Patterns and Performance Pay across U.S. School Districts
Source: Michael Jones and Michael T. Hartney, Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 6, November/December 2017
(subscription required)

A Contract Campaign from Virtual to In Their Face

Source: Dave Staiger, Labor Notes, September 1, 2017

When confronted with a concessionary demand at the bargaining table, what if you filled the room with rank-and-file members? What would happen?

Kalamazoo, Michigan, teachers received an urgent message in July from their union’s private Facebook account for members: in bargaining, the district was demanding a pay freeze.

Within an hour teachers began to arrive at negotiations; soon they packed the room and turned the bargaining process on its head. All told, 46 members showed up at the union office on a beautiful summer day. The rapid response dramatically changed the course of bargaining…..