The “Kansas Political Action Committee,” a group associated with the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA, the teachers union) has a questionnaire it asks candidates for the Kansas legislature to complete. After reading a few of these questions, it became clear to me that the questions are formulated to advance the interests of the teachers union and others wrapped up in — and profiting from — the public school bureaucracy and its monopoly on the use of state education funds.
Here’s another question they asked:
Legislators have recently proposed that certain teachers be given “bonuses” or “incentive pay” based on their license and endorsement. For example, a bill in the 2008 session would have encouraged school boards to circumvent the collective bargaining process, taking salary funds off the table to provide salary boosts to only math and science teachers. A new recommendation would do the same thing for only English as a Second Language teachers.
These plans have the effect of paying some teachers more by taking salary potential away from most teachers. They ignore the fact that elementary and middle schools also need teachers that have strong backgrounds in math and science in order to build solid foundations and to encourage students to pursue these areas of study. Success in math and science relies heavily on strong reading skills. We want the best and brightest in ALL classrooms, not just in one or two content areas.
Research shows that pay plans crafted without employee involvement and agreement are less successful in meeting the desired outcomes. KNEA believes that compensation systems — including any bonuses or incentives — must be subject to local negotiations between the teachers association and the local board of education. KNEA further believes that calls for retention incentives are indicative of the poor state of teacher salaries in general and that the appropriate approach to the recruitment and retention of teachers is first to dramatically increase the salaries of all teachers. KNEA therefore opposes any effort to undermine the collective bargaining of compensation through legislative mandates.
Will you oppose efforts that weaken collective bargaining by legislatively imposing or encouraging bonus or incentive pay?
I find it interesting that this question uses the term “teachers association” instead of “teachers union.”
More importantly, this question illustrates the union’s opposition to anything resembling market processes in the hiring and paying of teachers. This is an example of the union opposing the dynamics of markets that work very well in the private sector. Instead, the union insists that all teachers be paid the same — distinguished only by length of service and educational credentials. They oppose attempts to reward teachers who distinguish themselves.
Also, teachers are not paid enough, the union claims. There’s really no way to evaluate the validity of this claim. That’s because the public schools have the same problem as does any public agency: they are not able to perform economic calculation to properly evaluate their use of resources. They are not able to calculate profit or loss, so we really don’t know if they price inputs — such as teacher labor — correctly.
Besides, the myth that teachers are underpaid relative to other comparable jobs has been exposed for just that. Jay Greene, in the book Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools and Why it Isn’t So, reports that based on U.S. Department of Labor data for 2002, accounting for the number of hours worked, school teachers earned about $31 per hour. That is more than architects, economists, biologists, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, and chemists.