‘Teacher of the Year’ underpaid because the union values seniority over excellence

Oct 24, 2013 by

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Education advocates are praising 2013 National Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau, a chemistry teacher in Washington State’s Zillah School District.

“I admire his commitment to improve graduation rates and his ability to inspire students to reach higher levels of learning,” wrote Jami Lund, education fellow at the Freedom Foundation, in a recent blog post. “His innovative approaches and the Zillah leadership team’s acceptance of change are responsible for Zillah’s graduation rate of 96% and 18 high school classes awarding college credits.”

It would seem logical Charbonneau could command a very large salary for his ability to help effect change and encourage students to dig deep, but in the world of unionized education logic isn’t usually a factor.

Lund dug through the Freedom Foundation’s teacher salary information for Washington State and revealed there are thousands of teachers who are paid much more than Charbonneau, because they have more “years of experience” in their positions.

“I discovered 25,000 teachers get paid more than the National Teacher of the Year. Why? Mr. Charbonneau is paid less because he is young,” Lund wrote.

In public education, the number of years teachers have survived in the classroom, and the number of college credits they’ve accumulated, dictates their pay. It’s a system shaped by industrial-era union rules that treats all educators the same, even those who have proven they’re the best of the best.

“Our funding system treats all educators like identical parts in a factory. Each year for 16 years, pay automatically increases to reward seniority but not excellence,” Lund wrote in a recent Freedom Foundation blog. “Those with less seniority get paid less, and they also have less protection from moves or dismissal due to declining enrollment.”

The protections are important, because in school districts across the country effective young educators are forced to vacate their positions to preserve jobs for more senior employees when school districts run into budget problems and are forced to lay off teachers.

State and local “Teachers of the Year” have fell victim to this illogical system more than once.

Even Charbonneau isn’t immune.

“In recent years, Zillah has had declining student enrollment. If Mr. Charbonneau’s seniority were too low, Zillah would have been required by their collective bargaining agreement to lay off the teacher who was honored by the President of the United States for his excellence,” Lund wrote. “It has happened to another teacher of the year.”

In other words, the only ones who benefit from the current system are the teachers unions who devised it to begin with. Rewarding educators based on seniority and college credits is a recipe for mediocrity.

If America is serious about regaining its clout as a country that provides a world-class education for its youngsters, the public – and the education establishment that thrives on the current system – must not only acknowledge the best teachers, we must pay them what they’re worth.

‘Teacher of the Year’ underpaid because the union values seniority over excellence – EAGnews.org powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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