The DeHavilland Blog

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Comparing apples to apples

Walt Gardner, a retired teacher who blogs at Education Week, has a new post titled It's Hypocritical to Demand Merit Pay for Teachers that exemplifies the flawed thinking of many who argue against applying the principles of business (or logic) to the teaching profession.

He counters the argument that teacher pay should be based on performance by pointing to the CEOs who undeservedly get golden parachutes when leaving a company. He asserts, “[Fran] Tarkenton insists there is accountability in the private sector, but he is mute about these golden parachutes. The truth is that those at or near the top in corporate America can make more money in a year in spite of their performance than teachers can make in a lifetime in the classroom.”

The comparison, of course, is ridiculous, and unworthy of the (virtual) pages of EdWeek. Using Gardner’s line of reasoning, I’m outraged that Saudi princes have harems filled with beautiful women and teachers don’t. Where is the justice?

Perhaps we could do more a more intellectually honest comparison by looking at teachers, who are rank-and-fine employees, with the rank-and-file employees of the business world, who do in fact work on a merit pay system. Or, if we wanted to pursue Gardner’s fascination with CEOS, would co go apples-to-apples by looking at CEO golden parachutes and the many superintendents who are booted before their terms with scads of “go away” money.

How about Arlene Ackerman, leaving Philly with $905,000 in her pocket? Or how about other superintendents noted in EdWeek’s article, Hefty Superintendent Buyouts Irk Lawmakers, Taxpayers, which notes:

Arlene Ackerman’s $905,000 settlement with the Philadelphia district grabbed headlines, but she isn’t the only Pennsylvania superintendent who has been shown the door in recent months with a generous settlement in hand.

According to media reports, William Hall, who led the 3,050-student Gettysburg district, left in February with $542,000. That included two years of salary and forgiving the mortgage on his house, which he had bought from the district’s vocational education program. In August, Gerald Zahorchak, Pennsylvania’s former secretary of education, was bought out a year into his five-year contract to lead the 17,700-student Allentown district. He will be paid a year’s salary of $195,000 and a $55,000 lump sum.

To be clear, I’m not arguing in favor of golden parachutes for CEOs or for superintendents. It actually brings up another similarity between K-12 education and the business world: namely, that the boards and shareholders of both are asleep at the wheel if they’re allowing this kind of excessive and undeserved compensation.


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