Of Teachers and Lamar Jackson

Nashville education blogger TC Weber makes an apt comparison of teachers during COVID and Lamar Jackson.

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It needs to be recognized that once again, teachers are doing what they always do – rising to the challenge. Less than two month into an unprecedented cultural revolution, positive things are happening.

And once again, we are doing what we, always do – demand more while giving less.

Time to break out a sports metaphor. If I have Lamar Jackson on my team – Baltimore’s superstar QB for those unfamiliar – do I let him focus on just being a QB, or do I say, “Hey you are pretty good at that QB thing, now I’m going to need you to coach special teams, fill the water coolers for the team, and if you could, take up tickets from fans before the game.”

It sounds ludicrous, yet that’s what we do with teachers every year. Instead of allowing them the ability to focus on what they do best, we invent new responsibilities for them. This year we are asking them to be navigators, IT specialists, data entry specialists, video stars, and whatever else we can throw on the plate. Name me the teacher prep program that prepared them for any of those roles. Meanwhile, we conveniently forget that they are also parents and spouses themselves.

Going back to Lamar, if the Baltimore coaching staff finds him sitting slack on the locker room bench, eyes glazed over, clearly mentally and physically exhausted, do they say to him, “We know you are really tired but we really need you to learn this new playbook by tomorrow because we are switching strategies. The fans in the box seats, don’t like the way we are doing things, so we are going to put a little razzle-dazzle in for them. But make sure you get all that other stuff too.”

Or do they say, “Damn, you are our team leader and we need to let you work your magic. We need you fresh and sharp. Let’s get somebody else in to take these added responsibilities off of you. in order to make sure that you get the proper rest and nutrition. We need you to be able to perform at peak level, so we are going to offer supports.”

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The current situation reminds me of what Peter Greene wrote over the summer:

It would be great—absolutely great—if elected officials responded to the current situation by saying, “There is nothing more important than our children’s education, so we are going to do whatever it takes, spend whatever is necessary, to make sure that every single schools has every single resource it could possibly need to make its students and staff safe and secure and able to concentrate on the critical work of educating tomorrow’s citizens. We will spare no expense, even if we have to cut other spending, raise taxes on some folks, or spend more money that we don’t actually have.”

Nobody who has been in education longer than a half an hour expects that to happen.

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The Teacher Pay Penalty

Economic Policy Institute is out with its annual look at the teacher pay penalty. Here’s more:

As we have shown in our more than a decade and a half of work on the topic, there has been a long-trending erosion of teacher wages and compensation relative to other college graduates.1 Simply put, teachers are paid less (in wages and compensation) than other college-educated workers with similar experience and other characteristics, and this financial penalty discourages college students from entering the teaching profession and makes it difficult for school districts to keep current teachers in the classroom.

Key findings

  • The teacher wage penalty has grown substantially since the mid-1990s. The teacher wage penalty is how much less, in percentage terms, public school teachers are paid in weekly wages relative to other college-educated workers (after accounting for factors known to affect earnings such as education, experience, and state residence). The regression-adjusted teaching wage penalty was 6.0% in 1996. In 2019, the penalty was 19.2%, reflecting a 2.8 percentage-point improvement compared with a penalty of 22.0% a year earlier.
  • The teacher wage penalty declined in the wake of recent teacher strikes but only time and more data will reveal whether teachers’ actions led to a decline and a turning point. The lessening of the teaching penalty from 22.0% in 2018 to 19.2% in 2019 may reflect pay raises enacted in the wake of widespread strikes and other actions by teachers in 2018 and 2019, particularly in some of the states where teacher pay lagged the most. Unfortunately, the data we have to date are not sufficient to allow us to identify the geographic locus of the improvements in teacher wages and benefits and any association with the recent wave of teacher protests and strikes. Only time will tell if this single data point marks a turning point in teacher pay.
  • The wage premium that women teachers experienced in the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by a significant wage penalty. As noted in our previous research, women teachers enjoyed a 14.7% wage premium in 1960, meaning they were paid 14.7% more than comparably educated and experienced women in other occupations. In 2019, women teachers were earning 13.2% less in weekly wages than their nonteaching counterparts were—a 27.9 percentage-point swing over the last six decades.
  • The wage penalty for men in teaching is much larger than it is for women in the profession, and it too has worsened considerably. The teacher wage penalty for men was 16.6% in 1979. In 2019, male teachers earned 30.2% less than similar male college graduates who chose a different profession. This explains, to a large degree, why only one in four teachers are men.
  • While teacher wage penalties have worsened over time, some of the increase may be attributable to a tradeoff school districts make between pay and benefits. In other words, school districts may not be giving teachers raises but are instead offering stable or slightly better benefits, such that benefits make up a larger share of the overall compensation package for teachers than for other professionals. In 2019, nonwage benefits made up a greater share of total compensation for teachers (29.3%) than for other professionals (21.4%). In 2004, nonwage benefits share of compensation was 20.7% for teachers and 18.7% for other professionals.
  • The benefits advantage of teachers has not been enough to offset the growing wage penalty. The teacher total compensation penalty was 10.2% in 2019 (composed of a 19.2% wage penalty offset by a 9.0% benefits advantage). The bottom line is that the teacher total compensation penalty grew by 7.5 percentage points from 1993 to 2019.
  • The teacher wage penalty exceeds 20% in 21 states and in the District of Columbia. Teacher weekly wage penalties for each state, computed using pooled 2014–2019 data, range from 2.0% in Wyoming to 32.7% in Virginia. In 21 states and the District of Columbia teachers are paid less than 80 cents on the dollar earned by similar college-educated workers.

In Tennessee, the teacher wage penalty is 21.4%

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Policy of Truth

State Senate candidate Ronnie Glynn is holding incumbent Bill Powers accountable for his votes on public education in the 22nd district race. Specifically, Glynn notes in a recent tweet that Powers voted to cut funding to public schools while voting in favor of tax cuts for corporations that donated to his campaign.

It’s worth noting that Powers has a record of selling out public schools in favor of privatization. He also has an aversion to telling the truth. While campaigning for the Senate seat in 2019, Powers assured voters he would oppose private school voucher schemes. Then, less than three hours after being sworn-in, Powers voted in favor of Gov. Bill Lee’s education savings account voucher plan.

During the campaign, Powers promised he’d be against vouchers if elected. The race, decided by around 1000 votes, was relatively close. It’s possible if he’d said he supported vouchers, he would have lost the race.

While new to the body, he’s apparently not new to the art of creative deception. The very first bill Powers voted on was Governor Bill Lee’s voucher proposal. How did Powers vote? He voted YES.

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Lundin Falling

Nashville education blogger TC Weber has the story of Robert Lundin, who recently was relieved of his duties as Assistant Commissioner of Education. Here’s more:

Last summer Commissioner Schwinn created two cabinet-level positions for former Texas residents Lundin and Katie Houghtlin –  positions that paid in excess of $125k. Houghtlin led her department, which oversaw the department’s “Whole Child” initiatives, into some egregious territory and early indications are that Lundin may have done the same with his. Yesterday the former TFA corp member was unceremoniously removed from his position amid rumors of mismanagement of Independent Education Accounts overseen by his department.

Unfortunately. the enthusiasm of eligible families did not match the enthusiasm of Tennessee legislators. As of January of this year, out of 40k eligible participants, only 150 students were participating in the IEAs. In a presentation to the State Disability Council, Lundin chalked the low participation numbers up to a lack of information getting out to parents and too many procedural hurdles for parents to leap. Keep in mind, that any time a disruptor says there are too many rules, somebody is about to lose some protections.

Participation may have been low, and those participating often experienced challenges navigating the system, but for the most part, things ran efficiently for the first 3 years and parents received disbursements in a timely fashion. Initially, the program was overseen by Assistant Commissioner Elizabeth Fiveash, but in the Spring of 2019, Schwinn moved it under the purview of Assistant Commissioner Katie Poulos who she had recently brought in from New Mexico. Neither remains with the DOE, and Poulous has recently filed a lawsuit against the Commissioner and the TNDOE for wrongful termination.

Rebecca Wright, who oversaw the rollout of the voucher program for students with disabilities left in June and has yet to be replaced. Wright’s assistant resigned four months later and wasn’t replaced in 2019, and a third employee left Jan. 3 — all part of a staff exodus at the Department of Education under Schwinn. But there was no need to worry because Lundin and a few others were helping out. Apparently not enough though because in February ChalkbeatTN proclaimed things were falling apart.

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Very Strange and Stressful

That’s how the President of the Metro Nashville Education Association describes the environment students will face with in-person learning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s here statement as reported by NewsChannel5:

“We know that online learning is far from ideal, especially for students with the most severe and profound disabilities and early elementary, and so it makes sense to begin in-person classes with these groups. We are concerned, however, that parents may believe their child will be returning to a ‘normal’ classroom, when in fact there will be little that is normal. Students will not be able to move about freely. They may be confined to their classrooms, or even an area of their classrooms. They will not be able to speak, work, or play with their classmates. They will be wearing masks all day except to eat, and their teachers will be wearing masks, face shields, gloves, and other protective equipment. There will be no reassuring hugs, and smiles will be impossible to see. For very young children, this may be a very strange and stressful situation. It is important that parents truly consider what an in-person classroom will look like in the midst of a deadly pandemic before they make the decision of whether to return in person or remain online.”

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Nail in the Coffin

Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher scheme is not only constitutionally suspect, but also the likely cause of Rep. Matthew Hill’s ouster from the legislature. WJHL has more on how Hill’s turn against public education led to his defeat in the August Republican primary.

A controversial 2002 income tax vote helped usher in the Matthew Hill era in Northeast Tennessee politics. Another controversial vote — this one over school vouchers — likely contributed to that era’s end.

“Year after year he voted ‘no’ on voucher legislation,” area public school teacher Jenee Peters said. “He voted ‘no’ every year up until he didn’t.”

“I would like to think the local area teachers were the final nail in his coffin, but there were clearly other issues that brought about the demise of his campaign,” Peters said.

Peters communicated often with Hill and said he gave teachers “a few good years” starting in 2014 after an early adversarial relationship with them. But a seeming focus on political power within the Capitol became pretty clear to people, culminating for the education community in Hill’s abandonment of his anti-voucher position.

“He wasn’t grounded in his community,” Peters said. “He was more interested in playing politics in Nashville and currying favor with the governor and making a bid for the speakership.”

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