Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Are Teachers Paid For?

From "On Public Education" on The View from Chaos Manor by Jerry Pournelle:
What are they [teachers] being paid to do?
The only rational purpose of a tax paid school system is to produce more productive and better citizens. If it doesn't accomplish that, there is no justification for making everyone pay for it. There is certainly no justification for taxing a person on a $44,000 income to pay salary and benefits including pensions to someone making $50,000 simply because the teacher is entitled to the money. (In California the top state income tax bracket starts at $44,000, and I think no tenured teacher makes less than $50,000. If those numbers don't apply in your state, supply your own, but you get the idea). The most effective way to get better and more productive citizens is to allocate resources in a way that benefits those who can benefit the most: make sure the best and the brightest regardless of their race or social or economic status get the most education. If you have a little more time to spend with a student, put that time into make the bright ones learn more rather than trying to make the dummies just a little less uninformed. Of course that is not what we do: the whole system, and particularly No Child Left Behind, is geared in the opposite direction. You can ameliorate that a bit by assigning the best and the brightest teachers to the best and the brightest students, but you can't if the unions are allowed to negotiate the work rules. You certainly can't accomplish much when saddled with tenure and seniority rules.

The American school system is a bad parody of an optimum allocation of resources, and nearly everyone knows it, but we always talk as if it were not so. Of course we never discuss the basic premises of public education to begin with.

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