25 April 2010


I saw a brief interview (below) with Corey Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ. One of his ideas is to pay teachers as "professionals" as opposed to "wage workers". "We should pay them to get a job done. We should pay them for results." The second statement sounds pretty reasonable until you combine it with the stupidity of the first statement. The interviewer says "we know that better teachers in schools run by principals who have more autonomy ("yes") create more effective learning environments ("yes"). Period ("period")."
So it's clear that the interviewer and interviewee are in agreement. And that's super.

"Good teachers, radically pay them more, hold them accountable."

Wait, I think I missed something.

"...So I want to be the best, and as America [sic] I'm willing to make that investment."
Well, I'm glad he is. But does he mean "he" the individual idiot elected mayor of Newark who apparently has the personal wealth to overpay every elementary and secondary teacher? Or does he mean "he," as in America, as in he's perfectly willing to over-spend other people's money?

Then Mayor Booker goes completely off the deep end.

He says he wants "that math professional" coming out of graduate school to consider working as a teacher in Newark as opposed to taking that "$200,000 job with Microsoft."

First of all, Microsoft is an extremely successful, well-run company. And I'm pretty sure they don't offer too many entry-level positions to math PhDs that pay $200,000/year. I could be wrong, but it's just a hunch.

Second, there is a distinct difference between designing algorithms and programs for a major, private software corporation (located in Redmond, WA) and teaching algebra and pre-calculus to teenagers (in Newark, NJ). Actually, there are many differences, but I'll just go with the most obvious. It may not have occurred to Mayor Booker that many, many more people are able to master the skills required to teach elementary or secondary mathematics (or any other subject) rather than develop, write, test and implement programs for Microsoft. There were more people willing and able to do the former even before the job of teaching kids was "professionalized" by the unions which began requiring college degrees. It certainly doesn't take a PhD in mathematics to teach high school kids; it would be completely inappropriate to have a PhD requirement for teaching it; and it certainly doesn't make sense for high schools that are funded solely through the public fisc even to contemplate competing with the private sector in terms of dollars for graduate level talent to perform their respective tasks.

Wages are the price people charge for their labor. Wages (and most other prices) are determined by relative scarcity (& subjective value, but I'm not getting into that here). Labor unions cartelize the labor force to drive wages up (good for them, bad for everybody else). Now, I don't know what teachers are paid in Newark, NJ, but I know enough teachers, public and private, throughout Jersey and Pennsylvania, that I can say the notion that any public school teacher is compensated as anything other than a professional is absurd.

Let's also disregard the fact that our ersatz PhD's employment is subject to very strenuous competition along with the vicissitudes of the market place, whereas public teachers are not. No matter how many private schools pop up, there will always be the public school whose employees wages are determined not by the market but by what the union was able to squeeze out of neighboring districts.

It kind of surprising that a mayor of a fairly large city could say things this obtuse and not be challenged by a reporter, especially a reporter that holds the title "CNN Education Contributor." Then again, maybe it isn't that surprising.

I think the residents of Newark, NJ should be pretty happy that Mayor Booker has no authority as to how school dollars are spent.

I also won't be surprised if Mayor Booker gets endorsed by the New Jersey Education Association if/when he runs for governor.

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