VEA: More Money

After the uplifting stories of nationally certified teachers in Bristol, Michael Hardy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the Virginia Education Association’s 2006 legislative agenda. The VEA basically just wants more money for teachers–bring salaries up to the national average and improve retirement benefits. Oh, and raise the speed limit for school buses, too.

Now I happen to believe teachers should be paid more, but in tandem with paring of bloated school bureaucracies and more attention to “pay for performance,” like the bonuses offered to nationally certified teachers. The VEA has nothing on those issues, issues that animate a not insignificant number of Virginians. They reinterate their opposition to voucher programs, another area that many believe might end up actually improving public schools.

To their credit, the VEA has their website poll on the subject of national certification and indicate that they helped preserve the incentive pay for those teachers obtaining national certification. The VEA, like so many advocacy organizations, “preaches to the choir” too much and refuses to seriously consider opposing ideas. They’d help their members more if they did.

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12 responses to “VEA: More Money”

  1. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    The VEA wants more money poured into the already bloated government controlled education system? What else is new???

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “Now I happen to believe teachers should be paid more, but in tandem with paring of bloated school bureaucracies and more attention to “pay for performance,” like the bonuses offered to nationally certified teachers.”

    So my wife’s salary is hostage to items outside her control? The bureaucracy is her fault? Or she has to jump through all those hoops to get that certification, when she might prefer to spend the time and money on actual content classes related to her subject? Heaven forbid a teacher should take classes in European history or geometry or Shakespeare when they could be doing videos and lesson plans and the other bureacucratic BS that goes into those certifications…

    Like most people, Will, you place lower taxes at a higher priority than education for children, even your own. Did you see the stories over the weekend of poor literacy scores from college graduates? Do we see the warnings about shortages of engineering and science degrees? The handwriting is on the wall.

    Please: The VEA is a union. It cares as much about educational quality as the UAW cares about automobile safety. Don’t look to it for leadership on these problems.

  3. Will Vehrs Avatar

    Thanks, Anonymous, for reaming me out. Hope you feel better by personalizing your argument.

    Believe it or not, I’m more open on this than your attack would indicate, but I see no advantage to discussing it when you’ve already decided what my position is.

  4. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    “Please: The VEA is a union. It cares as much about educational quality as the UAW cares about automobile safety. Don’t look to it for leadership on these problems.”

    While I’ve realized this for years it is quite sobering to read it from the husband of a public school teacher. I wish more teachers would be as honest about the union especially at election time when so many candidates seem to tout the VEA endorsement when running for office as some sort of indicator that the candidate is actually interested in improving education.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    My wife doesn’t belong to the union and hasn’t since the earliest part of her career. And in fairness, a union with no power to really organize and strike is a paper tiger. There is nothing at all wrong with banding together to advocate for better pay and working conditions. Nothing could be more red blooded American.

    Sorry. Perhaps I spoke in haste, Will, but I have noted in the past some reluctance on your part to subject the state workforce to the risks and pressures that go with pay for performance in the private sector, especially when the measures of success are subjective. Even when they are objective, like a sales commission, it can be difficult and stressful. Every salesperson I know can complain of commissions they feel were stolen by someone else.

  6. Will Vehrs Avatar

    Anonymous, I think you have me confused with someone else. I’ve had no reluctance to consider pay for performance plans for state employees; all such plans have a certain amount of subjectivity and the trick is to squeeze as much subjectivity out of it as possible. The same goes for any teacher performance plan–a teacher’s classroom performance is uniquely subjective.

    I would agree with you on your characterization of the VEA and also that your wife should not be hostage to pay considerations well beyond her control. My point was that the VEA would be more effective if they were more inclusive. Asking for more money by rote has not served their members well.

    As for taxes, in terms of my implied support, it goes local,state, and federal. I feel I have much more “say” about my local taxes and so am more inclined to support reasonable increases, especially as they go to education.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I am a former state employee and have been in the private sector now for more than a dozen years.

    As a state employee, I believed there was little I could do to materially affect my compensation.

    In the private sector, there is much more that I can do to affect how much I am paid.

    In each case, my compensation has been and always will be “hostage” to matters outside my control — whether it’s the decisions of legislators/supervisors, interest rates, global markets or a myriad of other factors.

    However, the key difference is that I am now subject to objective metrics on my performance, and while they do not totally erase outside factors over which I have more control, at least I have an incentive to perform.

    Alas, the devil’s in the details. Some legislators may not necessarily want government that really works — because it’s one less devil to fight.

  8. Lucy Jones Avatar

    I agree there should be some sort of performance pay plan. If the students are required to pass SOL’s and the like, why not base the teacher’s pay on the success of their students?

    Are the salaries of other public employees up to the national averages for their roles as well?

    Are the VRS retirement benefits below the benefits offered in other states to non-educational employees as well? I don’t think most employees are covered under LEORS, SPORS, VaLORS and JRS are they?

  9. El Moderado Avatar
    El Moderado

    I agree with Will. But, the VEA is simply doing what it was designed to do.

    I also agree that teachers should be paid a reasonable salary based on the economics of where they live. A teacher who lives in Loudoun County obviously needs to make more than one who lives in Scott County.

    However, I also believe that people who enter the teaching profession do so knowing that it’s not the highest paying job in society (not yet, anyway). Rather than focus on what they don’t have, perhaps now is a good time to think about what they do have – job security, a good retirement, and great benefits. Three things most people in society struggle to maintain.

    I would also like to add that our teaching “shortage” is largely do to requirements that are out of sync with what the job pays. Most people who have a Master’s Degree in a particular area are still not qualified to teach in a public school system. But, in most cases could teach a class at a college or university.

    In order to correct the shortage we need to make it easier for individuals to become teachers. We also need to recruit people who have life experience (with degrees, of course). They could be people who have spent 25-30 years in a particular field who have retired but still want something to do besides be a Wal-Mart greeter. By attracting older teachers we also lessen the burden on the retirement system in the long run.

    There will always be good teachers and there will always be bad teachers. The bad ones who are teaching today got there by meeting the current requirements that are in place. That said, I see no reason to be afraid of lowering the requirements and giving other “professionals” a shot in the classroom so long as there is a proper mechanism in place to remove the bad apples, of course.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    My husband is a retired college professor (PhD in Chemistry). He is happily writing books and articles and has no desire to teach at any level, but in spite of the fact that he taught 18 year olds for decades, he would not qualify to teach high school chemistry. He doesn’t have what I call Eraser Pounding 101. A lot of folks might consider a class or two of science and math (badly needed) as a second career if we did away with these “qualifications”.

  11. With all due respect to your husband, many, if not most PDs, graduate without ever having had any instruction in teaching. Further, most colleges do not have required mentorships for new faculty. Certainly they never receive any instruction in public education law. Your husband may be a fine teacher that could do outstanding work — in that case there are options for him to be a “highly qualified teacher” under No Child Left Behind with relative ease.

    However, there are plenty of college faculty that would be absolutely incompetent in front of a class of high school students that have different attitudes, levels of maturity, and a completely different non-choice reason for being there.

    There are issues with K12 Licensure and I invite you all to follow VDOE’s work on revising their regs for approving teacher ed programs – which is where it all starts. They will be open for citizen comment and are available in draft form now.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Terry, there are plenty of college faculty that are completely incompetent in front of college students!
    My husband did a terrific job for many years, made teaching his primary activity, taught all of his classes himself – some with over 500 students in them, held help sessions, and still gets contacts from many of his students who remember him with great affection and respect. Our nextdoor neighbor even credits him with starting him down the road in a career in chemstry. However, you couldn’t get him back into teaching. Writing is too much fun!

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