Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Unionized Professional Is An Oxymoron

The previous post dealt with tutoring programs in the Chicago Public Schools. And we met a new but effective teacher, Mary Kovats. But can it be that she is feeling under-appreciated because she belongs to a union? Would she reward the class clown while punishing the avid reader in her class? I think not. But by belonging to a union she is being undervalued because all union members get compensated based on an average competence. Being above average, she is under-compensated. Those below average are over-compensated. Talk about perverse incentives! There have been all sorts of suggestions as to what to do. The solution must take a form that reverses the current incentive system pertaining to unionized teachers. Charter schools, vouchers and incentive pay all dance around this issue. Logic tells us these variations all have their own merits, but can we find an established system with a track record to give us confidence? For that let’s get reacquainted with another denizen of this blog, John Merrow (also here.)

Checking out his CV, we see he worked for the Port Washington High School for two school years. Here is a page from that system's website. I direct your attention to the line “New York State School Report Card for Port Washington Union Free School District”. Take a minute to peruse the Report Card. Not exactly in the same class as the CPS, which was once famously described by Education Secretary Bill Bennett as “the worst school system in America” Quite the contrary, it is a school with 5 Intel Semi-Finalists! Hmmmm! No union, good results. Could there be a connection? Maybe what the teacher's unions need is some competition! How about right-to-work legislation?


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