Friday, June 13, 2008

Tiers

The Philadelphia Inquirer just published a letter to the editor from a taxpayer irate about the terms of a settlement that ended a teacher's strike. Smarting over the prospect of teachers making still more money, the taxpayer insists the remedy is a three-tiered teacher salary system. He wants to pay the most to those teaching math, science, physics, biology, etc. Next in pay would be teachers of English, literature, foreign languages, social studies, business and vocational subjects. The lowest pay tier would be elementary, special education and physical education teachers.

One wonders how he arrived at these priorities. Is it that he thinks math and science are the most worthwhile subjects? Perhaps he think that it takes more skill and effort to qualify to teach them? Perhaps he is of the opinion that it is harder to teach these subjects. But how did special and elementary education teachers end up at the bottom of his three tiered sytem? Surely he doesn't think this type of teaching is easier than teaching, say, algebra. If he does he could use some special education himself. With respect to elementary education being easier, perhaps he should try his hand at teaching 30+ six year olds like Philadelphia teachers have been doing for years if he thinks this is true.

Does he think that kids with special difficulties are worth less public investment? That seems unlikely because he also wants elementary in the bottom pay tier, and few argue that young "normal" children are least worthy of public resources. Perhaps he has some other criteria in mind. But what could it be? Does he just like math and science? But the foundation of both those subjects, indeed of all subjects, is laid in elementary school.

Perhaps, like some theological matters, the criteria for his rankings must forever remain a mystery. One can only hope they were not divinely inspired.

By the way, this chap also thinks teacher's salaries should be capped at no more than $20,000 above the starting salary. Presumably he thinks this will insure retention of the best and brightest.

-- GKC
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