Sunday, October 6, 2013

Make All California Teachers Truly California Teachers - Unleash Them


     One of my many mantras is about trying to make education as real world or relevant as possible.  This can apply to all areas of education including teacher hiring, retention, promotion, compensation, etc.  Although I’d like to see tenure, unions and a host of other things reformed, I’d rather start with something that I think is more agreeable, possible, tenable and reachable. 

     Essentially, I would like to see California adopt a statewide standard and process for teacher mobility and salary compensation.  As you know, we already have a statewide credentialing process, a statewide teacher retirement system, a statewide recognition of sick leave accumulation, state department of education and many more examples of our education has a state standard of what teaching is in CA.

     However, in terms of teachers being able to move from one district to another, there is not a standard or anything that equates to mobility, competition or professional recognition.  Teachers are compensated in years of service.  The longer they teach in a school district, the more they make.  Currently, most school districts only allow a teacher to maintain 5 - 10 years of service credit if they move from one district to another.  So, if a veteran teacher wants to move from one district to another, they will have to take a tremendous pay cut.  Although there are exceptions where some school districts are able to go beyond their standard limitation of years of service credit, these are reserved for a small degree of administrative requests based on specialized credentials or experience.


     So, essentially, that almost locks most teachers into one school district for life.  This has traditionally probably worked for many teachers and many school districts.
     But the 21st century workplace is about creating competition and rewarding talented teachers.  If a teacher has 20 years of experience, wants to move to a another school district in the state for any number of reasons, and this other school district wants this teacher, there should be a system that makes this possible and maintains the years of service and their salaries. 
     Naturally, this is complex and provides challenges.  It is important to remember that a school district would always have the right regarding whom they hire.  But shouldn't they be able to hire a veteran if they want to?  And shouldn't the veteran teacher be able to take their years of experience and service with them and be compensated appropriately?
     School administrators do not have to worry about this the same way. They are paid essentially a market price for a particular type of administrative job.  For example, I have the opportunity to apply, interview and essentially get principal or administrative jobs all over the state.  Not only does my credential allow me to do that, but also I can expect to be paid based on the level of position.  If I am qualified and they want me, my salary will not be cut or lowered due to coming from one district to another.  There are areas in the state that have higher or lower salaries based on higher or lower cost of living standards, but essentially, there is a range one can expect for the position, expertise, skill set, etc. 
     This creates mobility and competition.  In addition to being fair and consistent with other statewide educational areas (retirement, credentialing, sick leave, etc.), it will also move education reform forward.  Talented and gifted teachers should have the right to potentially take their skills anywhere in the state and not be punished.  They should not be trapped into working in one school district like a life sentence simply because their years of service will not be recognized statewide.
     It is important to remember that the school district does not have to hire anyone they don't want to.  But if they were interested in someone, their years of service would travel with that teacher.  If a district wants to hire only younger or new teachers, then they can do that as well. 
     Teachers or districts should not be handicapped.  Both should have the right to compete.  Districts should be able to attract teachers and not have their salaries limited.  Our current system almost guarantees life employment within a district one they teach beyond 10 years.  This seems archaic. 
     I don’t know who would fight against this.  It seems like teachers would like this both for the mobility and statewide recognition of their years of service.  It also seems that school administrators would like the flexibility to pursuer and hire veteran candidates and not have their salaries be a hindrance one way or another.  Some might argue that it’s not financially sound from a district perspective.  But how many veteran teachers would any district hire at one time?  And again, they don’t have to hire them.
     I am fully aware that there are many other ways teachers could be compensated beyond years of service.  However, changing that system seems a lot more unlikely and/or difficult.  So, why don’t we take the current system and expand or improve it?
    This seems like something CA could easily adopt and make years of service credit in line with other statewide standards.  Why would we not want any teacher in CA to be able to take their years of service credit with them?  Maybe this is too simplistic.   It seems that teachers would have more freedom and mobility, while the system would have more competition and reform. Teachers should have the same statewide mobility and salary options that us administrators enjoy.  I say Make All California Teachers Truly California Teachers - Unleash Them. 

(images courtesy of Foter)

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