With the budget crisis everything comes down to money.  I have many thoughts about education reform, but I think it starts with attracting and keeping high quality teachers. School budgets are being cut and the most expensive thing in a district is personnel, so support staff is less and teachers have to work harder.  Teachers are let go meaning the remaining teachers have to work harder. And they have to do it for less money. Big surprise teacher moral is so low these days.

Charter schools looking to do innovative things frequently are unable to afford veteran teachers, so they hire new teachers.  Having a staff of all new teachers is not good, we learn from each other and experience is valuable for everyone.  But how do you get a veteran teacher to leave their school site to go to another school that would benefit from their expertise? The current system seems to trap people where they are.  If a teacher leaves their district they lose seniority and do not always get their years if they go someplace else.

What if a bad administrator comes into the school site and makes a teacher miserable, if the teacher is unhappy this is not good for kids. In a larger district a teacher may apply for a interdistrict transfer.  I have seen grumpy and miserable teachers come alive just by having a change of scenery.  Each school site has it’s own culture, if where a teacher is at they do not fit in it is very possible they would somewhere else.  But the question is, can they move?

I think a lot of it comes down to money, doesn’t everything. I would propose that there is a base price for a teacher.  Why not let the state pay this rather than individual districts.  Normally I support local control and decision making, however it would seem to make more sense in this case to have the state pay the teachers rather than the district.  Let a teacher get $x dollars for being a teacher.  $y for each year of experience.  $z for an advanced degree.  Basically each teacher gets this anyway from the state, but in a more round about way. By paying the teachers directly then all teachers cost the districts the same regardless of seniority or advanced degrees.

Districts would receive less ADA, but in proportion to how much they are paying in teacher pay so it should end up basically being a wash. With the remaining ADA, districts would still need to fund athletics, support staff, buildings, utilities, etc… Districts could also fund a retention bonus if they wanted or pay a signing bonus.  If a teacher is going above and beyond and other districts take notice there is the possibility they would be wooed away. Thus giving the home school an incentive to possibly give the excellent teacher a retention bonus. Teachers would not feel trapped at their school site and schools would need to appreciate the talent they have.

Rewarding good teaching, allowing for good teachers to try to go to charter schools or for altruistic reasons go to a tough school would be good for students.  Students benefit from teachers not feeling trapped.  Students benefit from the infusion of new ideas from experienced teachers that came on from other schools.  Students benefit because teacher staffing levels are not determined by how well the district utilizes their funds (some schools still have primary 20-1 and others have upwards of 40 in Kindergarten).  Students benefit from happy teachers who feel appreciated.