Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Letter to Maryland State Legislators

Dear state representative:

I'm a resident of Howard County and a teacher with Montgomery County. I'm not a union apologist- in fact, I believe my union is largely a failure when it comes to representing the average teacher- but I do have a question for you.

Are you really planning to increase my retirement contribution to 7% from 5% then use that benefit for the state's general fund instead of the retirement system? Is this really true? Is this legal? I'm sure you've consulted your lawyers already, but my goodness. I'd like to invite each of you to attend my AP Government and AP Economics classes- perhaps you could go over this plan with some of my students. I'm quite confident they could teach you a thing or two.

Please- if this be your plan- if you can't find it in you to locate sound judgement- or if no such judgement exists- let me manage my own retirement. Let me opt out. Send me whatever scraps you have left over for a sucker-teacher like myself and I'll go it alone. It's abundantly clear you have no intention to live up to your end of the "bargain," however unsubstainable that bargain may have been. After all, you haven't fully funded the pension since 2001. But now you're going to increase my personal contribution to the pension WITHOUT increasing the total contribution?   Raise your hand if you came up with this idea!  The pension is 60% funded.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is an EMERGENCY!

I believe I sacrificed enough money when I decided to become a teacher.  I don't need a bunch of hopeless politicians specifically taxing me and other teachers because they don't have the chutzpah to a) raise taxes on EVERYBODY in order to properly fund the general fund or b) take austerity measures that will impact the services provided to all citizens. Then you wouldn't have to hide a tax increase on teachers from the rest of the state in efforts to make believe everything is just fine so that you can claim victory and get reelected. Either of those options- the 2nd of which would likely be very painful for education- would be a more honest thing to do.

Real leadership is equally measured as it is bold. It does not hide from difficult or unpopular decisions. And it takes responsibility for past mistakes.

I think it's well past time that we see some of that leadership in our state capital.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What happens when you defend a losing position

MCEA and MSEA have been largely silent with regard to seniority issues.   Failure to address these issues destroys public confidence.   It's a horrific miscalculation to believe this issue- that of seniority- will not result in political losses.   Perhaps those inside of blue Marlyand feel so protected that feel immune for calls for change.   However- look no farther than Ohio or Wisconsin to see the very real consequences of foot dragging.    Here's a scary piece from the Baltimore Sun that shows how seniority issues can be used as a springboard to make broader- often more politically charged attacks- onteacher unions.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The public, teachers, and seniority

How does the public feel about seniority?   Here's a snap shot via Teacher Weak:

With plans for massive teacher layoffs in New York looming, a recent Quinnipiac University poll reveals that 90 percent of public school parents in the state think performance—not seniority—should be the basis for such firings, reports the Buffalo News. Eighty-five percent of all registered votes polled agreed, compared with just 12 percent who favored the seniority-based system.

Of course, that's a much higher percentage than teachers (from two urban districts in California).   Only about 75% of teachers want to consider other factors beyond seniority when making personel decisions.

So everyone wants to change seniority rules.   And when they aren't changed, this public support is hijacked by some the Right in an effort to destory collective bargaining.    Call me a rocket scientist- but maybe we should just go ahead and change seniority rules in Maryland, now.   It would be right.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When issues turn into politics

It's sad, really.   A chance to improve the teaching profession has seemingly been lost in poltiics. 
Let's see what happens in New York.
The bill would do away with the so-called "last in, first out" (LIFO) rule that requires new teachers to be the first to go during layoffs regardless of merit. Seniority could no longer be the sole criteria. Instead, the city could eliminate teachers with unsatisfactory ratings and other performance issues. Mayor Bloomberg plans to layoff more than 4,600 teachers to close a budget gap. Another 1,500 positions would be lost through attrition.