LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Tenure is a better system than merit pay

Monday, May 7, 2012 | 10:35 a.m. CDT

This letter is about two issues regarding public education: merit pay and tenure.

I am opposed to merit pay and urge our legislators to vote against it. Merit pay is based on measurable test scores. Test scores are often lower in low-income areas, where children do not have the benefit of good books, discipline and concerned parents in their homes. We still have great teachers who want to teach these children, even though they know that test scores will be lower. The test scores do not take into account how much improvement a child has made and how much that child has changed his or her attitude toward school, thanks to a patient, professional direction from the teacher. It is a real achievement for D students to work their way up to being C or B students, just as it is a real achievement for students to achieve an A. Their teachers should be rewarded equally.

Please, please do not take us back to the days when qualified teachers lost their jobs because someone could be hired for less money. Or because someone of influence had a son or daughter who needed a job. Or because a board member did not want that teacher to be his child's teacher in the year ahead. Those things happened. I was born in 1926, so I can remember them. Teachers acquired tenure to prevent those injustices which would surely take place again without tenure.

A real concern is the tenured teacher who does not work up to standards and gets away with it because she or he has tenure. I served on the school board in Liberty for 12 years, and we had this problem. What did we do? The board hired the very best possible teachers and administrators. The superintendents and building principals gave those teachers constant surveillance and instructions. The teacher's negligence was never overlooked. It was difficult to fire a tenured teacher, and it rarely happened, but it can be done. Liberty has the well-deserved reputation of having excellent schools, honoring tenure and not using merit pay. So does Columbia. Let's keep it that way.

Donna Jones is a Columbia resident.

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Michael Williams May 7, 2012 | 12:01 p.m.

First, I do not understand why public jobs should be evaluated any different than private jobs. I am in agreement that "test scores" should NOT be the main criterion. I do not believe a public administrator has any less or more difficulty in evaluating good/bad employees than private industry; any public administrator who says different should be fired.

I am pro-merit pay and against tenure.

Second, why should qualified teachers lose their jobs because someone could be hired for less money? Is this a problem, any more than it is in private industry? Is nepotism any more or less prevalent in the public sector versus the private sector? Given the very public taxpayer-paid nature of such jobs, the checks and balances are actually greater than with private industry due to public scrutiny by the news media and concerned citizens.

Contrary to what you say, for me it is not a given that such "injustices which would surely take place again without tenure." Not at all.

With only one exception, I have never heard a competent case made that public service employees should have any more job security than the rest of us. The exception? Public universities.

And I can argue both sides of that fence.

(Report Comment)
Joe Mama May 8, 2012 | 10:58 p.m.
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