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Teacher pay raises waste money without accountability

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Soon Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco will sign off on huge pay raises for teachers that will put their typical salary around $7,000 more than the median household income in the state. It will do little or nothing to improve education in Louisiana because it does nothing to address the real problems with improving secondary education.

While advocates of the raises bleat improvement will occur, even a modicum of thought and logic destroys for the most part that assertion. By giving every existing teacher some kind of increase, it’s not going to make them better teachers just because they’re getting more money. The only possible way higher pay could increase teacher quality is in the future, fresh hires from education schools or more good veteran teachers moving into the state.

But neither of these possibilities for advancement is in any way guaranteed. In terms of new teachers, there is little evidence to suggest that the near-monopolistic providers of this labor, university education colleges, prepare students for more successful teaching. In other words, the method-heavy, content-light curricula requirements of states that these schools must follow seem to do little to encourage production of good future teachers.

Further, many states, with Louisiana being a prime example, do little to demand individual accountability from teachers. Failing to do so, such as in granting raises of roughly the same dimensions within a school district without subjecting those decisions to valid, empirical reviewing of a teacher’s performance and knowledge of subject area, means the most subpar teachers get about the same increases as the best – which provides no incentive for improving performance.

In Louisiana, that is perhaps the major reason why the state continues to lag behind, even far behind, almost every other state in outcomes. While the number of states demanding annual evaluations and/or subject knowledge testing of teachers is rising, Louisiana certifies mainly on the basis completing certain coursework resulting in education degrees and passing an exam and they are certified for life during good behavior with no requirement for review of current knowledge in their field.

Squeezing more money out of taxpayers with no guarantee of better performance may please teachers unions, but it doesn’t improve education in Louisiana. If the state is serious about overcoming perhaps its biggest obstacle to economic development, inferior education, these raises only waste money unless true individual teacher accountability measures are implemented.

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