Friday, January 18, 2008

Teachers Divided

This article captures the likely generational split among teachers, why older teachers will fight change fiercely, and how teacher compensation needs to change:
First, consider older teachers. Not only are they of Clinton’s generation, they also tend to dominate the teacher unions — the very unions that are at the base of her party-mainstream support. While the National Education Association hasn’t yet endorsed a candidate, its New Hampshire affiliate came out for Clinton (and Huckabee on the Republican side). (The Iowa union kept its powder dry.) When you hear about the “Democratic establishment,” think teacher unions; their members regularly constitute some 10 percent of all delegates at the Democratic National Convention, after all. As the “establishment” candidate, then, Clinton is and will likely remain the teacher unions’ favorite.

Everybody knows that those unions’ leaders and most active members tend to be older. Why? Simply because senior teachers have the most at stake. After toiling in the classroom for decades for modest pay, they are finally nearing their big pay-off: a plush retirement with full family medical benefits. Protecting this retirement is teacher unions’ number one priority. They want a candidate who signals a steady course, promises job stability, and isn’t going to rock the boat. Clinton fits the bill.
The calculus is much different for younger teachers. Not surprisingly, they are much more open to change — Obama’s theme song. A few years ago, Public Agenda found that a majority of new teachers (55 percent) believed that districts should be able to use other indicators beyond years of experience and higher education to reward good teachers; yet only a third of veteran teachers felt the same way. And newbies were almost twice as likely to believe that merit pay would be effective in recruiting more of “the best and brightest” into teaching. So Obama’s (mild) flirtation with performance pay is much less threatening — and perhaps even exciting — for these younger teachers.
Teachers Divided
Older teachers support Clinton, while younger teachers vote for Obama.

By Michael J. Petrilli


Post a Comment

<< Home