22 July 2008

The Merit of Pay

Another edublogger once pointed out that actors and athletes have unions---and are considered professional. My thinking, however, is that unions are not a mark of professionalism. Doctors and lawyers don't have unions. In fact, other than actors and athletes, I have a hard time thinking of any other professional pursuit which uses unions. Even then, I think that there are some significant differences in operation and benefits.

I never hear that any variety of players' union is concerned with setting an uppermost salary limit. You could say that there is a minimum established---a baseline for pay, but players of the stage, screen, or field can have differing salaries based upon the quality of their performance, value to the organization, size of role, or other factors. No one would dare tell Julia Roberts or Will Smith that no matter how well they do their job (or how long they work), they can only earn the same as everyone else who acts. Does Tom Brady deserve the same amount of pay as a benchwarmer for the New England Patriots?

If their unions operated along the same principles as teachers, all of that talent would be limited to being paid the same as the least able member. Is this really what collective bargaining should be about---to establish the bare minimum and ensure that no one dare go further than that?

So, what if teacher contracts were negotiated the same as for sports or film? The state already sets the salary schedule. There's no need for The Union to set the minimum, only to deal with basic benefits and process. If you're a superstar teacher who gets results in student learning and achievement (however defined by the organization), why not have the ability to contract for a commensurate salary? Why should you be stuck at the same wage as a teacher who does little more than surf the net while kids fill out worksheets every day? Shouldn't school districts compete for the best talent they can get?

Teachers' contracts are negotiated under the premise that all teachers are created equal...but the simple truth is that we're not. While it is highly unlikely that any of us will ever achieve celebrity status, what's the harm in being allowed to be pursue something better for ourselves?


Linda said...

Spoken like a science teacher - on the open market, we're worth more. Not bragging, just fact.

The Science Goddess said...

A good teacher in any subject at any grade level should be worth more. I can think of plenty of science teachers I worked with who were not so hot in the classroom. I don't think they should earn more simply because of their certification.

Tom said...

No, the limits placed on salaries for professional athletes in some leagues is actually placed on the teams. For instance, NFL teams have salary caps, although they very often find creative ways around said caps.

I'd love to have the opportunity to negotiate a higher salary and feel that I am in control of my own pay destiny rather than deal with salary ladders, step freezes, and cost-of-living increases that are so generously "given" to me by my school board.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Great idea, SG. But there's not enough money in public education to fund an all-star team.

That said, unions are useless (and obstructive) in contract negotiations because school boards want to be competitive with neighboring districts, and will give as much as they can for teachers and classified personnel while preserving a carryover for the next messed up budget year/biennium.

What's a union good for? Only one thing...protecting a member from a dipstick administrator who doesn't believe in due process.

Of course, if you're a fair share member, the union could give a hoot. And that's why I think unions are overrated. They seem to exist for the sake of creating their own income.

I realize this comment is all over the place, but heck, you labelled it "union." :)