Sunday, February 01, 2009

Merit Pay and Teachers Unions

There is little accountability in teaching, as pay is based on seniority and degrees, because the unions do not want to give someone power to evaluate actual performance. In 2002, the Los Angeles Board of Education tried to remove 400 of the 35,000 teachers in a low performing district: in the end they were able to remove 3 (Policy Review, April 2004, page 26).

In Minnesota they introduced a program of 'merit pay' for teachers. As reported in the Star Tribune:

The program, called "Q Comp," is one of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's top initiatives to improve schools, and many educators say it is strengthening teacher evaluations and training. But others are questioning whether Q Comp has just become a cash handout.

Only 27 of the roughly 4,200 teachers eligible did not get a pay raise.

A merit criteria where 99.936% of people pass, is a strange definition of merit. In theory you can emulate the benefits of competition via trial and error and internal evaluation of costs and benefits at the margin. In practice, insiders simply protect their turf and nothing fundamental changes when they are evaluating their own productivity.

Thus, when United Auto Workers president Ron Gettlefinger argues that US autoworkers are more productive than non-union US counterparts:
According to the Harbour Report, the industry benchmark for productivity, union-represented workers are actually more efficient than their counterparts at non-union auto plants
If you exclude certain things, include others, I suppose he is right, but the bottom line is that work rules and benefits all add up to labor costs over 50% higher for UAW auto companies, and the net net is that US auto companies have not made any money making cars in 10 years, while the Japanese have. Productivity is the result of competition, not introspection by self-interested producers.

1 comment:

Jim Glass said...

The situation in the NYC public schools as described by by one of its teachers.

Really, one has to be in the system to truly know. Magazine articles can't capture it.

It's improved a little from the above here since Bloomberg arrived, not a whole lot.

The remarkable thing, after reading this, is that NYC's is just about the top-performing urban public school system in the US. That'll make one think.