Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire wants to boost education spending by 25 percent, using much of a $1.9 billion surplus. What happens when the money’s gone? In a Spokane Spokesman-Review column, Richard Davis argues for smarter spending of education dollars. He cites the “Frozen Assets” report by Marguerite Roza, a University of Washington and Education Sector researcher.
In her recently released report, Roza looked at eight common provisions of teacher contracts that “obligate schools to spend large amounts of money on programs that lack a clear link to student achievement.” Among them: basing pay raises on years of experience and educational credentials, professional development days, paid sick and personal days, class-size limitations, use of teacher aides, and above-average health and pension benefits. Nationally, these provisions tie up about $77 billion in “frozen assets,” 19 percent of school budgets.
Seniority pay, “a bedrock principle” of industrial unionism, ties up the most money, about 10 percent of school spending, more than half the 19 percent she’d like “repurposed.” Roza says there’s no direct relationship with seniority and classroom effectiveness. Pay may be more productively tied to performance. Similarly, increased compensation for additional education can’t be justified across the board. Master’s degrees in math and science may yield direct benefits, but she finds scant evidence that graduate training in other fields makes much difference.
. . . Thawing these “frozen assets” would allow leaders to redirect the money to programs more likely to improve student achievement. For example, she says schools could boost minimum salaries for teachers, provide bonuses for teaching in low-performing schools or specializing in tough subjects like math and science, invest in new technology, extend the school day or offer Saturday classes.
I think it’s inevitable that soon teachers will be paid more for taking tougher assignments and teaching high-demand subjects. Pay for performance may come too, but it’s much harder to implement well.