Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Kamala Kash

Several of my colleagues have been asking me about Kamala Harris's plan to boost teacher pay by an average of $13,500.  I, for one, am delighted to see a candidate pandering to teachers, and I'd like to see this become a trend. One of the things that disappointed me most about Hillary 2016 was her lack of pandering. I was at the AFT convention that year and she blurted out something about how we could "learn from public charter schools." I wondered what a "public charter school" even was. I wondered what we could learn from them other than your stats go up when you take only kids you want and dump those you don't.

Now if you just sit around and think, "Wow, I'm gonna get an extra 13.5K if I vote for Kamala," well, she's won you over for sure. There are a few details the headlines leave out:

Under Harris’ plan, the federal government would provide 10% of the funding needed to close the pay gap for teachers and then incentivize states to increase teacher pay through a federal match. For every $1 a state invests in raising teacher pay, the federal government would invest $3 “until the teacher pay gap is entirely closed by the end of Harris’ first term.” Teachers in high-need schools that disproportionately serve students of color would receive more of a pay hike, an effort to improve teacher recruitment and retention.

Let's try and unpack that, and feel free to correct me if I'm misunderstanding. If the average teacher pay is 50K and your state only pays 45, Kamala's plan gives $500 to your state to give you a 5K raise. I'm supposing after that, the state would be responsible for 25% of whatever the pay was raised. So they pay a thousand dollars to get you the 5K raise. Would legislators in W. Virginia and Oklahoma go for that?

What about relatively highly-paid teachers in NY? Would we get anything whatsoever? Would it be determined that we are already sufficiently compensated? What if the government grant were to disappear? Would the state still be obligated to pay us the difference, or would it be in some special place in the contract, where if federal funds disappeared our salaries would go down?

For many years, whenever state aid would go up, Giuliani would reduce city aid by an equivalent amount. Could municipalities find ways to take Kamala Kash and lower their own contributions? I'm sure they'll be plotting ways to take that money and use it for something more important, like tax cuts for gazillionaires who need them not at all. 

Hopefully that won't happen. Nonetheless, here's something that really makes me nervous:

My feeling is, if Arne Duncan supports it, there must be something wrong with it. Arne never talked like that when he was in a position to do something about it.  I mean, isn't he the guy who blackmailed states into using junk science and establishing charter schools? Isn't he the guy who said if you don't buy into this nonsense, you don't get federal funds for your cash-starved state? Could Kamala have reforminess on her mind? I actually have no evidence for any of this, guilt by association is a logical fallacy, and I have no idea whether or not Kamala even knows who Arne is.

But since he loves it so much, you gotta ask, will there be strings attached to Kamala Kash? If there are, she can keep the money. Teachers here and nationwide are stretched pretty much as far as we can go. Few hang in this job beyond the first few years, and no that isn't because it's an easy gig that just anyone can handle.

I've seen a lot of talk about how this is a setup for AFT to endorse her. I don't know if that's true. For one thing, I don't see her as a top candidate, though perhaps she's a strong contender for VP. I will say this, though--If there is some sort of setup, it's a significant improvement that the candidate is pandering to us. If that's the plan, I want more. I want to see them trying to out-pander one another and promise funding for lower class sizes, adequate school facilities, and hot, cold and vodka in the teacher rooms.

Because you know what? They all kind of suck on education. If Randi Weingarten is indeed hidden behind a bush somewhere manipulating candidates, I hope she's prepared to manipulate well more than one of them. There's room for improvement on all (except Cory Booker, who's actually Betsy DeVos with a tie).
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