Dear Governor Kasich,
First of all, I want to state that I have always believed myself to be a Republican. I value honesty and fiscal responsibility, but I also see the need for compromise and rationale decision making. Know that teachers understand that changes need to be made for the good of all tax payers (who are taxpayers as well).
Now in regards to merit pay, my true feeling is that it should be stripped from the budget bill. It is not a solution and I will share why I feel this way below. There are better ways to make these decisions and each district should be allowed to do what is best for their employees and communities. The state should not be forcing their policy on local communities. SB5 did enough stripping the collective bargaining rights away from teachers and communities don't need more policy thrown at us. I am okay with a more fair salary system. I agree that step increases are not the best way to go. But why give teaches the right to negotiate salary and then take it away with merit pay legislation.
As I sit here watching teachers being made the primary focus, and then see company after company getting tax breaks, I get frustrated at the lack of fairness in it all. History shows that giving benefits and breaks to those in power with the hope of that trickling down to the middle class does not work. Look at the Great Depression and the 80's as examples of this failed policy. The jobs it will provide us will never out weigh any tax money generated to help provide strong schools for our communities. We are being held hostage by companies looking to line their own pockets.
Merit pay should not be any where near the drastic cut to 50% of teachers pay being proposed. For someone making $50,000 right now that means you will only give them $25,000 of certainty. You are now placing teachers near the poverty level. This putting teachers who have gone to college and have many student loans to repay in a lose lose situation. Pay certainty should at minimum be 90% of current salary. I can't think of one white collar professional position in any industry where 50% of your income is unknown from year to year. We are homeowners, purchasers of goods and services, parents, and tax payers. My wife and I have been teachers for 11 years and there will be no recovery from this. We have lived at the same level for the last 12 years. We do not live the high life, but if you cut the salary you make all we have worked so hard to attain unsustainable. We will lose our home. There will be no doubt about that. We will be forced from not only our jobs but our profession. We will foreclose like many others and public assistance will be needed. Is that what this state needs? The affects would be dire. We have built our simple life around hard work, but no one can sustain a double hit like this.
I like the word bonus better then merit pay since I think that does a better job of describing the hard work a teacher does day to day. I am all for freezing salaries at current levels so districts have costs certainties from year to year. There is no reason why salaries need to go up and up year to year once we reach a certain level. From that point on teachers can attain bonuses (like in the business world) based on performance like we see the business world does. The problem is though when we tie performance to a test grade is that you no longer have control over what happens. Say a student came into school hungry the day of the test. They got into a fight with the parents. Their parents work after hours and can't be there to help their child with their work at home. They don't speak English as a first language at home. Their home life is in flux due to the economy. These are all factors outside of a teachers control and unique to our profession.
Other professions who receive bonuses have you complete control over their success. The harder you work the more you are rewarded. Merit pay as it is being discussed now allows for all that hard work possibly It talks to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. If a person's basic needs can't be met, learning cannot take place. Then to tie someones bonus "merit pay" to something so unpredictable as to one test is asking for economic disaster to the families that give so much to their profession. What if we said to state representatives, senators, and the governor you will make $25,000 but we will give you merit pay based on your constituents evaluations of how you are doing, how many jobs you bring into your community, etc...? Does that sound fair?
Merit Pay should include the following...
1. Multiple assessment data points (OAA scores should be just one assessment factor)
2. Teacher evaluations by parents are fine as long as 1 bad review doesn't end the chances of a teachers ability to be awarded.
On a side note, I do feel that the true indicator of success is the level of parental involvement in their child's schooling. My parents always were there to help my sisters and myself. They were the ones solely responsible for making sure their children were brought up right, followed the rules, worked hard, and they never allowed us to make excuses to poor performance. Unfortunately seem to have lost that sense of responsibility. Student success is being thrown squarely on the shoulders of teachers who are now the sole bearer of responsibility. Parents need to parent! When do we hold parents accountable for what their children do and not do?
So I propose that parents need to be responsible for getting their child to school, making sure their work is brought in each day, their child listens and obeys the rules of the school so they are not distracting themselves or others. Parents should not take kids out for week long vacations in the middle of the school year for vacations forcing the teacher to make up the content lost while others are moving on. Should we have absentee parents or those who allow their children to do as they please, this should be factored into a teachers overall evaluation for "merit pay".
3. Increase the school year. Make teachers and students go 200 days a year like other countries. No extra money given to teachers for the additional time, we already are paid. Though many of us work summers anyways there really is no difference to most of us whether the year is increased. It is better for the students. Trust me parents would like this to since it takes away the need for day care and that added expenses.
4. Do not decrease salaries... just don't increase them. Let districts call for pay freezes for five years or more so they can get their houses in order. Cost certainty for district and financial stability for teachers.
5. Teachers who have state tests should be held to a different level. I give three major tests every year, others do not give any assessments. This is a major flaw of merit pay and needs to be addressed. There is no fair way to address this.
Thank you for your time in listening to my thoughts. I really would like to talk to someone in the Governor's office more on this issue or even the Governor himself. I am a citizen of Ohio, a teacher, a parent, and a Republican and I have a vested interest in making sure this process works out for all involved in a common sense way.