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Pity the public school teacher. Over the decades their general reputation has gone from valiant servant to ingrate on the public dole. Though they've picked up the added duties of social worker and de facto parent, their schools continue to fail. Someone must take the blame. Dump it on the teachers.
So you approach with a certain empathy when Nashville union chief Erick Huth argues against merit pay
. The acknowledged proof of skill -- scores on proficiency tests -- is so ridden with variables as to render it damn near meaningless. Which means it would be an unfair basis from which to render raises and bonuses. Which means we best not do it.
But take a closer look at his argument, and you see the words of Old Labor concerned less with public betterment, and more with smoothening internal union pettiness. He uses phrases like "destroy the collaborative spirit" and "resent the compensation provided to colleagues." In fact, he doesn't even like the words "merit pay, since it promotes "unnecessary negative reactions."
He may be right, but much of his argument skews toward avoiding hurt feelings. It's part of the one-for-all theology native to unions. Yet it doesn't address one pressing reality: Anyone who's gone to school knows there are teachers who inspire and invigorate, and their are those who drone from the chalkboard with cut-and-paste lessons from five years ago. And they probably come in equal proportion.
Instead of taking a page from the Republican Party and merely being the Union of No, Nashville's teachers will soon be forced to acknowledge that their ranks are unequal. As Huth concedes, that's the way the wind blows. Some will be deemed our best and brightest. Some will be regarded as the educational equivalent of the DMV.
The former should be paid more for carrying the greater load. It's up to the union to negotiate the best deal possible. And if that hurts the latter's feelings, well...